October 1, 2019

Writing Prompts Using Animals

Illustrations of animals are a great way to encourage students to write.

There are so many ways to use writing prompts in class- why not use animals? The added benefit of using animals is that the writing may be fantasy, or it may be more non fiction like, ‘let’s learn about the animals’.  Either way, an engaging image will always get students’ attention.


Denise Cassano Illustration. Oil and mixed media. Four orcas team up to hunt a seal on pack ice.

For example, in Denise Cassano’s Orca Attack, we see four orcas racing towards a chunk of pack ice. The orcas hit the ice so hard that it tipped it and tossed the seal into the sea. This is an actual way that orcas team up to get food. It’s called a wave wash and it’s fascinating to watch. In polar seas, orcas quietly pop their heads out of the freezing water, looking for seals who rest on pack ice. Once a seal is spotted, orcas slip back into the water and team up. As a group, they swim fast towards the ice, creating a large wave. This wave hits the ice with such force that it knocks the seal right into the water. Once under the surface, a seal is easy prey for a group of orcas.


Detail from Orca Attack by Denise Cassano. Ice being upended and a seal being tossed into the sea by a group of orcas.

How to use this as a writing prompt? Ask the following questions:

  • What do you see happening? What clues are in the image to help you?
  • What are the orcas thinking? What is the seal thinking?
  • What happened five minutes before this image? Five minutes after?
  • What is happening to the seal? What will he do next?
  • How does this story end?

When using wiring prompts it’s also a good idea to have a full image of the animal. In the illustration they are hard to see. This is an image I used to as a reference when making the image.


Denise Cassano’s reference used for orca illustration

Here is a great video of a orca wave wash if you want to see it in action.

How do you use animal writing prompts in your class? I’d love to know- drop me a comment and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

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  1. M Minda

    Amazing artwork. Sure to inspire great stories.

    • Thank you! I love animals and kids do too- it’s a natural connection.

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