by Bruce Lansky
Here's a classroom activity that is lots of fun and will get your students' creative juices flowing.
1. Announce that the whole class (or small groups of students) will write a story together.
2. Select a type of story (for example, a mystery or a newfangled fairy tale). For the sake of simplicity, I'll assume it's a newfangled fairy tale.
3. Write on the blackboard the key elements in that kind of story (based on the fiction lessons we've provided). For a newfangled fairy tale, you need:
4. Ask for suggestions (as to which story or theme to start with). Ask the students to vote on which idea they like best.
5. Ask for suggestions about how to change the traditional story or theme. Ask the students to vote on which idea they like best. Write the suggestions you receive on the chalk board. Think about whether some of the ideas can work together in the same story. Then ask the students to vote on which idea they like best. Summarize the "time," "location," "main characters," "surprises," and "suspense," on the chalk board, so everyone will know what the basic premise is.
6. Now that you have your premise, ask your students to raise their hands to begin telling the story. One student at a time. One sentence at a time. You can try to go up and down each row. But, if only a few students are contributing, try not to let any single student add two sentences in a row.
7. As the story unfolds, point to any element on the board that has been left out and needs to be added. For example, if the solution is not surprising, point to the word "suprise." Or, if the solution arrives too quickly, with no suspense, point to the word "suspense."
This group exercise will provide a model for how a story can be created. It's a safe way to experience creating a story, which won't produce a "writers' block" because there isn't much pressure on any one student to carry the entire load.
However, once they've had the fun of contributing ideas to the group, your students should find it easier to write a complete story by themselves.