Creative writing can be one of the most fun and fulfilling activities for ELA students, but sometimes the hardest part is just being inspired! Here is a list of 25 items to use when your students need to find that magical writing spark.
Ask students to keep a notebook or a note in their phone of overheard conversations and people watching observations. Remind students that the point of this exercise isn’t to actively invade people’s privacy, but to take note when they happen to overhear interesting dialogue that could inspire their writing, or people watching that might lead to the development of a character.
Need help coming up with a character’s name? Look no further than a baby name book (or website), especially ones that give the meaning of the name. This can help to round out a character and guide their personality.
Vacation souvenirs, snow globes, old coins, stamp collection, jewelry box… you get the idea! These kinds of items can trigger memories or evoke scenery. Students can write about the owner of the item, and the significance of the item in their life.
Concert tees, hats, baby onesies, glasses, pipes, suspenders – no, I’m not talking about New York Fashion Week, I’m talking about your next great piece of writing! You can give students one item of clothing and have them tell the story of the person they imagine wearing it, or you can put together multiple pieces of clothing and have students analyse it as a whole outfit and desciper what it tells us about the person.
You’ve heard of Paint Chip Poetry, but what about using the names of paint colours to inspire works of fiction? Possible ideas would be to have students title a story the name of the paint colour, for example, “Campfire Smoke,” or “Ice Cave,” or have students use the paint names in the first line of their story.
Save your receipts and ask friends if you can have theirs as well. If you don’t want to use your own, a Google Image search for “reciept” brings up plenty of examples. Ask students to analyse the receipt to develop a character – what do the items on the receipt say about the character and their life?
Stuck for character ideas? Scroll through social media profiles to piece together a character and story premise – it’s like people watching but for millenials.
Students can watch music videos and then tell the story in a different way, extend the story, or tell the story from a different perspective.
Telling the story behind childhood toys can inspire all types of storytelling – sentimental, creepy? It can really go in any direction, and the older the toys the better!
Students can peruse old yearbooks to find inspiration for characters, settings, and story premise. There’s something about a really old yearbook that seems to hold so many stories (and secrets!) Bonus if the yearbook has signatures and messages all over it!
Postsecret.com is a site where people can share their secrets anonymously. The idea is that you can get something off your conscience without having to actually tell people that know you. NOTE: Depending on the age of your students, you’ll probably want to make your own document of approved secrets instead of having your students visit the website as some secrets may not be suitable for school.
Visit a travel agent and grab some travel brochures and booklets for your students to flip through to get ideas for story settings. Once a location has grabbed their attention, they can continue their research online.
Children’s drawings are the best! Huge head, lanky arms, four fingers and oversized shoes. These depictions can inspire some wacky and wild characters or settings.
Similar to paint chip samples, nail polish have some interesting names that could inspire the title or premise of a story. “Shattered Souls”? “Startling Sea”? Do tell!
Visit HONY to read stories based on interviews with people on the streets of New York and around the world. Students can read one of the profiles and write a story based on that person’s life. NOTE: you may want to choose stories from the site for your students as some may not be appropriate for school.
Ancestry is a paid site, but there is a free trial. Students can look up information about their family tree and see actual historical documents pertaining to their ancestors. These documents and information could inspire a personal narrative or telling the story of a family member.
An epitaph is a short text honouring a deceased person, usually engraved on their tombstone, memorial plaque etc. You can Google “Unusual Epitaphs” to find some interesting images that will generate memorable writing. Your students can choose an epitaph and tell the story of that person or someone related to them.
I hope these ideas ignite the creative writing spark in your students. Who knows, you could be nurturing the next Stephen King or Angie Thomas in your classroom!