In-Class Writing Exercises
If you find yourself wishing your students would write more thoughtful papers or think more deeply about the issues in your course, this handout may help you. At the Writing Center, we work one-on-one with thousands of student writers and find that giving them targeted writing tasks or exercises encourages them to problem-solve, generate, and communicate more fully on the page. You’ll find targeted exercises here and ways to adapt them for use in your course or with particular students.
Writing requires making choices. We can help students most by teaching them how to see and make choices when working with ideas. We can introduce students to a process of generating and sorting ideas by teaching them how to use exercises to build ideas. With an understanding of how to discover and arrange ideas, they will have more success in getting their ideas onto the page in clear prose.
Through critical thinking exercises, students move from a vague or felt sense about course material to a place where they can make explicit the choices about how words represent their ideas and how they might best arrange them. While some students may not recognize some of these activities as “writing,” they may see that doing this work will help them do the thinking that leads to easier, stronger papers.
In order to write a paper for a class, students need ways to move from the received knowledge of the course material to some separate, more synthesized or analyzed understanding of the course material. For some students this begins to happen internally or through what we call “thinking,” unvoiced mulling, sorting, comparing, speculating, applying, etc. that leads them to new perspectives, understanding, questions, reactions about the course material. This thinking is often furthered through class discussion and some students automatically, internally move from these initial sortings of ideas into complex, logical interpretations of material at this point. But, for more students, their thinking will remain an unorganized, vague set of ideas referring to the subject. Many will have trouble moving beyond this vague sense or simple reaction toward ideas that are more processed, complex, or what we often call “deep.” We can foster that move to a deeper understanding by providing opportunities to externalize and fix their ideas on paper so that they may both see their ideas and then begin to see the relationships between them. The following activities will help students both generate and clarify initial responses to course material:
- Free-writing. Find a clock, watch, or timer to help you keep track of time. Choose a topic, idea, question you would like to consider. It can be a specific detail or a broad concept-whatever you are interested in exploring at the moment. Write (on paper or on a computer) for 7-10 minutes non-stop on that topic. If you get stuck and don’t know what to say next, write “I’m stuck and don’t know what to say next…” or try asking yourself “what else?” until another idea comes to you. Do not concern yourself with spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Your goal is to generate as much as you can about the topic in a short period of time and to get used to the feeling of articulating ideas on the page. It’s ok if it’s messy or makes sense only to you. You can repeat this exercise several times, using the same or a variety of topics connecting to your subject. Read what you have written to see if you have discovered anything about your subject or found a line of questioning you’d like to pursue.
- Clustering/Webbing. Find a clock, watch, or timer to help you keep track of time. Put a word you’d like to explore in the center of a piece of paper and put a circle around it. As fast as you can, free-associate or jot down anywhere on the page as many words as you can think of associated with your center word. If you get stuck, go back to the center word and launch again. Speed is important and quantity is your goal. Don’t discount any word or phrase that comes to you, just put it down on the page. Jot words for between 5-10 minutes. When you are finished you will have a page filled with seemingly random words. Read around on the page and see if you have discovered anything or can see connections between any ideas.
- Listing. On a piece of paper list all the ideas you can think of connected to subjects you are considering exploring. Consider any idea or observation as valid and worthy of listing. List quickly and then set your list aside for a few minutes. Come back and read your list and do the exercise again.
- Cubing. This technique helps you look at your subject from six different points of view (imagine the 6 sides of a cube and you get the idea). Take your topic or idea and 1) describe it, 2) compare it, 3) associate it with something else you know, 4) analyze it (meaning break it into parts), 5) apply it to a situation you are familiar with, 6) argue for or against it. Write at a paragraph, page, or more about each of the six points of view on your subject.
- Journalistic questions. Write these questions down the left hand margin of a piece of paper: Who? What? Where? When? How? And Why? Think about your topic in terms of each question.
