Today let’s discuss how to effectively teach creative writing at the elementary level. Creative writing is such an important writing skill to teach students from a young age. Young writers need to understand the concept of creative writing as using their imagination to express themselves freely through words.
It’s not just about proper grammar and spelling (though those are important too!), but rather about sparking their creativity, allowing them to dream up unique characters, exciting adventures, and incredible worlds. By nurturing their storytelling abilities early on, we’re not just helping them become better writers, but also fostering their confidence, encouraging self-expression, and igniting a lifelong love for writing. So, let’s dive into some strategies and tips to make your creative writing lesson plans a hit in your elementary classroom!
What is Creative Writing?
Creative writing is essentially writing in which the author uses his or her imagination to create a story. Creative writing in simple terms refers to the process of expressing thoughts, ideas and stories in a unique and imaginative way.
It’s about letting children’s minds wander freely, encouraging them to use their imagination to create characters, settings, and plots. Creative writing isn’t just about grammar and spelling; it’s about fostering a love for storytelling, allowing kids to explore their creativity, and helping them find their voice through words on paper. It’s a journey that encourages self-expression, builds confidence, and nurtures a lifelong appreciation for writing. The whole purpose of creative writing is to think outside the box and stray from traditional structures and norms.
Creative writing falls under one of the 5 categories of writing but it also combines a lot of these styles together:
- Narrative Writing
- Descriptive Writing
- Persuasive Writing
- Expository Writing
- Creative Writing
Creative Writing Lesson Plans Don’t Have to Be Difficult
Finding creative ways for students to write using their imaginations doesn’t have to be difficult. No matter the grade level, creative writing lessons should offer plenty of opportunities for students to tell their point of view on a subject. Don’t let creating lesson plans for creative writing be a headache! It’s all about giving kids the chance to let loose and share their thoughts in their own special way.
Whether they’re in 2nd grade, 3rd grade, or 5th grade, the key is to let their imagination run wild. Get them talking about what interests them, throw in some fun prompts, and watch the magic happen! Mix things up with different writing styles – stories, poems, even real-life tales. Make it a safe space where they feel free to jot down whatever comes to mind. By balancing a bit of structure with loads of creative freedom, teaching creative writing becomes a blast for both the teachers and the students!
Here’s How to Teach a Creative Writing Activity to Elementary Students:
1. Start with Creative Writing Prompts
One of the first activities you can try is using writing prompts with students. Writing prompts are a great tool to get students’ brain juices flowing, no matter if they are elementary, middle school, or high school students! Coming up with writing topics for younger students can be especially challenging sometimes.
Inside the How to Write a Paragraph Year-Long Bundle there are specific writing prompts that are scaffolded and differentiated to meet all learner’s needs. You will find everything you need inside this resource to help your students who struggle with writing understand how to write a paragraph all YEAR LONG… trust us! It allows for easy planning for your writing lessons because it’s got different seasonal writing resources and prompts inside no matter what time of year it is. These are the perfect place to start to get your students writing based on themes.
Once they are comfortable in this category, then it’s time to actually get them to come up with some of their own ideas to write about now (after all that is the ENTIRE point of a creative writing lesson!)
Try with these juicy writing prompts below to help get your student’s creativity flowing if they need help coming up with a topic to write about:
- Personal memories: “Tell about someone who taught you something really important.”
- Imaginative scenarios: “Let’s create a wild story set in a world where anything goes!”
- Prompts based on a familiar mentor text: “What if your favorite book ended differently? Give it a new twist!”
- Lead-in sentences: “I saw myself in the mirror and couldn’t believe what I saw. Overnight, I…”
- Fascinating or thought-provoking images with a directive: “Who do you think calls this log cabin home? Tell us their story and what they’re up to!”
2. Break Down the Prompts Together
Do NOT rush this next step! We need to make sure our students are coming up with unique and creative writing ideas. During this first week’s lesson plan, you want to make sure students know exactly what they are getting themselves into with the creative writing process. Make it known that these prompts above are to help guide them and their imagination. Help to break down what each prompt is asking/ looking for:
For example, if the prompt says “I saw myself in the mirror and couldn’t believe what I saw. Overnight, I…,” then what questions should the students be asking?
