All of the elements listed in the sidebar here to the left tend to be present in writing prompts. Where one sees a lot of variability is in (1) how explicitly each element appears and (2) whether the way they’re presented in the prompt accurately reflects the instructor’s priorities. If deployed well, these elements offer instructors a stable vocabulary with which to articulate the building blocks of an assignment, clearly communicating:
- what they imagine students will be doing at each stage of the assignment, and
- how the assignment relates to other assignments and the broader goals of the course.
A case study: the no-frills prompt
Let's take a prompt that's on the minimalist side of things:
Write a focused, clear 4–6 page essay using at least one novel or documentary film from our course along with other assigned secondary readings. Due Thursday, November 4 at 6 pm.
Now let's look at how this prompt is framing the assignment for your teaching team and your students: