Writer Exercise: Have Your Students “Eavesdrop” for Story Inspiration

How can a teacher inspire great story writing? Let’s face it, even professional writers get “writer’s block” because creativity and being able to conjure up a storyline and descriptive details can sometimes feel very elusive.

So, if your mission is to develop students’ ability to overcome creative writing obstacles, why not try a targeted exercise in improvisational writing?

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One sentence can be a catalyst for creativity and a great story.

For example, have you ever been sitting in a café, heard a bit of conversation next to you, and wondered what their story is? What you accidentally overheard could be a great starting point to an inspired piece of fiction! The same holds true for your students. Rather than having them struggle to start a story from scratch, assign a small eavesdropping writing exercise.

Essentially, this is where you tell students to pretend they are on a bus and overhear one person say to another person something like, “I’ll never forgive you as long as I live.” Students must then complete a story that tells who these people are and what happened before their conversation.

According to EduGuide.org, this exercise is a great way to spark student creativity and it can even be modified for different assignments. You can change the overheard sentence to almost anything. You can even have writers explore ideas by writing a story using the bus scenario, and then write a second story about the same sentence, but with it occurring in a store or restaurant.

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Give students a direction for their writing, and watch the stories unfold.

Why is This Exercise a Catalyst for Creativity?

Sometimes the best way to improve writing skills with students in K-12 grades is to plant some “idea” seeds, to give them a point in which to start their story (a blank page is intimidating!) This eavesdropping exercise works well by:

  • Giving students one overheard sentence to really spur the imagination- to fill in the backstory and define exactly who the characters are.
  • The overheard sentence can invite writers to create the fine-details behind the emotions expressed in the sentence. Why is this particular character angry or upset, and who are they as a person? Are they male or female, young or old? Is the character who says this an overly sensitive person or are they justified in their reactions?
  • Every great story has conflict and this sentence allows the writer to decide what the conflict is and how the characters got to this moment in their relationship.

According to readwritethink.org creative writing helps kids to be better at reading, and to understand and connect with other people’s writing with greater ease. Now that you have sparked creativity consider publishing the stories to really keep creativity going strong!

Online sites like Bookemon, one of the first to cater to teachers with a special edCenter, allows your class to create and publish their own book with impressive results.

It all starts with a spark to the imagination, so give them one starting-point sentence to build off of, and watch the stories unfold, then publish with pride! Getting started is quick and easy.