- What? So What? Now what? To begin to explore an idea first ask yourself, “What do I want to explore?” and write about that topic for a page or more. Then read what you have written and ask “So what?” of the ideas expressed so far. Again, write for a page or more. Finally ask yourself, “Now what?” to begin to think about what else you might consider or where you might go next with an idea.
- Defining terms. Although this suggestion is simple and may seem obvious, it is often overlooked. Write definitions for key terms or concepts in your own words. Find others’ articulations of the terms in your course readings, the dictionary, or in conversations, and compare these definitions to your own. Seek input from your instructor if you can’t get a working definition of a term for yourself.
- Summarizing positions. Sometimes it’s helpful to simply describe what you know as a way to solidify your own understanding of something before you try to analyze or synthesize new ideas. You can summarize readings by individual articles or you can combine what you think are like perspectives into a summary of a position. Try to be brief in your description of the readings. Write a paragraph or up to a page describing a reading or a position.
- Metaphor writing. Metaphors or similes are comparisons sometimes using the words “like” or “as.” For example, “writing is like swimming” or the “sky is as blue as map water” or “the keyboard wrinkled with ideas.” When you create a metaphor, you put one idea in terms of another and thereby create a new vision of the original idea. Sometimes it may be easier to create a metaphor or simile may help you understand your view of an idea before you can put it fully into sentences or paragraphs. Write a metaphor or simile and then explain to someone why your metaphor works or what it means to you.
- Applying ideas to personal circumstance or known situations. Sometimes ideas come clearest when you can put them in a frame that is meaningful to you. Take a concept from your reading assignments and apply it so a situation in your own life or to a current event with which you are familiar. You may not end up using this application in your final draft, but applying it to something you know will help you to understand it better and prepare you to analyze the idea as your instructor directs.
Once students have something on the page to work with, they can begin the decision-making process crucial to developing a coherent idea or argument. At this point, students will choose which ideas most appeal to them, which ideas seem to fit together, which ideas need to be set aside, and which ideas need further exploration. The following activities will help students make decisions as they shape ideas:
- Drawing diagrams. Sometimes it helps to look for the shape your ideas seem to be taking as you develop them. Jot down your main ideas on the page and then see if you can connect them in some way. Do they form a square? A circle? An umbrella with spokes coming down? A pyramid? Does one idea seem to sit on a shelf above another idea? Would equal signs, greater or less signs help you express the relationships you see between your idea? Can you make a flow chart depicting the relationships between your ideas?
- Making charts or piles. Try sorting your ideas into separate piles. You can do this literally by putting ideas on note cards or scraps of paper and physically moving them into different piles. You can do this on the page by cutting and pasting ideas into a variety of groups on the computer screen. You can also make charts that illustrate the relationships between ideas. Common charts include timelines, authors sitting around a dinner table, and comparison/contrast charts.
- Scrap pile. Be prepared to keep a scrap pile of ideas somewhere as you work. Some people keep this pile as a separate document as they work; others keep notes at the bottom of a page where they store scrap sentences or thoughts for potential use later on. Remember that it is sometimes important to throw out ideas as a way to clarify and improve the ones you are trying to develop along the way.
- Shifting viewpoints (role-playing). When you begin to feel you have some understanding of your idea, it sometimes helps to look at it from another person’s point of view. You can do this by role-playing someone who disagrees with your conclusions or who has a different set of assumptions about your subject. Make a list or write a dialogue to begin to reveal the other perspective.
- Applying an idea to a new situation. If you have developed a working thesis, test it out by applying it to another event or situation. If you idea is clear, it will probably work again or you will find other supporting instances of your theory.
- Problem/Solution writing. Sometimes it helps to look at your ideas through a problem-solving lens. To do so, first briefly outline the problem as you see it or define it. Make sure you are through in listing all the elements that contribute to the creation of the problem. Next, make a list of potential solutions. Remember there is likely to be more than one solution.
- Theory/application writing. If your assignment asks you to develop a theory or an argument, abstract it from the situation at hand. Does your theory hold through the text? Would it apply to a new situation or can you think of a similar situation that works in the same way? Explain your ideas to a friend.
