Cultivating a Love for Reading and Writing, part 2: Creative Writing with Kids
This post is a continuation of my series on helping our children and students learn to love Reading and Writing.
In the first post, I mentioned a few ways that we’ve (very easily) integrated some fun writing practice into our normal days at home with young kids. In this post I will elaborate on several more ideas for helping your kids (of all ages!) practice creative writing — for fun!!
Kids’ brains are like sponges, soaking up everything they see and hear. Because they’re so simple and genuine, they often process their thoughts verbally, telling stories that bear elements from all kinds of stories and conversations they’ve heard throughout the day. Sometimes I think a three year-old’s conversations are very similar to our subconscious dream-state, picking up bits and pieces of things and throwing them together in a semi-coherent story line as we try to process what we’ve experienced. 🙂 I referred to this as “fan fiction” in my first post and shared a story that my (then) three year-old had dictated to me.
This time I wanted to include a story that he told us after I read him a few chapters from a Boxcar Children book. I’ve been reading my way through this series to him and he’s apparently picked up on the idea of writing a mystery story — he told me that he wanted to write his own mystery, so we (Grandpa, actually — thank you Grandpa!) transcribed the following story: (Keep in mind the author is four years old ;).)
The Vanishing House.
Once upon a time there was a little girl. She was very old. She had a house that was made out of bricks. It was really pretty. It had all kinds of flowers inside. The flowers were just pretend and every single part had shininess. The shininess was actually glitter.
The girl is inside the house. She is not looking out the window or baking; she is reading a book very quietly. And then the little girl dressed herself and then got her bags and go’d down to the garage and got into the car and drove away.
The store was 30 minutes away. And then the girl went off. Just when she got one minute away, someone shrinked the house and put it in his backpack! And he got in his car and drove away. And then he is going to his house and he’s going to get the house out of his backpack. And then he got his “unshrinker” and unshrinked the house! So then he got his “putter” machine — he can put anything where he wants it to be. He put it where his old house used to be.
Then he got in it and he saw all the books and he didn’t like the books. He got out and shrinked it with his shrinker and threw it away because he didn’t like it at all.
The girl had a map to know where her house was. She followed her map to where the house was in the garbage. She brought it back and put it where it belonged.
This was the first time that he’s been able to tell a story and somewhat stick to a predetermined plot and a limited number of characters ;).
Since so many of his stories veer off in all kinds of random directions, I tried to introduce him to the idea of choosing a setting and characters from the beginning, and then keeping the story within those boundaries (kind of like coloring in the lines). It’s fun to just make up stories by following a whimsical stream of consciousness (this is what kids naturally do and I think all forms of creativity should be encouraged!) but it’s also easier for the reader/listener to understand the story if it starts and ends in the same place with the same people. 🙂
Creative Writing Template for a Mystery Story
I wrote up a little mystery story framework for him: Describe a setting and characters, tell us a problem they are dealing with, describe two attempts at solutions that don’t end up working, and then one final solution to solve the problem and save the day(!).
This was the result of his exercise in following “rules” in story-telling: (I’m not sure one way is better than the other at this point — but it was a good way to extend the activity at least, and help him try new ideas.)
Setting: Frisbee Mystery Island
Characters: Cheeky Moo, Sillille Foo, Chuck
Problem: Every time someone throws a frisbee out of the house, it disappears.
First attempt to solve the problem: We’re going to put the towel on the circle shape of the frisbee for 20 minutes to see if it undisappears.
Second attempt to solve the problem: We’re going to try to grab the sun and put it where the shape of the frisbee is.
New problems that occurred when we tried to fix things: I couldn’t reach the sun with my lasso sun-reaching rope.
Final solution (that actually works): I knew that the disappearing man digged the frisbee under the ground and I saw the hider guy, so I knew where it is. He is very sneaky.
Moral of the story: We learn from this story that we throw the frisbee and never leave it outside.
I feel like this creative writing experience is similar to notebooking. It gives kids a chance to think through what they heard and process their ideas creatively. This “fan fiction” method can be used with all ages; if you’re homeschooling kids of multiple ages, they can all work on these types of writing activities together. Creative writing naturally lends itself to differentiation. 🙂
I’ve created free printable versions of these (and a few others that I’ll write about in the following post) for you to use with your own kids/students. The set includes:
- A Day in Outer Space
- Completely Imaginary Science Experiment
- The Mystery of ___________
With older kids, you could extend these creative writing story templates by having kids fill them out then use these as a loose outline for them to write a more detailed story. You could work on coming up with titles, thinking up good transition phrases to make the story flow together, finding places to put paragraph breaks … all the good stuff :). (You can write for them if the writing process hinders the creative process.)
In the next post I will describe the other story writing templates and share some more of our own creative writing masterpieces ;). I also have a list of story-telling games you can use in group settings (road trips, birthday party games, group writing center times, multi-age homeschool groups, etc.). I’ll include the link to that post here as soon as it’s published.
Download your free copy of Creative Writing Story Prompts
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