So, when was the last time you met a kid with a great imagination? Now, when was the last time you, as an English teacher, were able to help them apply that imagination to a school project? Well, today’s post is about teaching kids story writing, something I’ve had a lot of experience with both with native speakers, and second language learners.
5 Ways To Spark Children’s Imagination In Story Writing
1. Book Chapter or Alternative Ending
Well, the first way (and best way) to get kids to write, is to get them to read! In my experience, when kids are reading about something the love, they are more likely to enjoy writing about it, too! For example, I’ll never forget one 9 year old tutoring student I had in Canada, who just hated writing, he told me. He just couldn’t see the point!
Once I started to get to know him, we stopped reading the fiction novels I usually read with kids his age. Instead, we read documentary articles about basketball players and rap singers, two of his interests!
“You mean I can write an essay about rap music?”
Well, sure, why not?
Here are some ideas to spark imagination:
- Write a personal essay about your experience with your favourite kind of music
- Research your favourite singer and write a fictional story with them (as a child or adult) as the protagonist
- Write a summary page on your favourite singer’s biography. Find or draw pictures, too!
2. Story Mountain Graphic
Do you know about the story mountain graphic? It’s a planning device to help kids plan stories. Basically, it helps kids visualize a linear story as a “mountain” that the protagonist is climbing up and coming down at the end of the story. You can use the mountain analogy, or use a “road” and have the conflicts occur be the “bumps in the road”. A basic diagram looks something like this:
Are all stories linear? Well, no. However, it’s a great place to start.
The Story Mountain not only helps kids visualize how stories they are reading progress, but helps them spark their imagination and write their own, too! Most recently, I used this graphic organizer with an 11 year old ESL student here in Spain – and it was a success!
Actually, I’ll have a beautiful, detailed worksheet to help you with story planning in my April FREE Printables pack, coming out in a few weeks. You have access to my free printables library, right?
Have you ever read a young adult thriller you couldn’t put down? Yes, I’m serious! Caroline B Cooney, who is an author of many children’s and young adult books, released one of her best suspense novels for teens in 2015. Actually, I just finished reading No Such Person with my 12 year old ESL student (B1 – intermediate level) this week.
She loved it! Making predictions is one of the best ways to keep students engaged and spark their imagination as they read. Later, writing a sequel chapter or alternate ending that’s also suspenseful is a great homework assignment.
4. Vocabulary Fun
Actually, one of the most surprising parts of doing novel studies and story writing with children is how much they love to learn new vocabulary. Really?, you ask. Yes! It surprised me, too!
Students love the challenge of learning and remembering new vocabulary and their definitions. When writing stories, you can encourage students to use words they learned while reading their latest novel.
Crossword puzzles are my favourite way to do vocabulary review. In fact, you can use a software such as Crossword Weaver, and have students create their own. Then, in your next tutoring session (or English class), print the crosswords and see if students can remember the answers to their own clues!
I’ve got a whole post on making crossword puzzles fun, here.
Finally, a super simple way to spark children’s imagination while story writing, is to give them visual writing prompts. In my free printables library, I have a new Motivational Monday poster that comes out every week. You can check out the latest few on my Motivate page.
It’s got a high quality image that’s perfect to get children thinking, and an inspirational quote which you can use for teens or young adults to spark their writing ideas.
What You Need To Remember for ESL Students
- Keep The Story Length Short – Let students write short stories, or descriptive pieces, even ones that are a paragraph or two long, to help them stay motivated. Remember that writing a full length essay or story may be difficult in a second language!
- Use Previously Learned Vocabulary – Be sure to review vocabulary learned in previous lessons. Base writing prompts on a common theme you have studied if possible. This way, students can review vocabulary and develop their confidence in writing in English.
Well, I hope this post is helpful for you! I actually wrote this post as part of round-up contribution for Fil-Am Teacher Mommy’s series Best Ways To Spark Your Child’s Imagination, so I hope it was helpful for all you homeschoolers, too!
Have you used any of these techniques to spark a child’s imagination when teaching English? Let me know in the comments below – I love to hear from you!
P.S. Photo lovers, the main image for this post was a photo I took in January 2016 on a night lights photowalk in Barcelona’s city center.
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