Teaching Kids to Write Better Stories

a kid reading in class

a kid reading in class

Writing brilliant narratives is no accident. It takes an intense imagination, disciplined use of adverbs, and an unlimited source of patience to craft a gripping story that readers won’t want to put down.

As a teacher, your role is to guide students down a winding path called the writing process. Armed with the right strategies and tools, you can enhance the learning process to make it more enjoyable and productive for everyone.

1. Use writing practice worksheets

Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. Writing worksheets are highly effective in helping students flex their story-writing muscles. These worksheets often have prompts to help students start writing, like hypothetical scenarios, questions, and more.

These worksheets can also serve as guides so that your students will know what they need to be thinking about, what to include, and what to leave out.

2. Try story maps for visual learners

Some of your students might be visual learners, so consider using story mapping as a tool to help them plan a story. Have your students choose a topic and create a primary story arc using a basic diagram. The story arc will show them if they actually have a story comprising of a problem, a sequence of events that build to a climax, and a resolution.

You can also take this up a notch by asking your students to draw or even use cut-outs from magazines.

3. Write with them

teacher and kids writing story on a laptop

Jennifer Gonzalez, a “teacher of teachers,” suggests writing with your students to model the writing process and show the decisions that a writer has to make. You can do this by projecting your laptop on an external screen where students can see what you’re writing. Then you can start at the top by ideating your plot, characters, settings, and so on.

When doing this method, it’s crucial to think out loud so that your students can understand the thought processes that go into writing a narrative. It’s helpful to show them the early drafting stage where you just write whatever comes to mind regardless of grammar, and then the editing phase where you rearrange events, delete some things out and make some notes on your writing.

Doing this busts the myth that writing is a neat process with perfect prose in the first draft. It helps set realistic expectations to students.

4. Hold regular intensive workshops

For every vital narrative writing strategy that you have to teach, holding a workshop to help students apply it is going to do magic. Once your students have a rough draft (something with a beginning, middle, and end), it’s time to show them how to enrich the story with narrative techniques.

You can start a class with a brief discussion of, say, how to select great dialogues so that not everything in the conversation is quoted. Then, go into full workshop mode where students can work on their draft to incorporate what they just learned and collaborate with you and their peers.

Learning how to write an engaging narrative is a lifelong process, with many skills to master and mistakes to make. With these teaching strategies, you can equip your students with the necessary skills and knowledge they need to start their journey to publishing their own stories.