Deciphering Essay Prompts

Thinking Maps, Keywords, and Terms, Oh My!

Description Prompts

How Can You Tell?

To figure out the type of prompt, look for specific keywords and phrases that indicate a certain one. For description prompts, look for these words:

  • "Describe"
  • "Explain"
  • "Support with Evidence"
  • "Discuss"
  • "Summarize"
  • "Analyze"
  • "Evaluate"

Example Prompt:

Write about your "hero." Discuss and analyze their importance to you, and support your claim with examples.

What Next?

Some graphic organizers that you can use for descriptive prompts are bubble maps and circle maps.


How Can You Tell?

Some key terms are:

  • "Compare and Contrast"
  • "Debate"
  • "Similarities and Differences"
  • "Argue (both sides)"

Example Prompt:

The Industrial Revolution and World Wars were both times that influenced our country in many ways. Find the similarities and differences between the two.

What Next?

There are a couple thinking maps you can use, such as the Double Bubble Map and Venn Diagram.


How Can You Tell?

There are couple keywords that this prompt can be identified by, and they include:

  • "List"
  • "Tell"
  • "Describe"
  • "Discuss"
  • "A Time"
  • "An Event"
  • "Sequence"

Example Prompt:

Tell of the most important events during Christopher Columbus's life. List and discuss them in a sequence.

What Next?

You can use a Flow Map, Tree Map, or Timeline to organize info for this type of prompt.

Cause and Effect

How Can You Tell?

A Cause and Effect prompt often has these terms in it:

  • "cause"
  • "effects"
  • "affects"

Example Prompt:

When was a time when you felt that you made a bad choice that affected you negatively? Write about the causes and effects of your actions.

What Next?

For this prompt, you can use a multi-flow map

Multi-Flow Map


How Can You Tell?

A Problem-Solution prompt often has these words in it:

  • "Problem"
  • "Solution"
  • "Solve"
  • "Conflict"
  • "Resolution"
  • "Challenge"
  • "Overcome"
  • "Figure out"

Example Prompt:

Figure out what you would do if you saw a bully antagonizing another student. Discuss the conflict and what you think the best resolutions are.

What Next?

The maps that can be used to organize information for a Problem-Solution prompt are brace maps, bubble maps, and others.


How Can You Tell?

Words that are often in this type of prompt are:

  • "Procedure"
  • "Sequence"
  • "Order"
  • "Steps"
  • "Directions"

Example Prompt:

You are doing a lab in which you are using NaCI. When you are done, you teacher tells you to dispose of the solution safely according to science lab protocol. Tell about the steps you take to complete this procedure in order.

Want to See More?

~Check the cool links below to see some thinking maps, essay prompts, and other stuff~

Thinking Maps!

Writing Prompts!

Some Other Stuff!

Le Bibliography

  • Google Images. Digital image. Google Images. Google, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.

  • "8th Grade Writing Prompts." DOE Virginia. Virginia Department of Education, Nov. 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
  • "8th Grade Writing Prompts." 8th Grade Writing Prompts. Writing Prompts, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
  • "Thinking Maps at Parsley Elementary." Walter L. Parsley Elementary School Site. Walter L. Parsley Elementary School, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

  • "Thinking Map Activities." Pinterest. Pinterest, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

  • Katrina, Fisher A. Essay Prompt Booklet. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  • "Writing Persuasive or Argumentative Essays." Study Guides and Strategies. Study Guides and Strategies, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.