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Prompt Engineering for Teachers Using Generative AI: Brainstorming Activities and Resources

Authors: Yerin Seung; info@ciddl.org

In the ever-evolving world of education, where teachers always look for innovative tools to enhance their teaching, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a powerful ally. Tools like ChatGPT and Gemini have become invaluable for educators, offering a way to tailor lesson plans that meet the wide-ranging needs of students, including those with disabilities. With their advanced language processing skills, these AI tools allow teachers to quickly develop personalized, detailed content, reducing the time needed for lesson planning. This isn't just about making teachers' lives easier; it's about bringing innovation and creativity into the classroom, making learning more engaging and comprehensive across different subjects and grade levels.

The usefulness of Generative AI in education goes beyond just whipping up content; it's also great for creating a variety of teaching materials, from interactive quizzes to thought-provoking discussion questions, thus meeting students' diverse interests and needs. But, the success of these AI tools depends a lot on the craft of prompt engineering — the skill of making clear, concise, and precise requests. Getting good at this ensures that the content meets the teacher’s immediate needs and fits broader educational aims. Teachers can leverage Generative AI to make lesson planning more effective and less burdensome by improving their prompt-crafting skills. While our previous post on AI and lesson planning guided overall steps for lesson planning, this piece will focus on creating effective prompts for specific classroom activities.

Let’s Start with Thinking about Tasks

While prompt engineering generally emphasizes the six components, including tasks, contexts, exemplars, persona, format, and tone, tasks and contexts are the two most important factors. Let’s tackle the most important one: the tasks. Tasks should be based on the objectives of the lesson. Once you have clear objectives, deliver your intention to Generative AI, starting with action verbs. Start with action verbs such as generate, suggest, develop, illustrate, and write, followed by what you want to ask for. Here are some example tasks you can use, but be more specific depending on your objectives.

Activity Generation

Hands-on activities, games, and experiments are crucial in making learning an adventure. For instance, when planning a science lesson on plant growth, a prompt like, "Generate a hands-on activity for third graders to understand the life cycle of a plant, including materials needed and step-by-step instructions," can lead Generative AI to create an interactive experiment involving bean planting. Similarly, for reinforcing grammar concepts, prompts such as, "Create a mad lib game focused on parts of speech, tailored for second-grade students," encourage the development of engaging classroom activities that blend learning with laughter, keeping students engaged.

Topic Generation

Generating compelling topics for discussions, debates, or projects can be challenging, yet it's essential for cultivating critical thinking and engagement among young learners. Generative AI can assist by crafting prompts like, "Suggest a debate topic suitable for fifth graders on the importance of recycling," which can initiate thoughtful classroom discussions. For project ideas, a prompt such as, "Provide a project idea that allows fourth graders to explore local history, including a list of resources," can help teachers introduce students to research and presentation skills early on, fostering a sense of curiosity and connection to their community.

Example Generation

Real-world examples can significantly enhance understanding when teaching complex concepts such as fractions. A prompt like "Generate a story-based example that explains fractions to third graders using a pizza-sharing scenario" can create relatable and memorable learning experiences. A prompt such as "Generate sample essay outlines to help students structure their writing on environmental conservation" can guide teachers in offering structured, step-by-step frameworks for students, enhancing their ability to organize thoughts and arguments coherently. 

Solution Generation

Classroom management challenges, such as resolving conflicts or ensuring inclusive participation, require innovative solutions. Prompts such as "Suggest strategies for managing a noisy classroom of second graders during group activities" can provide teachers with practical advice on maintaining order while fostering a positive learning environment. Additionally, for inclusive education, a prompt like "Develop a plan to integrate students with varying abilities in a group project on environmental science for fourth graders" helps design activities accessible to all students, promoting collaboration and empathy among young learners.

Let’s Add Contexts…And Others!

Adding specific context is the key to getting the result you want. Input grade levels, subjects/topics, particular learning needs or interests of your students, and the amount of time and resources you can utilize. For example, you can add, “Please include adaptations for students with dyscalculia, using visual aids and tangible objects, and ensure it can be completed within 20 minutes.” to accommodate students with math disabilities or “Specify any free online tools that could be utilized. The project should encourage group collaboration and be executable over a week.” if you’re planning to leverage technology in your class. In addition, if you already have a good example of the activity, you can give the exemplars, and the result will be closer to what you want. If you have some specific format or tone you want to present, go for it.  Don’t forget that Generative AI is interactive. Ask them to add details, provide feedback, and modify what AI shows you. 

Share Your Thoughts and Experience

Do you have experience using Generative AI tools to create activities or resources? How do you craft strong prompts to get what you want? Try these out and tell us about your experiences in the CIDDL community!