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The Art of Writing: Creative Writing

Legendary newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who in 1911 endowed the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for exemplary journalism, had this advice for aspiring writers: "Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light." The difficulty of teaching children to write creatively is also legendary. We can, however, follow Pulitzer's advice and attempt to teach them to write with clarity, accuracy, brevity, and beauty. Today's creative writing lessons will help in that effort!

Kids writing Cave drawings, historians say, are the oldest known form of human communication. Strictly speaking, those etched and painted symbols from perhaps 25,000 years ago are not writing, however they do represent deliberate attempts to convey a message or share a thought.

Cuneiforms and hieroglyphics, both of which probably developed about 4,000 years ago, are the earliest examples of actual writing systems. Cuneiforms, used by the Sumerians, a Middle Eastern people, were produced by pressing the triangular edge of a reed pen into wet clay. Hieroglyphics, an Egyptian system, were often produced with pen and ink on papyrus. Both systems employed several hundred symbols, representing both individual letters and complete images or ideas.

Alphabetic writing, in which every symbol represents an individual phoneme, probably first appeared in the Near East around 1000 BC. By about 500 BC, the Greeks were using an alphabet very much like the modern one. When Rome conquered Greece In 1 BC, they changed the shape of some of the Greek letters. That Roman alphabet -- with the addition J, U, and W -- was identical to our own alphabet today.

Creative writing, according to the Encarta® World English Dictionary, is "the writing of fiction, poetry, or drama." As a personal endeavor, creative writing has a history almost as long as the writing systems it required. According to many historians, the first signed creative text, a hymn, was written by a Mesopotamian woman sometime around 2000 BC -- more than 150 years before the first books of the Bible were recorded, and nearly 1,000 years before the Chinese began printing with wood blocks around the 9th century. That 1000-year gap severely limited the dissemination of creative writings -- if not their production.

Despite the early beginnings of creative writing and the many prolific writers who peopled the intervening years, the widespread distribution of written works had to wait until after the invention of a movable-type, mechanized printing process. First developed in Korea in the 13th century, movable type was brought to the west by Johann Gutenberg of Germany. The first work printed on Gutenberg's press -- a German poem -- was published in 1451. It wasn't until 1476, however, when William Caxton brought Gutenberg's invention to England, that publishing began to flourish in Europe and creative writing became more than a solitary endeavor shared primarily through oral storytelling.

Although the endeavor of creative writing is as old as written history, the study of creative writing is relatively young -- and predominantly American. The very first creative writing degree program in the United States -- at the University of Iowa in Iowa City -- wasn't established until the beginning of the 20th century. One hundred years later, according to British author Peter Ho Davies, although there are 300 creative writing programs in the United States Britain only has 10. The European view, Davies says, is that the ability to write creatively is a talent, not a skill.

In fact, the kind of creative writing we teach our children today is more an exercise in writing skill than in literary composition. It's doubtful that such exercises will produce many Shakespeares, Hemingways, or Spielbergs. What the lessons hopefully will produce, however, are adults who can organize and communicate their ideas clearly, grammatically, succinctly, and effectively; adults who look at the world, rather than through it; adults who understand themselves -- and others -- far better than they would have otherwise.

Keep those goals in mind as you complete these lessons with your children.

Learn More!
General Resources about Creative Writing

Online Resources

  • Writers Word
    This collection of writings on writing will provide high-school aged beginning writers with insights into the techniques and thinking of some of the world's greatest authors.


  • Traci's List of 10 Creative Writing Experiences
    Discover 10 creative activities to inspire creative writing in children of all ages.


  • Creative Writing
    Awesome Library offers links to lots of excellent creative writing resources, including articles, lessons, and such tools as a dictionary and thesaurus.


  • Kids Writing Club
  • CyberKids
  • Kid Pub
    Kids can submit their creative writing to one of these sites and see their work published online.


  • Writing Skills Resources
    KidInfo provides links to many writing tools and resources, including dictionaries, grammar and punctuation guides, spell checkers and vocabulary builders, and writing guides.


  • Thirty Days of Poetry
    The English Room provides 30 poetry-writing activities appropriate for children in grades 6-12.


  • Venolia, Jan, Kids Write, Right?: What You Need to be a Writing Powerhouse, Tricycle Press, ISBN # 1582460280 Ages 9-12)
    This kids' guide to creative writing includes information on choosing the right word, creating the perfect sentence, developing a writing style, and more - all in a kid-friendly format.


