Unless a child is a natural writer, he probably won't recognise his own writing creativity without some measure of prodding. Encouraging a child to write by using writing prompts to jump-start his creativity can prove an effective tool. On one level, the child taps into his own ability to be creative, which encourages him to experiment with writing, and on another level, the teacher is able to direct and evaluate her students' narrative writing processes. This gives her insight as she guides the young writers in her classroom.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Blank paper
- Lined paper
- Magazine pictures
- Video clips
- Music CD
- CD player
- Assorted coffee table books
- Objects to describe
- Food (or other) items with a definite smell
Before using writing prompts to jump-start narrative writing in children, decide what you want to accomplish. Your choice of prompts will be determined by your writing goal for your students. For instance, if you want them to write about fish, choose writing prompts related to fish or fishing.
Gather materials to prompt writing. An effective writing teacher understands that prewriting, whether cutting and pasting, drawing, feeling, hearing, tasting, viewing or smelling, is as important as the writing itself. Consider your students' learning styles and senses. Use prompts that stimulate the senses as well as the creative process.
Display prompting materials and model their uses as needed. Often children don't understand why writing exercises would begin with something other than writing, so make sure your students understand your expectations before you begin.
Set a time limit for prewriting. Give your students a specific amount of time for prewriting and announce when they have five minutes left. This way the interruption is expected and does not stop the flow of creativity. Let them know that while you value their creativity and drawings, you do not want them to take all their writing time drawing and cutting and pasting.
Share your goals. Tell your students where you expect them to be by the end of their prewriting session. Tell them your goals for the end of the subsequent timed writing session, as well.
Put on soft music and set the tone of your voice to reflect calmness. Make all materials available to them. Allow your students to chose their own prompt and let them get started.
Using the Senses Creatively to Prompt Writing
Present students with a written writing prompt and ask them to write ten sentences on the topic. They could create a fictional scenario around something they are currently learning in science class or answer a silly "what if" question. Let them know they will have ten minutes to complete ten sentences.
At the end of the ten minute writing period, have students pass their papers to another student. Have the second student continue the first student's story by writing ten sentences in ten minutes.
At the end of the ten minute writing period, have students pass their papers to another student. The third writer must continue and logically conclude the story written by the first two students.
Pass the stories back to the original authors and allow them to share with the class.
Teaching Writing With Verbal or Written Prompts
Tips and warnings
- If your students want to keep their prewriting projects, offer to display them in the classroom. If you are having your students present their narratives to the class, allow them to share their prewriting projects at the same time.
- It is not necessary for verbal and written writing prompts to be used with more than one student.
- Never assess your students prewriting projects negatively. They will not continue the process in writing.
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