Updated: Dec 3, 2020
I will often teach creative writing to younger children, usually ones that aren't even writing yet. I focus on building up the imagination and story-telling skills rather then having them worry about the actual writing. (they could always dictate their story to someone else to write).
Each time I teach a class I have a theme. From that theme we brainstorm ideas that will eventually inspire a story.
For example, for the pizza party theme we brainstormed different descriptive words for pizza, making sure to include all of our senses. Usually this brainstorming session leads to a story idea. The size of the pizza inspired one student at that point to write a story with three different pizzas - too small, too big and just right.
Once the story idea is set we discuss the elements of the story like character, setting and problem to solve. In the Bedtime Stories class we brainstormed different types of beds (bunk beds, nests, burrows) which helped establish where the story would take place.
At this point the children's imaginations usually take over and they start drawing out the pages of the story. But, if further inspiration is needed I will read a story that suits the theme. We then discuss aspects of that particular story and how it can inspire our own story.
In the Superhero class we read a book that told an origin story which then inspired a student to develop their story to include where the super hero came from.
It's important to allow the child to create a story of their own. It may turn and curl and carry on a bit long but it is their story, their imagination, their creativity that is flowing. (be sure to encourage them to add THE END to their story so you know when it ends so you can clap).
Encourage them with positive words that recognizes their imaginative ideas and appreciates the way they used the inspirations. Get excited about the story they tell.
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Act it Out
You can also take on dramatic play or toys to inspire kids to tell a story.
Story baskets can be great story starters. You put items in a basket - could be toy animals, people or even household items like clothespin, washcloth or ball of yarn. Encourage the child to take three items out of the basket - one will inspire the character, one will inspire the setting and one will inspire the storyline.
For example - they take out a toy cat, a ball of yarn and a clothespin. This could inspire a playful cat in the laundry room who gets yarn tangled everywhere.
In order to help them make the connections to the basket items with story ideas ask them some questions - where would you find that item, who would use that item, what would you name that character. This acts as a brainstorming session to develop inspiration.
You can also use puppets, simple pictures taped to a stick or store bought ones. Maybe they can use the puppets to tell a story they already know. Encourage them to tell it again but change it just a little. For example they can tell the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears but maybe the second time around Goldilocks doesn't run away. How would that change the story.
Eventually, they will start using the puppets to tell their own version of the story and then, new stories all together.
You can do much the same with costumes, dress up as characters to dramatize the stories.
Inspired by Other Stories
Don't be too concerned if your child's story is very similar to one that is already written. Much of art is inspired by other art and so just as we might look at a drawing of a unicorn in order to draw one ourselves, at first a child may copy stories before feeling comfortable about creating one themselves.
Be sure to explain that we can be inspired by other stories but we must make the story our own to be fair to the other authors. Then encourage them to retell the story and add some changes.
Visit the Kindness Kangaroo Project YouTube Channel to listen to different story readings to help gain inspiration!
"Children do not move, think or speak in a straight line, and neither does imagination nor creativity"