Teaching creative writing to kids can be one of the most rewarding parts of teaching the English curriculum. But with so many statutory requirements to hit in a portfolio of writing, it can be difficult to capture truly creative writing as well as instil enthusiasm for the art.
Some of your class will really enjoy creative writing from scratch. For others, this will be a daunting experience. We have gathered together a collection of simple ideas for teaching creative writing to help your pupils smash writing tasks.
Creative writing tips for teachers
- Use a workshop-style environment
- Show your class how it’s done
- Draw up a storyboard
- Encourage book reading
- Re-write a known story
- Show, don’t tell
- Inspire them with video
- Deconstruct characters
- Give your pupils freedom
- Use story-starters and prompts
- Elaborate with a story generator
- Get the children to take creative writing home
1. Use a workshop-style environment
Separate your class into groups or tables, each group will then be able to choose what they work on. Some may look to write fiction pieces and use ideas around storytelling. Another group could focus on word games, spelling and puzzle-solving. There could even just be a group for reading stories and learning the craft!
All children are able to work in groups, but each pupil will have one-to-one time with you too. As long as assignments and tasks are rotated, children will find their favourite part and be more engaged as a result. Working this way can also lead to competitions and collaborative creative writing work.
2. Show your class how it’s done
The adage is ‘practise what you preach’. When it comes to creative writing, this means you should be showing the class what the process is.
Doing live creative writing sessions for your class can give them perspective on how to build a story effectively. More importantly, it gives them chance to see how it’s OK to make mistakes, how to take criticism and that they shouldn’t be afraid to create whatever they feel they want to. You could even get your more able (and confident!) pupils to live write on the board for the class to gather inspiration from; pupil modelling can be a really fantastic assessment for learning activity.
3. Draw up a storyboard
Some visual cues might be the key to unlocking greater creativity in your pupils. Instead of writing out a story, why not begin with a storyboard? It doesn’t need to be a work of art – simple stick people will do the job.
Once you’ve drawn out the basis of your story, you can then start to write down more detail to really flesh out their story.
4. Encourage book reading
If there is one place anyone can go to experience good storytelling, it’s in books. Reading brings a whole host of benefits to children form an educational standpoint – many of which apply to creative writing.
To increase vocabulary, improve creativity and enflame imaginations (plus a whole lot more), we should always be looking for more reading opportunities for pupils in class. Beyond the classroom, encourage them to do as much reading as possible at home too.
5. Re-write a known story
If you’re struggling for ideas, why not take inspiration from one of the countless legendary stories already out there. Give a classic story a twist and ask the class to elaborate on it:
- Three Billy Goats Gruff are the ones under the bridge, and you’re trying to cross it
- At the top of Jack’s Beanstalk is Mars
- Aladdin rubs his lamp, but what are his three wishes?
- The three bears are the ones sneaking into Goldilocks’ house
6. Show, don’t tell
It’s a tenant of good storytelling across many different mediums. The idea of show, don’t tell means the writer should avoid explaining every aspect of what a character is feeling or thinking and instead focus on different ways of revealing that information in the story.
For example, give your class some basic information like “the boy was sad”, and ask to write a sentence that would display that information more creatively. It could become, “the boy’s heart sank, his head bowed and he sniffled as the tears began to fall.”
This way, the reader is able to unravel the emotions involved in the story themselves, rather than being told.
7. Inspire them with video
YouTube is a treasure trove of learning resources and other helpful content that can boost a pupil’s creative writing capability. With a quick search, you’ll find plenty of interviews with famed writers sharing their experiences in the job.
Use these to dig a little deeper into the mind of a writer. What is there process for coming up with ideas? What are the challenges they face? This type of content can provide key takeaways that pupils can bring into their next creative writing task.
8. Deconstruct characters
A simple but effective method for getting into the routine of character building involves writing down what makes them tick. Take a famous character from a book or a famous children’s TV show. Split a piece of paper into a grid, and label them with things like “what makes them happy”, “what makes them angry” “How would they react in a certain situation?”
Then as a class fill out the grid. You could use them method when a pupil comes up with a new character for their story, helping them to get in the correct mindsight for creating characters.
9. Give your pupils freedom
There will be a lot of children in your class who thrive when given the freedom to write. Always remember to set aside time for your pupils to have an open-ended opportunity to write, allowing them to express their favourite topics. If it’s too open for some children, then proposing a particular topic for this time can help too.
10. Use story-starters and prompts
Story-starters or prompts are great for getting the creative juices flowing. It helps pupils to avoid the dreaded ‘writer’s block’. We’ve got a whole load of story starters for KS1 and KS2 creative writers, but here are just a few to get the juices flowing:
- It was there and then it was gone! As quick as a flash…
- This was it! I now had the power to change anything.
- A million pounds sat there in the suitcase. “What should we do with it?” I said.
- The three friends set out on their journey, with nothing but each other to help them for what lied ahead.
- The car lurched down the road when suddenly a thud came from below.
- The tap on my shoulder woke me. “Shhh” she said with a finger pressed to her lips. “Follow me.”
11. Elaborate with a story generator
Generate ideas and get a story rolling with a tried and tested method: the story generator. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do it:
- Find three bags
- Create three lists: one for characters (a footballer, a dog, an astronaut etc), one for scenes (an unknown planet, a bedroom, a park etc) and one for the situation (looking for a lost coin, meets a talking dog, during a big thunderstorm etc)
- Cut out each of the ideas and group them together in the bags. You have three bags filled with dozens of possibilities for different stories.
- Ask a pupil to reach into each bag so they then have a character, a scene and a situation. This is the basis of their story.
12. Get the children to take creative writing home
The home environment will be a more comfortable or possibly, a more inspiring place for children to write their stories. Encouraging parents to get onside with this can sometimes be a battle, but one worth fighting. Sharing their stories and creations across different audiences is a valuable experience for children, whether that be in class, at home or safely online. The perfect flipped classroom experience!