Fun ways to create a story
Written by Ashley Costin
As an author, I love to write - perhaps that goes without saying. However, as with any skill, not everyone finds writing either easy or enjoyable. And, for children starting out into the minefield that constitutes the English language, it can be frustrating to say the least.
The technicalities of writing are one thing. For a young child, just the incomprehensibility of writing a sentence, and where exactly those blessed capital letters and full stops should go, can be truly daunting. And that’s way before you get into the far more baffling intricacies of things such as ‘expanded noun phrases’ and ‘fronted adverbials’…
So, is it any wonder that some children ‘switch off’ to writing almost before they’ve begun?
Do We Really Need Rules to Write?
Structure is important, it’s true.
So, imgoingtorite sum werdswif noreelspelinpuntutionor spayses.*
Now, I’m guessing that with a little concentration you can work out what it says. It might take you a little time, though, and reading several pages of something similar could end up being more struggle than enjoyment. If children can’t read what they’ve written, then writing loses any pleasure or meaning pretty rapidly.
One of the trickiest aspects of writing, however is thinking of ideas. Of course, teachers nowadays very rarely ask children to ‘write a story’ and then just expect them to get on with it. Current story writing in the classroom will almost certainly include at least a week’s worth of preparation, reading or showing children examples, exploring the genre, planning, drafting and considering writing techniques (like expanded noun phrases) at the very least. For some children, this kind of structure is an absolute necessity.
And yet, there is a little part of me that thinks there is still a place for writing out of context; for just writing whatever you happen to think about at that moment in time. And actually, I’ve found that if you offer children free writing time (as opposed to telling them to write a story) the response seems to be much more enthusiastic.
Ideas are mostly about input. Think of your child’s mind as being a super sponge, capable of absorbing a vast amount of information. If a sponge has no water in it, then you can’t wash the car. If a brain has no input, it’s tricky to write a story. If we want children to write well and enjoy the process, then we not only need to give them the tools to do it, but also the experiences to build up creative ideas.
So, what can you do to fuel children’s imagination? Well, maybe go for a walk and talk about what you see, smell, taste and hear; lie on your back and look for shapes in the clouds; touch the cat (gently) the carpet, the table, a prickly plant (also gently, but maybe for a different reason) - any everyday objects you can find - and think about how they feel, how they’re the same or different; jump in a puddle (perhaps not too far from home, and only if you’re not too squeamish) and make squishy, mucky, glorious mud pies; watch and listen to a storyteller online. Gosh, I could probably ramble on for pages, but the point is, the more we fill our children’s heads with experiences, the more we can spark ideas for something to write about.
As well as ways that help to create ideas, there are also a plethora of activities to start children off on the actual writing process. Before I embark on outlining just a few of these, here’s an exercise that can help children to understand the point of writing in the first place. Children generally love to do anything that’s timed, so give them two minutes to write a list of where we might see writing. Books and magazines will come up as obvious ideas, but challenge them to be creative. Now we begin to see that writing is literally everywhere: street signs; shopping lists; Pokemon cards; computer game instructions; comics and cereal packets to name but a few. Building in this understanding that writing isn’t always about producing long, complicated stories for your teacher can be quite enlightening and perhaps also make writing that little bit less scary.
Fun Ways to Create Ideas for Writing Stories.
- Make a splat (a bit like an old-fashioned ink blot). Ask your child to write down the
first thing it makes them think of. Repeat this with as many different splats as you like. For each splat, ask them to write down what they thought of in a descending list. It might look something like this:
Next, think of an adjective (describing word) and a verb (doing word) to go with each object. Add them to the list and you have an instant poem - without even realizing you were writing one!
Weird ALIEN dances
Wearing cool GLASSES
Snazzy BOOT stomping
Climbs a rugged TREE
Brilliant STARS flash
Sneaky SNAKE snaps
Now you also have the lead in to a cool alien story.
- Another similar way of doing this is to ask your child to draw a squiggle and then
add to it to turn it into an animal/ motorbike/ dragon, or whatever they think it looks like. Brainstorm some adjectives, verbs and adverbs to describe what your squiggle looks like or does, creating a short character description, or another snazzy poem.
- I love this one. Draw (or find) a simple picture and show it to your child
giving them thirty seconds to look at it. Then ask them to write down as many things about the picture as they can. This could be timed and could be single words for younger children, or sentences for older children. Sometimes the results are amazing - sometimes they’re incredibly funny! If you repeat this exercise over a number of weeks or months, you can up the stakes making the pictures more complicated. Not only is this a great writing challenge, it also helps to build up writing stamina and is great for your memory to boot.
- If you have a child who loves making things, you could also try making a junk model
and then use post-it notes to stick on the model asking it creative questions such as: What’s your greatest super power? How fast can you move? Where’s the most amazing place you’ve been? etc. This might involve some stealthy, creative answers on your part after bedtime, but can be a great lead-in to a story.
Probably the most important thing about all of these ideas is that they involve a shared writing experience between you and your child. Whilst ultimately the goal might be for them to sit down and write, it’s the process of building up information and strategies that will help to make writing pleasurable and rewarding.
Have fun writing and stay safe!
*imgoingtorite sum werdswif noreelspelinpuntutionor spayses- I’m going to write some words with no real spelling, punctuation or spaces.
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