Age Range: 5 - 11
By: Mark Warner
1) Writing Traditional Stories from a Different Point of View
Read "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs" (by Jon Scieszka) with the children. This tells the "Three Little Pigs" story from the wolf's point of view.
Ask the children to think of a story that they know well, and to write another version from another point of view.
e.g. Write "Cinderella" from the point of view of one of the ugly sisters,
OR Write "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" from the point of view of the troll,
OR Write "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" from the point of view of Goldilocks.
2) Design a New Room for the Chocolate Factory
Based on "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl.
Remind the children of the story and read chapter 15 - a description of the Chocolate Room.
Ask the children who have read the story if they can think of any of the other rooms in the factory. Make a list of these on the board for the children to refer to later.
Now ask the children to make up a new room for the chocolate factory, making sure that they are as descriptive as possible.
Jessica Miller has also suggested the following idea:
What might have happened if any of the other children had gotten the factory?
3) Missing Person
The following activity is great fun, and usually produces great results, but must be used with caution. Only try it with a class you are comfortable with, and who you think will cope with the situation. Also try to add a little humour where possible, ensuring that the children are aware that it's not real - you're just pretending!
Choose a name for a missing person (e.g. "Paul"), making sure that this is not the name of someone in the class. Before the lesson, put a chair in an empty space in the classroom. For the purposes of the lesson, pretend that this space is where "Paul" normally sits.
Ask the children where "Paul" is. They will probably look at you as though you are mad, but continually ask them where "Paul" is today. Tell them that he normally sits in his space (point to the empty chair) and that he was there yesterday, but he isn't there today. Insist that they tell you where he is. Hopefully someone will make up a reason why "Paul" isn't in today. Argue with them, saying that you have heard differently. Ask if anyone knows anything else. Ask who was the last person to see him. Continue like this for a while, with the children explaining where he is.
Finally, say that as Paul is missing, we will have to make some missing person posters, explaining who Paul is (with a picture so others can identify him!), where he was last seen and who to contact if he is found. When these are made, you could post them around the school.
A missing person poster template can be found below.
4) Supermoo's New Adventures
Based on the book "Supermoo" by Babette Cole.
Read the story through with the children. Discuss the main characters (Supermoo, Calf Crypton, the BOTS, Miss Pimple's class), and ask the children to produce a new adventure for a series of new Supermoo books. This could be in the form of a story, or a storyboard with accompanying pictures.
When finished, the children could actually make the books for younger children in the school to read.
5) Recipes for Dreams
Based on "The BFG" by Roald Dahl.
Remind the children of the story and read the "Dreams" chapter to give the children some ideas. Ask them to make a recipe for a dream. They could set it out like a cooking recipe with ingredients and mixing instructions and there should also be a short description of the dream (which could be a "Golden Phizzwizard" or a "Trogglehumper").
When all of the recipes are finished, they could be made into a "Dream Recipe Cook Book".
6) Dr. Xargle's Book of .....
This activity is based on the Dr. Xargle series of books written by Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Tony Ross.
Read through some of the books in the series.
The children should write their own Dr. Xargle story in which he teaches his class about a different aspect of Earth life (e.g. school, work). This will encourage them to look at everyday life from a different point of view. If there is enough time, they could also make illustrations to accompany their text.
7) Class Mascot Activity
Find a small soft toy or puppet which will become the class mascot. With the class, choose a name for the mascot, and discuss its background (where it comes from, its friends and family, its likes and dislikes etc.).
Let each child take the mascot (and a book in which to write) home for a few days at a time. While they are looking after the mascot, they should write a short story in the book outlining what the mascot has done during its stay with them. This can be true or the children can make up events (e.g. a trip to the moon). Encourage them to be as creative as possible.
When the mascot returns to school, spend some time discussing what it has done and where it has been. The class could make a book describing the mascot's travels.
8) When I am famous...
"In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes" - Andy Warhol
Discuss the above quote with the children, and talk about what it means to be famous. Would they like to be famous? What would they like to be famous for?
The children could then write:
An account of what they would like to be famous for, and why.
A diary, written as if the child was famous in the future. How are they feeling? What things do they have to do?
An newspaper interview, written as if in the future, with the child who is now famous.
9) How did the elephant get its trunk?
Can the children think of a story which describes how the elephant got its trunk? Or how about explaining how a giraffe got its long neck? How did the leopard get its spots? Why has a rabbit got long ears? Why is a zebra stripy?
10) Description of a New Animal
A good way of asking children to use their descriptive writing skills is to ask them to invent a new animal. Ask them to describe what it looks like, where it lives, what it does, what it eats etc. It might be useful to discuss existing animals and their characteristics beforehand.
11) Writing a story based on adverts
In the back of many books, there are often adverts for other stories. Why not get the children to choose one of these adverts, and write a story based on the description of the story in the advert. They don't need to have read the book which is being advertised, and you can get them to compare their own story to the real version when they have finished.
12) Using Objects
Take 4 or 5 unrelated but interesting objects and challenge children to create either a skit or a character description of the owner. Great for oral discussion but also useful for character analysis. Suggested by Jane Knight.
13) Name Characters
This is using art and creative writing, and was suggested by Jeanette Carpenter:
- Fold a piece of paper in half and on the fold line write your name.
- Cut around the outside shape of your name.
- Open your name and you will have a shape based on your letters.
- Colour and design your shape into a character.
- Glue your finished character to a piece of construction paper.
- Write a descriptive paragraph about your character as if it is an alien arriving here on earth for the first time. Give it a name, place of origin, reason for being here, etc.