- Defining critical questions. You may have lots of evidence or information and still feel uncertain what you should do with it or how you should write about it. Look at your evidence and see if you can find repeated information or a repeated missing piece. See if you can write a question or a series of questions that summarize the most important ideas in your paper. Once you have the critical questions, you can begin to organize your ideas around potential answers to the question.
- Explaining/teaching idea to someone else. Sometimes the most efficient way to clarify your ideas is to explain them to someone else. The other person need not be knowledgeable about your subject-in fact it sometimes helps if they aren’t familiar with your topic-but should be willing to listen and interrupt you when he or she doesn’t follow you. As you teach your ideas to someone else, you may begin to have more confidence in the shape of your ideas or you may be able to identify the holes in your argument and be more able to fix them.
- Lining up evidence. If you think you have a good idea of how something works, find evidence in your course material, through research in the library or on the web that supports your thinking. If your ideas are strong, you should find supporting evidence to corroborate your ideas.
- Rewriting idea. Sometimes what helps most is rewriting an idea over the course of several days. Take the central idea and briefly explain it in a paragraph or two. The next day, without looking at the previous day’s writing, write a new paragraph explaining your ideas. Try it again the next day. Over the course of three days, you may find your ideas clarifying, complicating, or developing holes. In all cases, you will have a better idea of what you need to do next in writing your draft.
As students have been working with their ideas, they have been making a series of choices about their ideas that will lead them to feel “ready” to put them in a more complete, coherent form; they will feel “ready to write” their ideas in something closer to the assignment or paper form. But for most, the tough moments of really “writing” begin at this point. They may still feel that they “have ideas” but have trouble “getting them on the page.” Some will suddenly be thrust into “writing a paper” mode and be both constrained and guided by their assumptions about what an assignment asks them to do, what academic writing is, and what prior experience has taught them about writing for teachers. These exercises may ease their entry into shaping their ideas for an assignment:
- Clarify all questions about the assignment. Before you begin writing a draft, make sure you have a thorough understanding of what the assignment requires. You can do this by summarizing your understanding of the assignment and emailing your summary to your TA or instructor. If you have questions about points to emphasize, the amount of evidence needed, etc. get clarification early. You might try writing something like, “I’ve summarized what I think I’m supposed to do in this paper, am I on the right track?
- Write a letter describing what the paper is going to be about. One of the simplest, most efficient exercises you can do to sort through ideas is to write a letter to yourself about what you are planning to write in your paper. You might start out, “My paper is going to be about….” And go on to articulate what evidence you have to back up your ideas, what parts still feel rough to you about your ideas. In about 20 minutes, you can easily have a good sense of what you are ready to write and the problems you still need to solve in your paper.
- Write a full draft. Sometimes you don’t know what you think until you see what you’ve said. Writing a full draft, even if you think the draft has problems, is sometimes important. You may find your thesis appears in your conclusion paragraph.
- Turn your ideas into a five-minute speech. Pretend you have to give a 5 minute speech to your classmates. How would you begin the speech? What’s your main point? What key information would you include? How much detail do you need to give the listener? What evidence will be most convincing or compelling for your audience?
- Make a sketch of the paper. Sometimes it helps to literally line up or order you evidence before you write. You can do so quickly by making a numbered list of your points. Your goal is something like a sketch outline—first I am going to say this; next I need to include this point; third I need to mention this idea. The ideas should flow logically from one point to the next. If they don’t-meaning if you have to backtrack, go on a tangent, or otherwise make the reader wait to see the relationship between ideas, then you need to continue tinkering with the list.
- Make an outline. If you have successfully used formal outlines in the past, use one to structure your paper. If you haven’t successfully used outlines, don’t worry. Try some of the other techniques listed here to get your ideas on the page
- Start with the easiest part. If you have trouble getting started on a draft, write what feels to you like the easiest part first. There’s nothing magic about starting at the beginning-unless that’s the easiest part for you. Write what you know for sure and a beginning will probably emerge as you write.
