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5 Tips For Teaching Creative Writing, plus a FREEBIE!

Creative writing for elementary students should be fun and engaging. Often, students are intimidated by a blank piece of paper and find it very difficult to get started. But there are ways to make creative writing less threatening. After all, most young students have pretty creative imaginations! By following some of the tips below, you may find that your once-reluctant students even come to enjoy this type of writing.

Image of an elementary student sitting staring at a blank page, trying to write, with text "5 tips for teaching creative writing"

Teach Creative Writing by Focusing on Expression

Kids are often unsure of their spelling, grammar and syntax. This insecurity can cause them to dislike writing. One way to get around this is by focusing on the expression of their ideas and not picking apart their writing for errors. You can always work on this aspect of writing in separate lessons, or even later on after your students have improved in their creative writing abilities.

One way to focus on expressive words is by using word walls. Categorize words by sense, such as "seeing words," "tasting words," etc. to give students a place to start. Include some activities where students can describe a place or object using all of their senses.

Have students use specific vocabulary in their writing. These should be words that they are already familiar with. Doing so gives them a starting point for writing and may help lessen their insecurities.

5 Writing Activities for Creativity

1. Read to Students - children love to be read to, even older students. This helps them to learn what high quality writing sounds like. Pick books with specific writing characteristics and then ask students to listen for examples of them as you read.

2. Use Graphic Organizers - story maps or other types of graphic organizers can help reluctant writers by giving them something to refer back to as they write their stories. They can plot out the character, theme, and setting before they actually start writing. It may be helpful to fill these out with students the first few times you use them.

3. Use Engaging Prompts - start each session with a prompt. This could be a picture, a quote, a poem ... anything that can be interpreted in different ways. Discuss some ideas as a whole class, and then let students flesh out their story on paper.

4. Start With Mini-Lessons - take five to ten minutes at the beginning of a writing lesson to focus on one aspect of writing. For example, one mini-lesson might focus on adjectives that can be used in place of the words "happy" or "fun." Another example might discuss transition words.

5. Circle-Writing - this is a fun, non-threatening way for students to write creatively. Put students in groups of four to six and give them one pencil and one piece of paper. Start off with some kind of writing prompt. When the teacher says "go" one student writes until the stop signal is given. Students pass the paper to the next in the group, who then reads out loud what has been written so far. Continue the activity until everyone has had a turn. Make sure to signal near the end so that they have a chance to end their story.

Helping your students to like, or even love, creative writing can lead to great possibilities in the future. Have you tried any of these in your classroom? We'd love to hear how it went!

Click on the image below to grab some free writing help for your classroom!  

Cover image for Writing Help Freebie



Can Oral Storytelling Help First Graders Become Better Writers?

Have you ever seen first graders listening to oral storytelling? Their rapt, focused attention, stillness and quiet breathing indicate how entranced they are with what they're hearing. Teachers could capitalize on this engagement and focus to improve students' writing.

Image of a storytelling center with text "Can storytelling help students become better writers?"

What is storytelling?

Storytelling has always been a way for people to communicate. We use it to entertain, teach, and pass down culture from generation to generation. Stories help us connect information and place it in context. They help us to make meaning of information.

Oral storytelling isn't the same as reading a story from a book. Certainly this is wonderful, but when the book is put away and the story is told directly to students, a powerful effect can be observed.

The storyteller can look directly into the eyes of the listeners. Their body movements and voice inflections enhance the story and help listeners to understand it better.  This makes storytelling a shared experience and can create a wonderful sense of community in the classroom.

Students Can Become Better Writers Through Oral Storytelling

Introduce oral storytelling early in the year and be specific when modeling it. Sit with students in groups of 3 or 4 and tell a short personal story. Talk about how both the listeners and storyteller should behave. Be enthusiastic!

Set up storytelling areas for students to use for practice. Give them 15 minutes or so to sit and tell each other stories, making sure everyone gets a turn. At this point, they can transition to expressing their story on paper.

Of course, students won't become fantastic writers immediately. The recommendation is to have storytelling meetings several days a week. But telling each other stories helps students to think about the details, which they will then begin to incorporate into their stories.

As the storytelling practice continues, students will start to use their imaginations more and to see pictures and images in their minds. This is crucial for developing both reading and writing skills. The ability to read or hear stories and then "see" what they've heard or read will help them to immerse themselves in the story and add richness to the experience. Stimulating their imaginations through storytelling will translate into more depth and detail in their writing.

Tips For The Classroom

  • As mentioned earlier, introduce storytelling early in the year and show lots of enthusiasm when modeling it.
  • Invite as many different storytellers into your classroom as you can ... ask grandparents, parents, other teachers, local authors or community members.
  • This is a great opportunity to talk about authors and how they write about topics dear to them. Pick a favorite author and let students make up stories that might fit with the author's stories.
  • Try playing some serene, tranquil music when transitioning to the writing stage.
  • The writing time each day should begin at roughly the same time, so students become familiar with the routine.  Give students plenty of time so they don't feel rushed.
  • To make writing time feel fun and special, organize baskets/bins with a variety of writing tools: colored pencils, markers, crayons etc and of course sharpened pencils!  Add other small 'office' type supplies, such as colorful sticky notes.

As noted, oral storytelling is the ideal vehicle for encouraging students to organize their stories and think about story scenarios and details, before embarking on the writing stage.  Too often students are faced with a blank page and asked to write a story - even adults would struggle with this!  

To that end, I created these Spin-a-Story Centers for my first graders.   I wanted them to have fun, feel secure with the scaffolding provided, and help their imaginations to develop and deepen, before attempting to put pencil to paper.  My students absolutely love the randomness of the outcomes which change with every outing of these centers!  Through partner/group collaboration and familiarity with the center concept, students' confidence grows and they become more daring with their input.  The possibilities are endless and it's so much fun to watch student participation!  Just click on the image to find these centers in my store!

Image of a bundle of storytelling centers for first grade

  • These storytelling and writing centers will enable students to tell and write humorous, creative stories, either on their own, with a partner or small group. Deciding on what to write in a story is often the hardest part for young writers. This resource helps eliminate that problem for students. These fun and engaging prompt cards will have your students excited to spin/throw and write their own stories!
  • The cards provide endless combinations of characters, settings, props and wow! words, to entertain, have fun and get creative!
  • Students can use these centers over and over throughout the entire year, as the possibilities are endless!

Each center contains:
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