Classroom tech · ELA · For Your Classroom · Teaching Grammar · Writing

Time-saving ChatGPT Prompts for ELA Teachers

ChatGPT took the online world by storm at the end of 2022, and it’s only gained more momentum since then. 

When most English teachers think of ChatGPT, all we think of is how it’s wrecked our ability to give writing assignments and all the rampant cheating. That aspect of the chatbot is disappointing, for sure. 

But it turns out, there are a number of meaningful ways that we teachers can employ ChatGPT in our planning, grading, and instruction to save us tons of time. It’s like having a parapro that you don’t have to get a Christmas gift for. 

In this post, you’ll find more than a dozen ideas for ways you as an English teacher can use ChatGPT, and even sample prompts that you can snag for yourself! Whether you’ve never even opened the app, or you use it every day, there’s something here for everyone!

If you’re looking for resources to help teach your students about appropriate AI use in ELA, don’t miss this ChatGPT in ELA Teaching Toolkit— it’s packed with materials to introduce ethical chatbot use among your language arts students.

Before I give you all the great prompts and ideas, I’d like to share a few tips that I’ve picked up on as I’ve used and researched ChatGPT.

(Oh, and if you’re new to ChatGPT, or have questions or concerns, check out this helpful post too.)

General tips on success with ChatGPT

  • I like to think of ChatGPT as an inexhaustible personal assistant who’s highly intelligent but lacks common sense. It can do a lot for you, but you have to remember to give it the most specific parameters possible. When possible, quantify your request such as, “Please make this text 10% shorter,” rather than just, “Please make this text a little shorter.” 
  • Similarly, if you’re using the chatbot to brainstorm for your language arts lessons, quantify the number of ideas you want, and always ask for more than you think you need. You’ll throw out most of the ideas, and some might be downright absurd, but the more ideas you ask for, the more likely you are to find the one gem that is your best solution. 
  • Another helpful tip for using ChatGPT to assist in your ELA classroom is to only give it one task at a time. There may be several aspects to what you need it to do, but you’ll get much better results if you break your requests down into the smallest steps possible. For example, don’t ask it to edit a text for style, conciseness, and grammar. Request each of these edits one at a time, in separate prompts.  
  • Sometimes it helps to assign a persona to ChatGPT (e.g.: “You are an expert 10th grade literature teacher”). This helps the chatbot understand the context of your requests.
  • ChatGPT uses formatting features such as asterisks to indicate bold text and dashes to indicate bullet points. You probably won’t see them until you paste what the bot generated into your own document. If you don’t want these rogue punctuation marks all over your document, the fastest way to remove them is to type “Ctrl+f”, go to “Find and replace,” then input the exact punctuation or symbols you want removed into the “Find” field (be sure to include any spaces as well), leave the “Replace with” field blank, then click “Replace all.”
  • I like to keep a swipe file of all the prompts that I’ve used before that worked well. That way I can just copy and paste the next time I need ChatGPT’s help. If your prompts include examples you provided, keep the text for those examples in your prompt scripts as well. 
  • One last thing before we dive in: if you haven’t been using AI much yet (or at all), don’t be intimidated! You don’t need to be a code writer or engineer to be successful. In fact, you already have a serious advantage when it comes to using ChatGPT: you’re good at giving directions because you’re a teacher! That’s all you truly need to be successful with AI: just the ability to explain clearly and give great instructions. 
silver laptop and white cup on table

ChatGPT prompts for grading

Generate rubrics for grading writing

  • If you have a tried-and-true rubric style you like (these are mine and I love them), but a new assignment without a rubric, you can use the following prompt to have ChatGPT create a rubric for you, using your preferred format. You’ll need two (or three, if your rubrics are somewhat complex) existing grading rubrics for projects somewhat similar to the new assignment.
  • Prompt: Good afternoon. I need your help creating a grading rubric for a book report project for middle school students. I am going to provide you with two sample rubrics that are for other similar projects, so that you can get an idea of the format for the rubric. Example #1: [paste the complete text of your first rubric] Example #2: [paste the complete text of your second rubric].  When you have read, analyzed, and understood the format of these two examples, please say “GO AHEAD,” and I will provide the parameters and requirements for the project for which I need you to write a similar rubric.
  • ChatGPT should respond with GO AHEAD, after which you’ll paste the complete text of your detailed instructions, requirements, and parameters for the assignment.
  • After this, ChatGPT should spit out a new rubric in the same style as your examples but for evaluating the new assignment.
  • Copy the text from ChatGPT’s rubric into a new document app of your choice and edit your rubric to suit your needs.
person typing on a laptop