- Write the body of the paper first. Sometimes it’s helpful NOT to write the beginning or introductory paragraph first. See what you have to say in the bulk of your draft and then go back to craft a suitable beginning.
- Write about feelings about writing. Sometimes it’s helpful to begin a writing session by spending 5-10 minutes writing to yourself about your feelings about the assignment. Doing so can help you set aside uncertainty and frustration and help you get motivated to write your draft.
- Write with the screen turned off. If you are really stuck getting starting or in the middle of a draft, turn the monitor off and type your ideas. Doing so will prevent you from editing and critiquing your writing as you first produce it. You may be amazed at the quantity and quality of ideas you can produce in a short time. You’ll have to do some cleanup on the typos, but it may be well worth it if it allows you to bang out a draft.
- Write in alternatives (postpone decision-making). You may need to test out more than one idea before you settle into a particular direction for a paper. It’s actually more efficient to spend time writing in several directions i.e. trying out one idea for awhile, then trying out another idea, than it is to try to fit all of your ideas into one less coherent draft. Your writing may take the form of brief overviews that begin, “If I were going to write about XYZ idea, I would…” until you are able to see which option suits the assignment and your needs.
- Write with a timer. Sometimes what you need most is to get all of your ideas out on paper in a single sitting. To do so, pretend you are taking an essay exam. Set a timer for an appropriate amount of time (1 hour? 3 hours?) depending on the length of your draft. Assume that it will take you approximately 1 hour per page of text you produce. Set a goal for the portion of your draft you must complete during the allotted time and don’t get up from your seat until the timer goes off.
As students use language to shape ideas, they begin to feel the need to test their ideas or move beyond their own perspectives. Sometimes we have ideas that make good sense to us, but seem to lose or confuse readers as we voice them in conversation or on the page. Once students have a complete draft of a paper, they need ways to share their ideas to learn points where their ideas need further development. With feedback from an audience, students are better able to see the final decisions they still need to make in order for their ideas to reach someone. These decisions may be ones of word choice, organization, logic, evidence, and tone. Keep in mind that this juncture can be unsettling for some students. Having made lots of major decisions in getting their ideas down on the page, they may be reluctant to tackle another round of decision-making required for revising or clarifying ideas or sentences. Remind students that ideas don’t exist apart from words, but in the words themselves. They will need to be able to sell their ideas through the words and arrangement of words on the page for a specific audience.
- Talk your paper. Tell a friend what your paper is about. Pay attention to your explanation. Are all of the ideas you describe actually in the paper? Where did you start explaining your ideas? Does your paper match your description? Can the listener easily find all of the ideas you mention in your description?
- Ask someone to read your paper out loud to you. Ask a friend to read your draft out loud to you. What do you hear? Where does your reader stumble? Sound confused? Have questions? Did your reader ever get lost in your text? Did ideas flow in the order the reader expected them to? Was anything missing for the reader? Did the reader need more information at any point?
- Share your draft with your instructor. If you give them enough notice, most instructors will be willing to read a draft of a paper. It sometimes helps to include your own assessment of the draft when you share it with a teacher. Give them your assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the draft, as you see it, to begin a conversation.
- Share your draft with a classmate. Arrange to exchange papers with a classmate several days before the due date. You can do so via email and make comments for revision using Word’s comment function.
- Look at your sentences. Often you will need to analyze your draft of the sentence level. To do so, break your paper into a series of discrete sentences by putting a return after each period or end punctuation. Once you have your paper as a list of sentences, you can more easily see and solve sentence level problems. Try reading the sentences starting with the last sentence of the draft and moving up. Doing so will take them out of context and force you to see them as individual bits of communication rather than familiar points.
- Discuss key terms in your paper with someone else. After you have completed a draft, it’s sometimes helpful to look back at the key terms you are using to convey your ideas. It’s easy, in the midst of thinking about an idea, to write in loaded language or code in which certain key words come to have special meaning for you that isn’t necessarily shared by a reader. If you suspect this is the case, talk about your key terms with a friend, and ask them to read your draft to see if the idea is adequately explained for the reader.
