Guide to Prompts

Prompts are a great way to encourage creative thinking and problem solving with youth. We have begun using prompts in our programs and have seen a welcome increase in creativity and productivity from our youth.

What’s a Good Prompt?

(adapted from Invent to Learn by Gary Stager & Sylvia Martinez)
Here are a few tips from this great book about making in the classroom for designing good prompts:

    • Keep It Brief
      • The best prompts are clear and concise and can fit on a Post-It note.
    • Open-Ended
      • Leave room for ambiguity, let the learner respond to the prompt in their own voice and employ strategies they desire.
    • Immune to Assessment
      • Focus on the process, not the product. Their product either works or it doesn’t.
      • “Most mindful work succeeds or fails. Students will want to do the best job possible when they care about their work and know that you put them ahead of a grade.” – from Invent to Learn, pg. 61


Designing Prompts

Some things to consider when designing prompts for projects.

  • Present the challenge
    • Present youth with a motivating challenge, problem to be solved, or thoughtful question to get started.
  • Consider constraints
    • Constraints are limitations or boundaries set around a project. Some constraints include:
      • Materials
      • Time
      • Structural (size, shape, weight, height, etc.)
        • Begin with only one of these at a time.
    • Provide appropriate materials
    • Allow sufficient time
    • Create a supportive culture
    • Leave room to be surprised
      • Get out of the way! This goes along with the concept of open-ended prompts. Try not to control the outcome of the process or project.
      • If everyone creates the same thing, it’s not really making!
      • The best making happens when we turn over control, perhaps even the best learning.