Act of Kindness Campaign: Writing Prompts to Help Students Deal with Tragedy

The unspeakable events at Sandy Hook Elementary School have shaken the WriteSteps team to the core, like so many people around the world. Many of us are former elementary school teachers and educators, so this tragedy felt very personal. We are still trying to make sense of the events in Newtown. Though this senseless act can never be explained, we hope those personally affected can find comfort from the outpouring of love that is being sent to the victims and families.

We decided to pool our energy and resources into honoring the precious lives that were taken on December 14, 2012. Many students, whether it be those directly affected, or those that have heard about the horrific accounts from the news, will be shaken and changed forever.

Act of Kindness Campaign: Writing Prompts to Help Students Deal with Tragedy We were inspired by the Act of Kindness campaign that has kicked off, due to a tweet from NBC News’ Ann Curry. WriteSteps is participating in the campaign in a number of ways. To kick it off we came up with writing prompts to help students express themselves during a time of grief and/or tragedy. Writing can be very therapeutic and is a wonderful tool for students, especially when words can’t be spoken.

Most experts tell us that when children experience grief and/or tragedy, it is wise to give them an opportunity to express their feelings. Because writing is a medium that we teach at WriteSteps, and something we are all passionate about, WriteSteps felt it was important to create a list of writing prompts that can help students during this time.

If you teach Kindergarten through the 2nd grade
Our suggestion is to model writing about something that was specifically upsetting to you. Then invite your students to do the same, leaving it up to the individual student to express his/her feelings in an individual manner.

You can model writing about:

  • A time you moved and “lost” your friends
  • The death of a friend, relative or pet
  • An event in the news
  • The loss of a favorite item
  • Seeing someone you love go through a sad time
Keep your writing fairly general in order to avoid creating trauma or increased sadness.

If you teach 3rd grade and up

Our suggestion is to assign or provide one or more of the prompts listed below to help your students express their feelings through writing.


  • Write about a time you or someone you know about felt grief or sadness. What happened? How was it dealt with?
  • Write about a time something worried/upset you or someone you know about. Tell the reader how having courage helped overcome the obstacle.
  • Write about a time when you saw or experienced courage in your life.
  • Write about a time when hope helped you feel better about something that worried you or made you feel stressed.
  • Write about something you are looking forward to.
  • Write about what you are thankful for. Consider things you might over look or take for granted in your daily life.
  • Write about the most important thing(s) in your life. (i.e. family, friends, love, health, safety, yourself)

The WriteSteps team also wanted to include a writing prompt on bullying, with the hope that it will address an important topic in school and can help students open up about bullying and build empathy and tolerance.

Bullying/Showing Tolerance

  • Write about a time you or someone you know about was bullied. Did anyone show tolerance or kindness toward the bullied student? What happened? How was it dealt with?
We hope these writing prompts and ideas will help you with your students. What prompts do you use to help your students express their feelings during a difficult time? If you haven’t heard of the act of kindness campaign we strongly urge you to check it out. It inspired us during this time of tragedy and gave us hope for the future. We hope it does the same with you. If you found this blog useful please pass it along to others you think will also benefit!

Additional resources for schools and educators on dealing with a crisis:

National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement

Connecticut Commission on Children

NASP School Safety and Crisis Resources