- Outline your draft. After you have a complete draft, go back and outline what you have said. Next to each paragraph write a word or phrase that summarizes the content of that paragraph. You might also look to see if you have topic sentences that convey the ideas of individual paragraphs. If you can’t summarize the content of a paragraph, you probably have multiple ideas in play in that paragraph that may need revising. Once you have summarized each paragraph, turn your summary words into a list. How does the list flow? Is it clear how one idea connects to the next?
- Underline your main point. Highlight the main point of your paper. It should probably be (although it will depend on the assignment) in one sentence somewhere on the first page. If it’s not, the reader will likely be lost and wondering what you paper is about as he or she reads through it. Your draft should not read like a mystery novel in which the reader has to wait until the end to have all the pieces fit together.
- Ask someone without knowledge of the course to read your paper. You can tell if your draft works by sharing it with someone outside of the context. If they can follow your ideas, someone inside the class will be able to as well.
- Ask a reader to judge specific elements of your paper. Share your draft with someone and ask them to read for something specific i.e. organization, punctuation, transitions. A reader will give more specific feedback to you if you give them some specific direction.
Many of these exercises can be used in short in-class writing assignments, as part of group work, or as incremental steps in producing a paper. If you’ve assigned an end-of-semester term paper, you may want to assign one or two activities from each of the four stages-brainstorming, organizing, drafting, editing-at strategic points throughout the semester. You could also give the students the list of exercises for each stage and ask them to choose one or two activities to complete at each point as they produce a draft.
If you’d like to discuss how these exercises might work in your course, talk about other aspects of student writing, contact Kimberly Abels [email protected] at the Writing Center.
- Writing Activities
105 Creative Writing Exercises To Get You Writing Again
You know that feeling when you just don’t feel like writing? Sometimes you can’t even get a word down on paper. It’s the most frustrating thing ever to a writer, especially when you’re working towards a deadline. The good news is that we have a list of 105 creative writing exercises to help you get motivated and start writing again!
What are creative writing exercises?
Creative writing exercises are short writing activities (normally around 10 minutes) designed to get you writing. The goal of these exercises is to give you the motivation to put words onto a blank paper. These words don’t need to be logical or meaningful, neither do they need to be grammatically correct or spelt correctly. The whole idea is to just get you writing something, anything. The end result of these quick creative writing exercises is normally a series of notes, bullet points or ramblings that you can, later on, use as inspiration for a bigger piece of writing such as a story or a poem.
Good creative writing exercises are short, quick and easy to complete. You shouldn’t need to think too much about your style of writing or how imaginative your notes are. Just write anything that comes to mind, and you’ll be on the road to improving your creative writing skills and beating writer’s block .
Use the generator below to get a random creative writing exercise idea:
List of 105+ Creative Writing Exercises
Here are over 105 creative writing exercises to give your brain a workout and help those creative juices flow again:
- Set a timer for 60 seconds. Now write down as many words or phrases that come to mind at that moment.
- Pick any colour you like. Now start your sentence with this colour. For example, Orange, the colour of my favourite top.
- Open a book or dictionary on a random page. Pick a random word. You can close your eyes and slowly move your finger across the page. Now, write a paragraph with this random word in it. You can even use an online dictionary to get random words:
- Create your own alphabet picture book or list. It can be A to Z of animals, food, monsters or anything else you like!
- Using only the sense of smell, describe where you are right now.
- Take a snack break. While eating your snack write down the exact taste of that food. The goal of this creative writing exercise is to make your readers savour this food as well.
- Pick a random object in your room and write a short paragraph from its point of view. For example, how does your pencil feel? What if your lamp had feelings?
- Describe your dream house. Where would you live one day? Is it huge or tiny?
- Pick two different TV shows, movies or books that you like. Now swap the main character. What if Supergirl was in Twilight? What if SpongeBob SquarePants was in The Flash? Write a short scene using this character swap as inspiration.
- What’s your favourite video game? Write at least 10 tips for playing this game.
- