Emergent Writers Teaching Writing

Bug Orchestra: Prompts for Writing Outside


This resource is available to support place-based writing outside anytime of year and comes with related resources and age-level recommendations. Originally developed for Write Out (writeout.nwp.org).

“Do you know the legend about cicadas? They say they are the souls of poets who cannot keep quiet because, when they were alive, they never wrote the poems they wanted to.” —John Berger

There’s somewhere around 1 million species of insects on the planet, says Julian of Nat Geo Kids, but that’s just the ones we know for sure. In fact, he says, scientists think there might be as many as 10 million! 

Do you ever wonder what bugs do all day? Do you ever listen to their songs? With these writing sparks you will be bugging out! by writing about the things that bugs do and by making your own outside orchestra or movement theater, just like the buzzing bees and the hissing cicadas. 

Writing “Sparks”

As educator Peter Elbow writes, “the most effective way … to improve your writing is to do free writing exercises regularly.” Use these writing “sparks” to get your free writing started. Use a notebook or a journal, go digital or stay analog, feel free to incorporate images and multimedia; use or experiment with approaches that work best for you.

Spark from Canaveral National Seashore—Write a “What Things Do!” Poem

Content focus: Preservation and insects
Age-level recommendations: All ages, good for younger writers
Time: video length=1:57; writing time as needed

A Canaveral National Seashore ranger prompts you to write a “What Things Do” Poem, and because we are bugging out, we encourage you to write about the bugs and what they do all day! 

Spark from Tar River Writing Project & Poetry Project—Create a Rhythm Circle!

Content focus: Insect ecosystems and sound
Age-level recommendations: All ages
Time: video length=3 mins 36 seconds; Sound time as needed

CJ Suitt (@suittsyouwrite) guides Tar River Writing Project teachers in creating a Sound Ecosystem based on the many sounds found in nature. Head outside where you can mimic the sound of an insect you have come across, or you can make a whole new sound—the one you’d make if you were a bug! Then come together with others and give the sound circle a try! 

Spark from Northwest Arkansas Writing Project—Act Out in Nature!

Content focus: Sounds and nature
Age-level recommendations: All ages
Time: video length=12:52

Caity Church, a 6th grade English Language Arts teacher and theatre enthusiast in Northwest Arkansas, and her daughter listen to the sounds of the outdoors and get silly by acting out! Bugs provide much of the ambiance. The video guide explains and demonstrates three improvisational acting exercises and includes a handout with more details.

Sharing your writing

Writing outdoors provides a wonderful opportunity to share your writing with others. Here are a few ideas how do this whether you are in person or at a distance from each other:

  • Come together in a circle to share your writing, or an excerpt from your writing (passing should also always be an option); if you aren’t in person, set up an online video conference to do this;
  • Develop a collaboration on the fly by having each writer share one line of their work to add to a greater whole; if you aren’t in person, you can create an email address, hashtag and/or online form for individuals to submit their selections;
  • Set up a “gallery” of writing which could support browsing, feedback and/or response; this is especially useful if the writing includes more than just text but also images, video, sound. This can happen in person or online using a shared collaborative space like Google Jamboard, Padlet etc.;
  • Especially during Write Out, share your writing by posting on social media using the hashtag #writeout

Related resources

Below are related resources gathered to further support inquiry and exploration of this topic. If you have additional resources to recommend, please share them online via the hashtag #writeout

Looking Closely at Bugs with Kid Writing: Kid Writing offers manageable and fun ways to think about writing while providing structured writing practice; designed for 4-8 year olds.

Nighttime Bug Hunt: Turning on your porch light at night or looking at a well-lit wall at night can reveal a whole world of insects you might never see during the day! The Beginner’s Guide to Porch Light Insects can help you identify the insects you see! Created by Christine L. Goforth and available online at thedragonflywoman.com.

How Insects Work Together | Nat Geo Kids Insects Playlist:

Understanding Insect Sounds with Naturist Outreach:

NPR—Insect Sounds: Telling Crickets, Cicadas, and Katydids Apart: For many, an insect chorus is the sound of summer. But many Morning Edition listeners wrote in to say they needed help identifying the bugs making the sounds.

Write Out: Write Out is a free two-week celebration of writing, making, and sharing inspired by the great outdoors, and was created through a partnership of the National Writing Project and the National Park Service. It is a public invitation to get out and create that is supported with a series of online activities, made especially for educators, students, and families, to explore national parks and other public spaces. The goal is to connect and learn through place-based writing and sharing using the common hashtag #writeout.


Image source: Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

This post is part of the STEAM-powered prompts for Writing Outside collection.