Thursday, April 9, 2009

Teach Creative Writing!

Reading books with your children not only opens up the whole world to them, but often kick-starts their creative writing juices. For instance, after reading "The Wizard of Oz," ask your children to write a story about a strange world. When teaching creative writing to children, I've found that using maps, props, cards, books they've read, or pictures help them oganize their thoughts and create characters and a plot. Use the following activities as a class project or a story starter for your child at home.


Draw an island on a crinkled up paper bag. This will show that the map is old. Now add some features. Give it some mountains or a volcano. Put in rivers, swamps, or lakes. (By the way, this is a great way to give your kids a geography lesson or map making lesson without them knowing!) It could have forests, beaches, caves, villages. How about an old, deserted pirate town? By the way, islands don't have to be tropical islands. There are also rocky islands,jungle islands, and since this is an imaginary story, how about rainbow islands, candy islands, islands made of toys, or any combination of elements you want.

Decide who lives on the island. Maybe it’s a clan of long-lost Vikings, rock people, whacky animals, or talking birds. Maybe there are two groups on each side of the island that don’t get along with each other. This might help you give the land a name.

Finally, start the story by bringing to the island a main character or two. What would happen when two kids get shipwrecked there, or a time-traveler shows up? They need to have a goal as well. It could be as simple as trying to get home, or finding an object that's needed to save the world.

Because you have a picture of your island it is easy to create a plot as your characters move from one part of the island to the other. Create a problem to overcome at each feature.

Try reading The Adventures of Grassie Green in the Colored Worlds by Steven Rox.


First give your character a reason to explore. Maybe you're looking for a lost treasure, a rare animal, or a cure for a terrible bug disease. As a tiny creature, everything looks different to you.

Use numbered popsicle sticks and string to map out your journey in the yard. Wind the string around each stick as you place it in the ground. Each stick represents a problem that you must overcome to continue your quest. Maybe you have to think of a way to get over a big rock, cross a puddle, get away from a hungry bird, ride on a dandelion seed, or in a toy car.

Finally, decide how you solve the final problem and find what you're looking for.

Try reading The Little Squeegy Bug by Bill Martin and Michael Sampson.


These types of stories are called folktales. They have historically explained things. Have your child draw a picture o make a clay figure of his favorite animal.

Make a list of the characteristics that make this animal unusual or different.
Write a story that explains how the animal got a particular trait. (How a tiger gets his stripes, how an elephant got large ears, why an eagle has a white head, or how a giraffe got a long neck.) For instance, start the story about elephants when they had tiny ears. Tell us the problems the elephant had. Tell how his ears grew to solve his problems.

Try reading Asian Children's Favorite Stories: A Treasury of Folktales from China, Japan, Korea, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia by David Conger, Patrick Yee, Marian Davies Toth, and Kay Loyons.
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3 comments: said...

Thanks for a nice post. At least, people now have an idea on the concept of creative writing.

Dr. Alice said...

These are some GREAT creative writing story starters! Thanks for sharing. For your readers, if you are looking for another idea to help encourage and empower children in the area of creative writing. Go to These are professionally illustrated wordless picture books in which kids write the story and become authors. It is a great gift idea for encouraging writing wherever you are and kids love it! Check it out!

Jonathan said...

Thanks for posting this. Great tips and story starters. I also came across this post by Susannah Sheffer on on how parents can teach their girls how to write. It has a few good tips too.