Writing is a challenge for most students – in fact it's a challenge for most people! Daily practice is essential and in my classroom I always teach a daily writing workshop.
This is a writing-specific example of my lesson planning and delivery process.
Time for writing
We often begin by meeting in the “front yard” (the green carpet at the front of my room), where I usually read a mentor text and ask students to comment on what the author accomplished. If I choose the book well, a student will invariably hit upon the lesson for the day.
I share the targets that we are to accomplish in our writing unit or I share the rubric that I’ll be using. Then we head into a modeled write… or if this is their first experience with the genre, I’ll do a guided write.
The process of introducing a new writing topic is very intentional, and it may take three or sometimes four days to finish.
I try to get the whole introduction and modeled or guided write done in four days so students have the last day of the week to brainstorm topics/ideas for their independent write that begins at the start of the following week.
Let's take it one day at a time, assuming that we start on a Monday.
Day-by-day through writing instruction
- Students note what the author did using Smart board or chart paper.
- Brainstorm topic for a guided write that fits genre purpose and audience. Ensure students pick a very small topic that lends itself to a quick group write.
- Start rough draft as a group.
- Score group work or guided write as a class.
- Final review of mentor text and group/guided write.
- Begin work on individual write.
- Provide prompt (if desired) and allow time for brainstorming.
~ ~ ~
- Review brainstorms and choose topic.
- Allow lots of talking and sharing time as students choose topics and narrow their writing ideas.
The following days slow down the writing process and include mini-lessons on language and grammar or other lessons that are necessary for the work students are doing.
I often use a clipboard and call small groups of students back to our work table to check in on their writing and help guide them as they progress.
Video tips: elementary writing activities for engagement
Elementary Writing Activities for Engagement
Those are the basic steps. Let's see how we can spice things up bit!
Maintaining motivation for writing
Here are several ideas that any elementary teacher can apply to their writing instruction after the work is done. These provide motivation to keep writing all year long.
Think about different ways the children can present their writing rather than simply handing it in and having it corrected and handed back.
For example: Is it possible for them to write a short play that they can then present to the class? It not only works to reinforce their writing but their speaking skills as well.
Allow the children to illustrate their elementary writing activities. Drawing is very compelling to children, and although the assignment should not be focused primarily on illustration, it does keep them more engaged.
If you display these illustrated writing assignments in a prominent place in your room or in a hallway, the students will have the pride of being a “published” author, which reinforces their willingness to work on the next assignment.
Another idea is to have the children correct writing samples in class. Explain your standards up front about how to score a piece of writing, such as having proper punctuation, proper spelling of words, proper paragraph indentation, presenting a main idea and supporting ideas, etc.
Use your document camera to project different writing samples on the screen and discuss what's good and what needs improvement in those samples. This is a tremendous technique for getting them to apply proper writing skills to their own work.
Kids like playing “teacher” and correcting assignments.
Get your students unstuck in writing!
This “Quick Write Response Sheet” helps your students get unstuck when they are struggling to write about novels… while adding variety to their responses.
Student Response Stems
Elementary writing prompts
I received a great question about elementary writing prompts and homework from a reader in Algeria. Her problem? Lack of writing homework completion. Her students just didn't feel motivated to write about the topics she assigned.
The key to getting her students – and yours – to do writing assignments (either in class or at home) is to make the topics extremely interesting to them.
Remember: people in general dislike writing. A lot. Why? Because it's hard!
Kids are no different, but they can be motivated by engaging elementary writing prompts if you take into consideration their personal interests as well as their ages.
Rule number one: stay narrow
Assigning a general topic, such as writing something about the neighborhood, will never be as engaging to a child as writing about their favorite imaginary pet. Specifics drive engagement, while limiting the scope of the assignment helps students get started more easily.
Still not enough writing enthusiasm? Then get even more narrow by tailoring prompts for each individual child in your classroom rather than giving all of them the same assignment.
For example, if you know that a particular child is very interested in snakes, then that's what he writes about. Others write about horses or rocket ships.
As long as they are focusing on the format that ties to your curriculum (e.g. “informational essay”), then the subject matter is of secondary importance.
Rule number two: get creative
Ideas for elementary writing prompts are all around us at school, and curriculum-based topics often come with “idea generator” words that provide excellent vocabulary to spice up student writing.
For example: If you have been studying a particular type of vocabulary, such as words from nature or math terms or science terms, then your writing assignments can focus on using these particular words. This gives your students a whole list of words that they can automatically include without searching for proper things to write about.
And getting kids started is more than half the battle!
The important thing is to always remember to make the assignment as interesting as possible. Any form of writing will help students master vocabulary, so change things often and try anything.
Writing prompt ideas
- Create rhyming and non-rhyming poetry.
- Author a news article about a local team. Focus on facts.
- Develop an advertisement about a favorite snack. Focus on using descriptive selling words.
- Write different types of words in different colors. Example: All verbs in red to see how they stand out.
- Write with lemon juice, which will disappear on the paper until it is heated over a light bulb.
- Draw and label a treasure map.
- Conduct and summarize an interview of another student or a parent.
- Have each child write one sentence of a story and pass it on to the next student.
And on and on… anythingto keep the work interesting. Have a goal for each assignment so they are not writing randomly. In other words, they must include certain words or have a certain number of sentences, etc. Make the assignments interesting but keep them focused on the standards you must teach.
Kids love to be engaged – most of them just don't know it! When teachers develop innovative and fun elementary writing prompts that appeal to children, they are creating eager writers who can't wait to share their thinking.
I cover scoring rubrics and writing feedback here.