Prompt Engineering for Teachers: Making the Most of AI, Part 1

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According to a recent article from EdWeek, approximately one-third of teachers use AI-driven tools in their classrooms for creating lesson plans, generating rubrics, writing letters and emails, and other purposes. However, another article reports that seven in ten educators have yet to receive any professional development about using AI and have concerns about using it effectively and appropriately.

There are several fantastic generative AI resources and tools, but one thing they all have in common is that they begin with a prompt that provides the tool with the information it needs to produce the desired result. Prompt engineering or prompt crafting is the ability to write and modify prompts to obtain a valuable response. Understanding how to write effective prompts is critical to taking advantage of the many benefits of using AI tools.

For our purposes, we will stick to how to use prompts with chatbots and image generators. Once you grasp the art of crafting effective prompts, you can apply this knowledge to various AI resources and tools that can help educators generate lessons, texts, assessments, and other materials with ease. Visit our special topics collection TeachersFirst’s Resources for Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Productivity to explore free tools.

There are several frameworks that provide guidelines to assist users when creating prompts in chat tools. 

Five S Model

TheFive S Model describes 5 actions educators can take to engineer effective prompts that lead to high-quality outcomes:

  1. Set the scene. Begin your prompt with relevant information about you (your role, level of experience, etc.) and the environment you’re working in to provide context for the tool’s output. Example: “I am an experienced 5th-grade math teacher.”
  2. Be specific. Clearly define the task and what you want included. Example: “Use UDL frameworks to design a 30-minute, hands-on activity to introduce converting fractions to decimals.”
  3. Simplify language. Avoid jargon and use everyday conversational language to state your request. Example: “This activity should correlate with Common Core Fifth Grade Number and Operations Fractions Standards and provide opportunities for all students to fully participate in the activity.”
  4. Structure the output. State what form you want the output to take (a table, a list, etc.) and include a rubric. Example: “Create a list of open-ended response questions to guide students during the activity.”
  5. Share feedback. Remember that this is a chat conversation. Continue to provide feedback and make adjustments until you generate the desired content. For example, you could ask, “What misconceptions might my students have as they complete this activity?”

Here is the response generated by ChatGPT (reviewed here) after entering the example prompt above. To create additional items, try using the same prompt in other chatbots, such as Claude (reviewed here), Microsoft Copilot or Perplexity (reviewed here). Although the prompts are the same, the outputs are different. Using an assortment of tools is an excellent way to generate several ideas and scenarios and find the “just right” activity for your classroom.


This is another framework that includes guidelines for crafting effective prompts.

  • Context. Provide context—such as your grade level, subject, and topic—for your prompt.
  • Result. Describe or identify the result you want. Examples include “write an email,” “generate an outline,” and “create a lesson plan.”
  • Explain. Add an explanation of your request that is as explicit as possible. When generating a lesson, include content standards, vocabulary, and references to textbooks and articles and specify whether you use Universal Design for Learning (UDL) concepts or another specific teaching philosophy.
  • Audience. Define your audience. In addition to including students’ grade levels, consider adding information about their interests, such as sports or pop music. If you’re asking for an email, share who will read it. Is it for a parent, an administrator, or a local business?
  • Tone. Include the tone for the response. You might ask for something humorous if creating an example poem or an engaging tone if you’re generating ideas for learning stations.
  • Edit. Remember you’re working with a chatbot, which means it is okay to conduct a running conversation. Refine the output by asking it to include additional information in the response, or ask it to simplify the content to fit a shorter amount of work time or to suit a student’s ability level.


This framework and the examples below are from the ebook 40 Proven AI Prompts for Educators by Daniel Fitzpatrick. This framework focuses on “preparing the machine” by putting it in your shoes.

  • Prompt. What do you want to generate? Example: “Create a quiz about coastal erosion.”
  • Role. What role do you want the AI to assume in this activity? Example: “You are a geography teacher who is an expert on coastal erosion and creating engaging quizzes.”
  • Explicit. Be explicit when describing what you want. Example: “Include questions on hydraulic action, compression, abrasion, and attrition.”
  • Parameters. State clear guidelines for what you want to produce. Example: “Write ten multiple-choice questions. Write them with a reading age of 12 years old. Include answers at the end.”

Creating Images with Generative AI

Writing prompts to generate images requires different input than those used in chatbots. This Padlet offers many descriptors that can help you generate images with AI and includes a simple step by step process: 

  • Start with what you want to see. Describe what you want in your image. For example, a student daydreaming in the classroom or a beautiful hummingbird in flight.  
  • Then, add an artistic or photographic style. Include the style of your image, such as cartoon, black and white, or photo-realistic. (This resource includes a variety of example styles to try.)
  • Add modifiers or amplifiers to enhance the image. Ask the tool to focus on a specific portion of the image, provide perspective such as through a keyhole, or describe textural elements to include.

There are several excellent free resources for finding and practicing effective prompts. If you’re using a chatbot, try out GenAI Chatbot Prompt Library for Educators (reviewed here), or take a deeper look a 40 Proven AI Prompts for Educators, which shares many examples of how to write effective prompts to generate rubrics, chat with historical figures, address misconceptions, and more. 

If you’re generating images, Microsoft Image Designer (reviewed here) is an excellent starting point. The home page features several images with corresponding templates you can modify and personalize. Twin Pics (reviewed here) provides prompt practice by having you try to match the daily pic using 100 characters or less, and this Prompt to Pictures Poster contains examples of specific wording you can use to create the style and mood of your image.

Take advantage of several free online resources to learn more about the art of prompt engineering:

  • Google’s Generative AI for Educators (reviewed here) – This resource includes a section on how to write, refine, and evaluate the output of prompts.
  • Microsoft Learn (reviewed here) – Explore several free AI learning modules, including Explore Generative AI with Copilot in Bing, a forty-minute course that includes a section with tips and techniques for writing good prompts. 
  • Adobe Firefly (reviewed here) Help Center – This article shares helpful and easy-to-incorporate suggestions for writing image creation prompts.
  • Prompt Engineering for Educators – This webinar recording includes suggestions for structuring prompts, tips for phrasing, and other helpful ideas for beginners.
  • Prompt Engineering for Educators Wakelet Collection – Learn more about prompt engineering and prompts to try in your classrooms.

Part two of this post will explore the many ways educators can use prompt engineering techniques to differentiate classroom activities.

How are you doing in your AI journey? We would love to hear how you use AI in your classroom and which prompts help you save time and increase productivity and creativity.

About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.

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