How to Implement the Dissecting the Prompt Teaching Strategy in Your Classroom


The dissecting the prompt method is good to utilize when introducing learners to a new writing assignment. By having learners annotate and discuss a writing prompt, this activity gives learners the time they need to decode what the prompt is asking them to think and write about. You can also utilize this method to introduce an essential question for a lesson, unit, or course.


  1. Prepare Prompt: Print out a prompt or essential question in big letters and tape it to the center of a piece of paper.
  2. Learners Dissect the Prompt: Ask learners, in pairs, to analyze the prompt. As they read the prompt, tell them to make the following notes:
    • Circle words you do not know in the prompt.
    • Star words that seem to be the main ideas of the prompt.
    • Underline all the verbs that embody what you, the writer, are supposed to do.
    • Cross out any extra info that does not seem explicitly applicable to the writing task.
  1. Make an Initial Response to the Prompt: Next, ask learners to respond to and discuss the prompt using the Think, Pair, Share method. Individually, learners must try to answer the prompt or essential question based on their “gut reaction” or personal philosophy. If possible, ask learners to work to support their current thinking with an instance from history or their own life. After a few minutes, ask each pair to share their thinking. Finally, ask learners to share a few opinions or ideas with the entire group. Tell learners that their initial responses will evolve as they encounter new ideas and evidence in class.
  2. Record the Prompt: Before moving on, ask learners to write the prompt or essential question in their notepads. As they have new ideas about the prompt during the unit, they can make notes to themselves.
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