I’ve done some creative writing for kids workshops and lessons and so forth in my life, and while they can be so fun… they can also suck so hard. The thing is, some kids need a lot more help than others. This isn’t a bad thing. Usually, after they get a little confidence in their writing and storytelling abilities, they’re off and running and don’t even want you around.
But that’s the key. You have to build confidence, especially with beginners and younger children. But even teens who’ve never tackled creative writing before will benefit from having some structure to guide what they’re writing. Here are three ideas to get you started.
- Prompts, prompts, prompts. The more specific, the better. Kids are super imaginative, way more so than most adults, but if you give them a piece of paper and say, “now write a story,” they’ll stare back at you and write absolutely nothing. Trust me, I know from experience. Give them a good framework to work in, and as they gain more confidence they’ll want to express more of their own creativity and will need less help from you. I have some prompts here, and here — but these are probably too broad and too complex, especially if you’re working with younger kids. They might help you to write a few of your own, though. Just remember to give your kids some very specific ideas. Don’t say, write a story about a magician, say, write a story about a magician who gets trapped in his trunk and must be saved by his arch nemesis.
- More prompts. So, you’ve given them the basic idea… but they will still need your help to form a story with a beginning middle and end. Brainstorm with them. Give them story elements (not every kid needs to received the same elements). Always ask, what happens next? Or better, what does your character want now? More advanced students will love having plot twists thrown at them. I have a bunch of generic ones that I’ll dig out and post them on the resource page soon. These twists can work with almost any story and really help to get the creative writing flowing.
- Work as a group. Getting kids writing on their own is all about building confidence, and nothing does that like feeling the success that comes from a completed project. But if your kids are struggling, if the prompts are working and they just hate it — which, unfortunately, happens — try doing a group story. Think of it as a mad lib where instead of choosing nouns and adjectives, the kids are figuring out plots and character and elements. The key again is to always be ready with prompts that’ll keep the story going when the kids get stuck. I do have some of these I’ll drag out and post on the resources page, too, to help you get started.