A Guide for South African Teachers on How to Write the Perfect Prompt for AI Language Models

AI language models like ChatGPT are becoming increasingly useful tools in our classrooms. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write effective prompts to get the most out of these AI tools:

  1. Assign a Role: Start by defining the role you want the AI to play. This could be a history expert, a literature critic, or a science tutor. This helps the AI adopt the appropriate behaviour for the task.
  2. Start with an Action Word: Begin your prompt with action words like “Explain”, “Describe”, “Summarise”, or “Compare”. This leads to more specific and actionable responses.
  3. Give a Clear, Descriptive, and Accurate Task: Be specific about what you want the AI to do. For example, instead of saying “Explain photosynthesis”, you might say “Explain the process of photosynthesis to a Grade 6 student in simple terms”.
  4. Provide Context: Include any relevant information that will help the AI understand the task better. This could be the grade level of your students, the curriculum you’re following, or the learning objectives of the lesson.
  5. Use Role Play: You can ask the AI to role-play a certain character or persona to make the learning more engaging. For example, the AI could role-play as Nelson Mandela explaining his vision for South Africa.
  6. Use References: If you want the AI to mimic a certain writing style, such as the language used in CAPS (Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements), you can provide a reference in the prompt.
  7. Use Double Quotes: Emphasize important words or phrases with double quotes to guide the AI’s response.
  8. Be Specific: The AI works best when given specific prompts. Be as detailed as possible in your instructions.
  9. Give Examples: Providing examples in your prompts can help guide the AI’s response. For example, if you want the AI to generate a maths problem, provide an example of the type of problem you want.
  10. Include the Length of the Response: If you want a short answer or a detailed explanation, specify this in your prompt.
  11. Handhold the AI: In certain situations, it’s crucial to tell the AI what to do, what to avoid, and what to prioritize. This is especially important when dealing with sensitive topics.
  12. Create Rules: List everything you want the AI to do. For example, you might ask for the output in bullet points, or explained in a way a Grade 4 student could understand.
  13. Create Constraints: Tell the AI what to avoid. For example, you might instruct it to avoid using complex vocabulary for lower grades.
  14. Specify the Tone: If you’re using the AI to write content, specifying the tone can make a big difference. For younger students, a friendly and casual tone might be more effective.
  15. Evaluate and Iterate: Be prepared to make changes. The process is iterative, so after each set of results, evaluate, make changes to your prompt, and see if you can get better results. Save your prompt and refine it over time.

Remember, writing effective prompts is a skill that can be honed with practice and patience. By following these steps, you can make AI language models a powerful tool in your teaching toolkit, enhancing the learning experience for your students.