  • Hablitzel, Marie and Stitzer, Kim, Draw Write Now, Book 1: Farm Animals, Kids and Critters, Storybook Characters Barker Creek Publishing, ISBN # 0963930710 (Ages 4-8)
    An elementary school teacher has developed 21 lessons to get kids started writing creatively.


  • O'Brien-Palmer, Michelle, Poetry Projects With Pizzazz! : 15 Easy, Hands-On Poetry Activities That Invite Kids to Write and Publish Their Poems in Unique and Dazzling Ways, Scholastic Professional Book Division, ISBN # 0439064961 (Ages 6-12)
    This poetry guide shows kids how to write poetry and teaches them to publish them in formats that include pop-up books, puzzles, and mobiles.


  • Reeves, Diane Lindsey; Pollard, Marilyn; Bond, Nancy Career Ideas for Kids Who Like Writing, Checkmark Books, ISBN # ISBN: 0816036918 (Ages 9+)
    Kids will find ideas about careers in writing, career-planning resources, and profiles of published writers, along with activities to help them discover their own writing abilities and interests.

Creative Writing Vocabulary

Your children will learn vocabulary words related to grammer and grammer usage.

Try the following activities with the The Creative Writing Vocabulary Worksheet. Depending on age and ability, you may be able to complete assignments from multiple grade levels.

1-2: Copy the following words in alphabetical order, and describe each of the words verbally. Practice spelling.

3-5: Look up each word in a dictionary, and write down their definitions. Write each word in a sentence, or write a paragraph using the words. Practice Spelling.*

6-8: Write a description or review about this this topic using the vocabulary words. Above each vocabulary word, write N if it is a noun, V if it is a verb; ADJ if it is an adjective; ADV if it is an adverb.

Find the definitions here.

More Fun Activities to Practice Vocabulary:

  • Word Seach
    Find the words hidden in this puzzle! Answersheet included.

  • Crossword Puzzle
    Use clues at the bottom of this puzzle to solve the puzzle. Answersheet included.

  • Missing letters
    Unscramble the letters to form the words from the vocabulary list.

A Poem About Me!

Your children will learn about the importance of individual words in writing poetry.

Tell your children that poetry is a kind of writing that doesn't usually contain exciting action or interesting characters. Poetry relies on the beauty and sound of the words to tell a story, convey an idea, or elicit an emotion. Explain that some poetry rhymes and some poetry, called free verse, does not, but that all poetry has a certain rhythm, which is created by the sounds of the words used.

Tell your children that they are going to write a poem in free verse, in which they will choose the very best words they can to describe the subject they know best -- themselves! Provide your children with the A Poem About Me! work sheet and ask them to choose the best descriptive words they can think of. When they have completed the worksheet, have your children copy the poem onto a piece of blank paper and illustrate it.

Older children might write a Parts of Speech Poem for a more difficult challenge.


Don't Tell Me the Ending!

Your children will learn about the elements of a story.

The hardest part of writing -- for both children and adults -- is deciding what to write about. You can help your children skip this difficult first step and begin writing immediately by encouraging them to finish a story someone else has begun. In the process, they will learn about the elements of a story and consider how to incorporate those elements into their own stories.

Read a short story to your children. The story can be one of their favorites or a story from The Internet Public Library or Children's Stories Online. Discuss these elements of the story: plot (the complete sequence of events that make up the story); events (the individual actions that move the plot); climax (the turning point of the story, when the characters attempt to solve the main problem in the story); setting (where and when the story takes place; characters (who the characters are and how they behave); theme (the message of the story); point of view (the way in which the author of the story views the characters and events in the story); and style (the manner in which the author writes). Then discuss the resolution of the story -- how the story ended.

Have your children think about how each of those elements affected the story and about how changing one of the elements would affect the story's ending. Ask questions such as: If the main character had acted differently at the story's climax, how might his actions have changed the way the story ended? If the story had taken place somewhere else, how might that setting have changed the way the story ended? (Make your questions more specific, basing them on the actual story read.) Invite your children to complete the Parts of a Short Story Quiz. Find the answers here.

Encourage your children to Finish-a-Story and publish their endings online.

Additional Resources:

What Is a Good Short Story?

Your children will learn about the elements of a short story.