Get a second opinion on writing assessment

  • Before I share this next prompt, let me be very clear: I do not advocate for the use of a computer alone to grade student work. While the technology of Large Language Models is staggering, it’s not currently sufficient to assess student work fairly and deeply enough to be beneficial to our students. I have found that many of the grading decisions that ChatGPT makes are arbitrary and unfair. If you are assigning more work than you yourself can grade, you are assigning too much work or grading too many things. That being said, one way you may want to employ ChatGPT is to provide a sort of second opinion on student work that you’re unsure of. But as you’ll see in the prompt below, you’ll want to follow up ChatGPT’s assessment with probing questions. 
  • Prompt: Hello. You are an expert [grade level] writing teacher and I’d like your help with grading an essay. First, I’ll provide the grading rubric for the essay. Please read it carefully and let me know if you have any questions. [paste your complete grading rubric]
  • If ChatGPT asks you any clarifying questions after this, answer them, then paste the next prompt.
  • Prompt: Here is the essay. Please grade it according to the rubric I provided. [paste the complete essay]
  • ChatGPT should provide your rubric back to you, completed with its scores and evaluations of the writing. If anything seems a little off to you, ask it questions to understand more about the grade it gave. For example: “Why were two points taken off for grammar and style?” and “Can you please provide examples of the instances of the weak writing that prompted your deduction in the grammar and style category?” You might find insight into the student work that you hadn’t noticed.
black laptop computer

ChatGPT prompts for teaching writing

Generate example texts

  • Once again, this prompt suggestion needs to be frontloaded with a caveat because I never want to suggest that we should settle for poor pedagogy in order to save time. You can use ChatGPT to compose rough drafts for samples of completed writing assignments, especially for younger grades. But depending on the level of thought complexity you’re looking for in the assignment, you will probably need to heavily enhance the text before providing it to students. 
  • Of course, depending upon your objective, you could always use what the chatbot generates as an example of mediocre and/ or overly formulaic writing, and have students edit what ChatGPT generated. 
  • I’ve found that what ChatGPT writes best is out-of-the-box prompts like, “Write a sonnet about Seinfeld,” or “Write an advertisement for a cheeseburger in Shakespearean language.” 
  • Prompt: Good afternoon. Please write an essay that meets all of the requirements provided in the following instructions. [paste your complete instructions for the assignment]

Generate writing prompts

  • I know there’s no shortage of writing prompt ideas in the world, but sometimes you’re looking for something more specific or themed. ChatGPT usually generates some pretty decent creative writing prompts; just remember to ask for at least twice as many as you actually need, so you can pick the best ones. 
  • Prompt example: Please come up with 25 different creative writing prompts for middle schoolers on the topic of cheese.

ChatGPT prompts for teaching grammar

Generate examples and non-examples

  • I love using ChatGPT to quickly write sentences that contain a certain grammatical element, a particular sentence structure, or that showcase an error in usage. These can be used for examples, review games, assessments, practice, and more. Of course, always carefully analyze whatever it spits out before using it. Errors are common. 
  • Prompt example: Hello. Please write 15 sentences about cats that contain a helping verb. 
  • Prompt example: Please write 5 sentences about Christmas that contain an adverb usage error.

Save time scanning mentor texts

  • If you have a longer piece of writing that contains examples of grammatical elements that you want to point out to your students, paste the text into ChatGPT and ask that it find them. As mentioned above, you’ll probably have the most success if you ask it to only look for one thing at a time. As always, check the output for accuracy. 
  • Prompt example: Good afternoon. Can you please carefully read this text and locate all of the prepositional phrases?

General ChatGPT prompts to save time in any classroom

Make random pairs or teams

  • I know there are other websites that are already capable of this such as random.org, but I prefer to use the same tool for as many things as possible to keep life simple. If you want to quickly group your students into pairs or teams on the go, just paste your class roster into ChatGPT and ask it to randomly pair up students or randomly create teams of however many you need. A benefit to this is that students can’t complain about any perceived favoritism with your choosing teams or pairs, if the groupings are AI-generated. 🙂
  • Prompt example: Please group the names on the following list into random teams of 4. Only use each name one time. 

Make random ordered lists

This is pretty similar to the above tip, but I wanted to be sure to point it out. ChatGPT can also randomize your class list or of course any other list that you have, such as a list of terms or answer options for an assessment.

person using macbook

Reformat things

  • While the find and replace tool on your favorite word processor app is always handy, sometimes we need to make changes across the scope of a document that are more complex. In this case ChatGPT can save you tons of time by reformatting a document.
  • Prompt example: Hello, please rewrite this text to be in the past tense. Do not change the content length or style of the text. Please only change the tense of the text.
  • Prompt example: Good evening. The following text is written to address teachers. Please rewrite the text to address students instead. (With prompts of this type, you may have to go through a few iterations before it gets it just right. You may have to request more specific changes such as “ Please remove all references to teachers.”)

Summarize things

This can be helpful for previewing texts that you might want your students to read, or generating objective summaries of texts students have already read for review purposes.

Professional-ize your communication

Let’s get real for a sec: sometimes teaching is just infuriating. We get an accusatory email from an angry parent, a ridiculous request from admin, or a disrespectful email from a student.

Replying to these in anger or saying the first thing that comes to our mind is never the best idea. But it sure does feel cathartic to type out what we *really* wanna say. So go ahead and do it! … But then paste it into ChatGPT and ask it to rewrite your response to be polite and professional. The chatbot will act as a neutral third party and get your message across for you without jeopardizing your job!

…Whew! That was a lot, no? But I trust within this dense post, you’ve picked up on some new tips, or found a prompt that you can try out to save you lots of time.

If you have any questions, or want to share your favorite uses for ChatGPT in your ELA classroom, I’d love to chat with you in the comments below.

If you’d like more info and tips about ChatGPT and the role it plays in your ELA classroom, especially with regard to student use, check out this post.

I'd love to hear from you!