Once Angela and Christopher knew how to read and write simple sentences, my challenge was to find ways to inspire them to keep writing. I looked for activities that gave them a framework for working every day, and then gave them free rein to write as best as they could. Although I made corrections in lessons to help them see ways to improve, I tried not to be overly critical of mistakes, but instead encouraged them to write freely. The most important thing was that they kept practicing!
During the elementary school years, I introduced elements of grammar to help my children write more clearly. Drawing the fundamentals from grammar books, and sometimes using parts of workbooks, I presented new concepts in short lessons that focused on one subject. We also took note of sentence construction, paragraph structure, and punctuation in the books we were reading. Gradually, they applied these lessons to their own writing.
So what to write? I offer fifty ideas to spark the interest of young writers. Who knows, you might even be inspired yourself! Included are a variety of topics that may appeal to different personalities. Some ideas, such as building a cookbook, can be done one page at a time over days or weeks.
Invite students to:
1. Write your favorite recipes to create your own cookbook. Build your collection on sheets of paper, in a notebook, or on index cards. Make a cover for your pages (or decorate an index card box) and write your name on it, for example, “Jared’s Recipe Book.” If you have loose pages, punch holes down the side and bind with rings or string.
2. Make a list of your favorite sports teams and players, or authors, or singers, or actors, or scientists, or whoever interests you. Write a sentence about what each has accomplished.
3. Look at the label on your shirt or other item of clothing. Where was it made? Read about that country and write about what you discover.
4. Get a set of stickers about one of your favorite things. Each day, take one sticker and write a few sentences or paragraphs about it on a page. When finished, form the pages into a book by adding a colorful construction paper cover and stapling at the side.
5. Write about your favorite food. Then follow up with a paragraph or two about your least favorite food.
6. Explain in writing what you would do if you woke up in a jungle, in a spaceship, on a beach, in a cave, or in another odd place.
7. Interview a family member about his or her life, and then write down what you learned.
8. Imagine that one day a long heavy box arrives for you. You open it to find two swords and a letter. What else is in the box? What happens next?
9. Write a letter to yourself one year from now. What do you think you will have accomplished? How will you feel about that? Keep the letter and read it in a year.
10. Describe a time when you experienced a strong emotion. What happened, how did it make you feel, how did other people react, and how did you respond to the situation?
11. Describe a car that you would someday like to own and drive. Illustrate your essay with a drawing or picture.
12. Write a letter to an imaginary friend in a country far, far away. Tell this friend about what your home and room looks like. And describe the favorite things you like to do and eat.
13. Imagine that you could choose a pet. Which type of animal would you choose? Why? How would you care for it?
14. Go outside and look around. What do you see? How does it make you feel? Write a poem or a few descriptive paragraphs about your surroundings.
15. Find six things that are made of metal. List them and write a short description of what each is used for.
16. Choose a color. Find four things that are that color and weave them into a short story.
17. Think about a simple project, such as making a cup of tea, buying a bag of apples, or feeding a pet. Write down the steps that you would take to complete the task.
18. Imagine that you were planning a picnic with some friends at a beach or in a meadow. Who would you invite? What would you pack in the food basket? How much of each item would you take? Include a drawing of your open picnic basket with your essay.
19. Choose an animal. Read about it online or in books and write down some fun facts that you discover. Draw or include a picture of your animal, if you wish.
20. Imagine that you are walking down the street and see a penguin waddling out of a store. Write about how you think it may have gotten there. What happens next?
21. Ask friends and relatives to tell you their favorite joke, rhyme, or tongue twister. Write them down, one to a page, and then form the pages into a little book.
22. It’s party time! Write invitations to your birthday or holiday party. Decorate the cards to make them festive.
23. Imagine that you open a pizza box. But instead of pizza you find . . .
24. Think about a happy puppy wagging its tail. Now think about a time when you were very happy. Write about the experience. Explain what made you happy. And then what did you do? Find the best words to describe how you felt.
25. Pick a country that is far from your home. Read about it in a book or online. Write about that you learned. How is the landscape and climate different or similar to your own? What interesting customs do they have? What foods do the people like to eat?
26. Where do bananas come from? How do they grow? How do they get to you? How many types of bananas are there? Find out and write your answers in a few paragraphs.
27. Pick one room in your house and write about a memorable event that happened there. This could be as simple as the time your uncle made an enormous, awesome sandwich in the kitchen, to the quiet moments you spend reading with your mom before sleep, to the time you found a huge cricket in the corner of the bathroom. Think back and find your own memory. Tell what happened, where it happened, who was there, and what you felt about the event.
28. Imagine that you are walking in the woods. You see a hole in the ground with a ladder leading down. You climb down the ladder. What do you find?
29. Get a set of animal stickers. Write a short story about those animals, replacing the names of the animals with stickers.
30. Write a list of the months of the year. Beside each month, write a sentence telling what special event or events happen in that month: summer starts, Dad’s birthday, Halloween, Mother’s Day, etc.
31. Write a set of poems and form them into a small book. Decorate the book to make it even more special.
32. Choose a person and describe him or her. Include a physical description, along with explaining a bit about his or her personality. What do they do? What are their hobbies? Conclude by sharing how you feel when are with this person.
33. Write a shopping list for your family. Include favorite foods and items you are running low on.
34. Think about the people who help you in life. Write a thank you card to a friend or family member telling them how much you appreciate them.
35. Choose three of your favorite desserts. Give each a silly name and include them in an imaginative short story. Decorate with a drawing, if you wish.
36. Have a friend or teacher put ten interesting pictures into a box. Without looking, choose one picture a day and write a short description or story about the image.
37. Imagine that the doorbell rings. You open the door and see . . .
38. Write about how a dog, cat, horse, butterfly, or other animal might see the world.
39. One morning you awake to find that a huge tree has grown outside your window. It is covered with small yellow birds. What else do you see? What do you do? What happens next?
40. Plan a vacation for your family or with a friend. Where would you go? Read about this location and write about what you would see and do. How would you get there? What clothing would you need to pack? What local foods would you like to eat?
41. Suppose you were given five acres of vacant land. What would you do with it? Would you build something on it? If so, what? Would you create a garden? Would you make something that would help your community? Explain why. Include a drawing, if you choose.
42. If someone gave you $50, what would you do with it? List several options, and then explain why you made your final choice.
43. If you had a huge bulldozer, what would you do with it?
44. Go outside and look closely at the ground. If you live in a city, go to a park or place where there are some plants. Look at the earth in detail and describe what you see. Do you see any insects, seedlings, or signs of animal life?
45. For several days in a row, look outside and observe the weather. Jot down a sentence or two about the temperature and cloud conditions. Read about different types of clouds and learn the names of the most common varieties, so you can use their proper names in your notes. Note any precipitation or wind. Review your notes, and then write a weather report for an imaginary TV weather reporter, describing the recent weather.
46. What is your favorite store to visit? Explain how you get there and what you like about it.
47. Make a My Favorites book. Make one page for each category. Write the title at the top of each page, for example: books, music, games, movies, foods, animals, colors, heros, flowers, vehicles, etc. Then list your favorites underneath. Write a sentence or paragraph about your # 1 favorite on each page explaining why you like it best.
48. If you were a king or queen, how would you decorate your castle for a big yearly summer festival? What foods would you serve? What entertainments would you arrange?
49. Think about things you could do with a dozen hard boiled eggs. Write about the most interesting of your ideas.
50. Ask a friend or relative the story behind a ring that they wear. Write about what they tell you.