Explain to your children that many elements go into creating a well-written short story. Point out that those elements include point of view, character, setting, plot construction, and theme. Ask them to read A Jury of Her Peers: What Makes a Good Short Story and explore the story elements discussed. Then have them complete the Short Story Quiz to demonstrate what they have learned.

Extension Activity:
Encourage your children to write an original short story and publish it online.

Additional Resources:

Pop-Up Myths

Your children will learn how to write a myth and create a pop-up book.

Explain to your children that a myth is a traditional story that tries to explain some aspect of nature. Myths grew out of the storytelling tradition of particular cultures, therefore they have no single author and different versions of the same myth are often found in different cultures.

Read aloud to your children, or invite them to read, a Myth that attempts to explain a physical characteristic of a particular animal. Then tell your children that they are going to write an original myth about another animal; how the elephant got its trunk or how the giraffe got its neck, for example.

When the story is completed, invite your children to Make a Pop-Up book to illustrate their myth.

Additional Resources:

Zooming in on Details

Your children will learn how to increase detail in their writing.

Ask your children to write the directions for a simple household activity, such as making a sandwich or a bed, planting a flower, or programming a VCR. Use their written directions to complete the activity, following the directions to the letter. What happened? Most likely, your children left out an important step, such as opening a jar of mayonnaise or identifying the TV show to be taped. Discuss with them the importance of including as much detail as possible in their writing.

Invite your children to explore a picture in gradually increasing detail in the activity Details! Details! Details! and then have them complete the story starter at the site.

Provide your children with a picture showing a beach or amusement park or some other crowded scene. Ask them to describe the photo in as much detail as possible and to write down everything they see. Then have your children choose one person or activity in the picture and write a story about it.

Extension Activity:
Encourage your children to participate in the Monster Exchange Project.

It's a Mystery to Me!

Your children will learn about the Northern Lights and incorporate the phenomena into a mystery story.

Point out to your children that ideas for stories are all around them -- they just have to look for them. Have them read The Northern Lights (grades 3-5) or Northern Lights and the Big Space Storm (grades 6-8). Point out that the Northern Lights provide a terrific setting for a mystery story.

Provide your children with the Northern Lights Mystery activity sheet and help them complete the five Brain Work activities. Then ask them to write a Northern Lights mystery story.

Additional Resources:

Five Steps to Good Writing

Your children will learn about five important areas of writing, and follow the five steps of the writing process as they write a story.

Explain to your children that good writing involves more than simply putting their thoughts on paper. Good writing is organized and understandable, is easy and enjoyable to read, and contains good grammar, punctuation and spelling. Have your children explore The Five Areas of Writing to learn more about the areas of their writing they need to pay attention to.

Tell your children that following a 5-step writing process will help them pay better attention to those five areas of writing. Explain that the writing process includes prewriting, writing a rough draft, revising, editing, and publishing their work. Ask them to explore The Writing Process to learn more about what is involved in each step of the process.

Provide your children with one of the Narrative and Descriptive Writing Prompts or another writing prompt and ask them to write an original story based on the prompt. Remind them to pay attention to the five areas of writing and to follow the 5-step writing process as they write the story.

Additional Resources:

A Sense of Culture

Your children will learn about sensory poetry in Native American writings.

Explain to your children that sensory poetry is poetry that appeals to the senses; sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Tell them that they are going to learn more about sensory poetry by reading some Native American poems that contain sensory language. Invite your children to explore some of the poetry of Joy Harjo, one of the best known Native American poets. Then ask your children to choose one of the poems by Harjo and complete a Sensory Worksheet about that poem. Discuss with your children what they learned by completing the worksheet. Ask them to describe how the sensory language affected their reaction to, and understanding of, the poem.

Point out to your children that many works by Native American poets are written about nature. Discuss with them why poems about nature might lend themselves to sensory images. Then accompany your children on a walk in an undeveloped, or lightly developed, area near your home. Ask them to write down everything they see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. When you return from your walk, have your children write a poem incorporating the sensory images they recorded.

Extension Activity:
Invite your children to explore additional print and online resources about Native American poetry. Encourage them to write a biography of their favorite Native American poet.

Additional Resources:

Article by Linda Andrew Curriculum Development
Article © Homeschool Learning Network, All Rights Reserved.

Last Updated on Monday, 20 February 2012 19:06

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