At the beginning of the school year I got the crazy idea that kids might like a forum in which to do creative writing. Although they get some in the classroom, I was thinking of a completely non-judgmental environment where I guide them but they ultimately do what they want, where there are no wrong answers or points off for misspelling a word. Really, I wanted for them the kind of club I would have loved as a child myself.
Each session is roughly an hour, once a month. I provide notebooks, pencils and anything else we require (the PTA reimburses me which is lovely). I tend to raffle off middle grade books after I’m done reading them and the kids get a kick out of this. Below is the general outline of what I do during different sessions. It’s easy to mix and match or just use the information as a jumping off point. I’ll continue to add sessions as we make our way through the year.
I thought the club might attract ten students but I regularly get thirty. Pretty cool. Feel free to email me with any questions! (for more info on how to get started, see my post on The Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors site!)
Creative Writing Club Session #1
What is a setting? The time and place where a story happens. Future, past, now, outer space, a farm, school, New York City, etc.
Describe the setting from your favorite book or movie.
Select a photograph from the pile. (This is a pile of magazine photos of settings – beach, ocean, mountains, etc – pasted on paper.)
Exercise 1: describe the picture. Use all your senses. What does it smell like here? Is it cold or hot? What time of day is it? Etc.
Read a loud. (Totally voluntary – I STRESS this because some kids will run away screaming rather then share their work. I’ve found that after a few sessions so many more kids are willing to read.)
Exercise 2: pass photo to the left. Describe the scene as if YOU were in it. “I am….”
Read a loud
Exercise 3: pass photo again. Imagine you’re an animal in the photo. Describe the photo from the animal’s point of view.
Read a loud
Exercise 4: Free writing.
One day a spaceship landed on the playground and…
Use these three words in your story: rainy, Pogo ball, Doritos.
Creative Writing Club Session #2
Free writing: It was Thanksgiving Day. I went outside and met a Turkey, who said….
The people who show up in your story – they don’t have to be human – could be alien or animal.
Main characters – we know a lot about them. They are the focus of the story or are telling the story.
Secondary characters – those are the ones that only show up for a little bit here and there. They can be important but we don’t spend a lot of time with them.
Pick a character out of the bag. (I put a bunch of descriptions of possible main characters in a bag – Martian, Mad Scientist, Astronaut, Olympic Skier, etc) Describe this character: what does she look like? Sound like? Smell like? Where does she live? Does she fit in? Who does she hang around with? What does she do for fun? What does she like to eat? Does she have a family? Pets? How does she spend her time? What are her strengths and weaknesses? Is she courageous? What is she afraid of? What annoys her?
Pick a Setting and Action. Write a simple story using your character, setting and action.
Amplify a Sentence
(I call this Blowing Up a Sentence) Add descriptions and details to make it more interesting. Funny is good and most of these end up ridiculous but most more interesting than the original.
“I walked down the street.”
“I went swimming.”
Creative Writing Session #3
Write these questions up on the board. Have the students answer them. Give them five minutes per question set. Share. (my kids LOVED these; I’ll be sure to use them again.)
- Who just snuck out the back door?
- What were they carrying?
- Where were they going?
- Who is Ethan?
- Why is he crying?
- What is he going to do about it?
- Whose house is Julia leaving?
- Why was she there?
- Where is she going now?
Building on the five minute questions exercise, invent a super hero. What is your super power and who did you battle? Share.
Have students continue working on something they’ve already started or give them a new writing prompt.