English Language

Story writing: a few tips

Just let the creativity flow…actually, don’t!

Here are a selection of activities and teaching strategies I use in the endless search for teaching effective creative writing.

  1. In every other lesson I teach, I challenge students to use a new, slightly more complex word in their writing. Some examples over the last term for my mid ability Year 7 have been:
  • Ambiguous
  • Connotations
  • Acerbic
  • Deviant
  • Lethargic
  • Symbolic

Notice these are both for analysis and description as one cannot happen without the other. I direct my questioning throughout the lesson towards the key words; simply noting them on the beginning of a PowerPoint is pointless. Stars are awarded to those who use key words in their writing or in a verbal explanatory response to a question.

2. Reading small chunks of challenging texts on a theme is brilliantly effective, particularly for LAT students. Today, I read a section from The Woman in White. I always set the scene first to allow students to immediately access the extract – I also avoid allowing students to read unless they are confident and excellent at expression etc. Once it’s read, I pose a question: How does the writer present the woman in white? Again, limited vocabulary can make it very difficult, so…

  • Provide three synonyms on the board
  • Students have five minutes to find synonyms in the thesaurus
  • In rows (as teams) a slip of paper is passed along and back as quickly as possible; students must write down their synonyms ensuring they are not repeated. I also provide a commentary of each team’s progress to add to the tension.

3. Using visual stimulus can be very effective. I love drawing, so I often sketch on the board, but if that’s not your forte, providing a collection of engaging images is also brilliant. Today I used these (Twinkl, thank you!). The students began by role playing an art gallery experience and made notes on each picture. We then challenged ourselves to link the pictures together to create a narrative (a great intro to structure activity). Ultimately, students chose their favourite and used their (now extensive!) word banks to write their description.

  1. Once students are happy with writing short descriptions, we work towards building a plot. Something like the worksheet below is super helpful and easy to use. It also allows the students to choose a scene to write about if the teacher doesn’t want the entire story written. We’ve used this in support of the BBC Radio 2 500 words competition.

4. Although I’ve left model writing until last, it is my absolute favourite activity as you can see progress really quickly. Provide a stimulus, be it an extract or picture etc., and then use questioning to create a plan. With the students contributing focused ideas, (they must use full sentences as answers, not just random ideas) model a description (or analysis) on the board. Students can then attempt this themselves using the rest of the plan. Here is a snapshot:


Categories: English Language, Pedagogy

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