Kids have amazing imaginations, but sometimes getting started with a writing assignment can be challenging. There is something about facing a blank page that seems to drain the creativity right of the classroom. Students often need a few inspirational or brainstorming ideas to get their writing efforts moving again in the right direction.
With a little inspiration, your students can expand and improve their creative writing skills.
But where do you begin? As an educator, you can teach them the mechanics of good writing, but creativity and choosing a topic is actually harder to cultivate. Want more detailed and articulate writing assignments from your students? Want their creative writing to blossom? First you must plant some seeds.
Brainstorming as a Cultivating Tool
Brainstorming is defined as, “A technique used to solve problems and encourage creativity in which members of a group share their ideas about a subject.” In other words, a perfect way to generate ideas for writing assignments in the classroom.
When faced with an assignment, students often lack one clear idea to focus on. They either can think of nothing to write about, or they have too many, unrelated ideas on their list. The solution?
One answer is to hold a brainstorming session, essentially a student activity designed to gather ideas that spark a more focused, creative direction for their writing. Get it started by asking students a few key questions about the assignment and how they envision it. If their story were to be turned into their own published book, what would the inside jacket cover say about the story?
According to an article on Eduguide.org, an inspirational starting point is to simply ask about the setting of your students’ stories. What would be a good setting or location? Have your students describe their favorite place on earth. Keep prompting students for full detail, including how the place makes them feel when they are there, what it looks like, what sounds they hear, and even what it smells like. This encourages those fine details. Keep asking for more specifics like:
- Who is the main character or focus of the story? What do they look like? What do they sound like?
- What is the time period of the story? Ask students to pick a date somewhere far in the future or past, and then pretend that they are in that time and describe what their day is like. What is school like in this time period? What is on the front page of the newspaper?
- Ask what is the message, challenge, or problem is that the story will share with its readers? How will it be solved?
Encourage students to share by setting up a group brainstorming session.
Here is how:
- Try having students brainstorm alone, then with a partner or a group setting. This demonstrates the benefit of listening to other people’s ideas and how it can help spark their own creativity.
- Set an expectation that students will come up with a set number of responses in a set amount of time to the basic questions.
- Encourage all ideas, even crazy ones, to be included.
- Collect all ideas for each group, then organize them into any obvious categories or by connections. One creative way to do this is to use a dry erase board and markers, write ideas on the board with colorful markers and then draw lines to connect the related ideas.
Students excel at writing when their imaginations and creativity are sparked, and getting started is often the biggest challenge. By posing questions that get them brainstorming, gathering ideas, and finding their focus, you provide the tools needed for them to begin writing with confidence.