An idea I heard was take your sticker collection and let students pick a sticker and then write a paragraph about the picture on the sticker. I plan to do try it this year. Another 3rd grade teacher had used the idea and it was a great story starter idea...
I have several calendar pictures (of various animals, places, etc). They are gorgeous color pictures and the kids love to write about them.
I also go to google images and type in children, animals, sports, etc.
and get pictures that show movement, interest, details and lots of color. They love to look at these, pick one they like and write about it. If there's time, they write about two or three of them.
We also make a list together of all the things they can do at the Writing center: the "I can" or "I will" list:
Write a letter to a friend or family member
Make a list of favorite things to do
Write a story using stickers (as mentioned above)
Children are given a tablet for journal writing.I've given the children a silly writing prompt: If I Were A Cartoon Character, My New Playground Would Be..., When I Meet My Favorite Rock Star..., etc. Each child records their own response and we read aloud when children are just about caught up. I also stamp each journal entry as an indicator that I have heard each one, just to cover my back end! I also stress no violence or bad words. We do this activity about once a week. At the end of the year, children take home their journals. Students love this activity, but tend to get silly at times. I also write on the board: include color, size, who, where, how... To guide their writing along. This has been used as a third grade activity.
My Writing Center is a large rectangular table in my room. I usually have it stocked with markers, crayons, writing pencils, glue, scissors, variety of writing paper, construction paper, stickers, stapler, tape and a few arts and crafts materials. My children do centers Mon - Thurs. Every Thursday we read a new book. I usually will let them elaborate about the book that we're reading/Have them to discuss whatever we're doing in science/social studies/write a letter to a friend/just try my best to tie in whatever we're doing in class already to what I want them to write about. If they have a variety of experiences it will make it a lot easier. Hope this helps.
My writing center consists of three desks pushed together against a wall. Each desk has a thesaurus, dicitionary, markers, pencils, and different writing stationary inside. In the beginning of the year, I will post different writing prompts for the students to write about. Once the students get used to the routines of the station, I begin to let them write about their own topics.