SPAWN Writing Prompts

Students need content-focused writing opportunities in Social Studies classrooms. Writing across the curriculum can be supported with SPAWN prompts. SPAWN stands for five types of writing prompts (Special Powers, Problem Solving, Alternative Viewpoints, What If?, and Next). They can be used to prepare students to learn new information about the topic or reflect on what has been learned. Fisher et al explain more below:

Spawn Acronym


S – Special Powers
You have the power to change an important event leading up to America’s entry into World War I. Describe what it is you changed, why you changed it, and the consequences of the change.
P – Problem Solving
We have been reading about how most people in the United States were isolationists at the start of World War I. How do you think President Wilson can convince his country to enter the war?
A – Alternative Viewpoints
Imagine you’re the commander of the Lusitania. Write an accurate description in a letter format of your ship’s being torpedoed.
W – What If?
What might have happened if the Turks hadn’t entered the war on the side of the Germans?
N – Next
We learned yesterday that Germany has decided to use poison gas as part of trench warfare. What do you think the Allies will do next?

The response below is a student writing about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand from a unique perspective.

Spawn Example

The above SPAWN example from Fisher et al (2014) demonstrates how students can be factually accurate when engaging in historical writing. Please practice developing SPAWN writing prompts by contributing five in the comments section.


Fisher, D., Brozo, W. G., Frey, N., & Ivey, G. (2014). 50 Instructional Routines to Develop Content Literacy. Pearson Higher Ed.

Graham, S., & Hebert, M. (2010). Writing to read: Evidence for how writing can improve reading: A report from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents in middle and high schools. New York/Washington, DC: Carnegie Corporation. Alliance for Excellent Education. 

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