Hopefully, they will tell you they want to know what they look like in the mirror right now.
Then you can have students think of 5 possible situations for what happened and how they look.
3. Do a 5 Minute “Free Write Brain Dump”
During the next step of a creative writing lesson plan, encourage students to do a brain dump in their writing journals on all of their prior knowledge on the subject that they will be writing about. This lets you know a couple of things as the teacher: Do they have their own experience on this topic and enough background knowledge? Does the subject areas that they are free-writing about make sense for the creative writing topic? This should only take about 5 minutes and you are NOT worried about spelling or grammar during this step.
For example: if they are planning to write about the solar system but they don’t have much to say during this free write brain dump, this is where you may want to incorporate a mini lesson or guided conference with you to make sure they are picking a topic that they have a lot of background knowledge about or can at least figure out where to find the answers they might need for their writing.
The “free write brain dump” is helpful for students to see a couple of things- okay I know enough information about this topic and am ready to organize my thoughts OR I had a hard time just coming up with random thoughts to write about…maybe I need a need a new topic. It will truly help decide their confidence factor for this assignment.
4. Start Your Planning Process
The next step in your creative writing unit should be having students take their decided-upon creative writing topic and organize their thoughts and ideas. This step is super important because you want the information to be in the students’ own writing but you also want to make sure they have a plan for how to get their point across. Your stronger writers may be ready to go but some may need a bit more structure set up to help them.
There are a couple of different ways they can organize their ideas:
Use Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers are the perfect thing to use if students want to stick with a paragraph-type writing structure. For your lower writers, this might be the way to go because graphic organizers make planning a lot easier and the structure makes it super easy to follow. Graphic organizers also help break down the writing process into chunks so it doesn’t feel like such a difficult task to students who may struggle more with their writing skills or for ESL students.
Character Development Worksheets
Provide worksheets that prompt students to describe the characters in detail that they want in their story. Include sections for physical appearance, personality traits, motivations, and character arcs. This helps students develop well-rounded characters before they start writing.
Organize small group brainstorming sessions where students can share their ideas and receive feedback from their peers. This way can totally help students polish up their ideas and come up with fresh new ones for their creative writing.
Encourage students to create a visual storyboard for their story. They can draw a series of pictures or scenes that outline the plot, helping them visualize the sequence of events in their narrative. We really love this idea for planning for students who are learning English as a second language and students who have more difficulties communicating their thoughts out loud.
Finally, one last idea: If your students are feeling unsure about writing things down, suggest they talk it out and record their thoughts on a device such as a classroom iPad.
They might be amazed at how easily their spoken words turn into great written stuff on the page! This is another favorite of ours for those students who struggle with getting their thoughts on paper or are learning English as a second language.
During the planning phase, it is a good time to take the opportunity to do any mini lessons you feel needed with students on any of the skills above.
5. Write the Rough Draft
Next is taking the creative narrative and putting it into a rough draft version using their planning method. It’s time for them to start coming up with their own creative short story. Do they have a main character? Is there a problem and solution? Does the writing make sense? After the rough draft, it can be super beneficial to meet with students individually or in small groups to give feedback before they move forward on the final copy.
Word of advice: Don’t worry about spelling or grammar too much in the rough draft phase! Just help students get their thoughts out onto paper!
6. Time To Write the Final Draft
As the creative writing journey nears its conclusion, it’s time to guide your students toward the crucial phase of crafting their final drafts. This stage marks a shift towards independent work, where students take ownership of refining their narratives. Encourage them to enrich their stories with vibrant sensory details to help bring the writing to life.
This isn’t just about polishing; it’s about infusing their words with emotions and imagination. The final draft represents all of their hard work! Make sure you help them reach their fullest potential with their creative writing and storytelling skills!
A Final Word on Teaching Creative Writing to Elementary Students
When planning your creative writing lesson plans for the school year, it’s best to think about the overall entire writing process. For students that you KNOW creative writing will be a challenge for, take some time during English language arts sessions and work with them on the simple structures of writing to help build their confidence. If they struggle with the mechanics and confidence to write, they honestly may not be ready for the creative writing process just yet. Use the resource below to help them refine their writing skills so that all of your students can be a confident and creative writer!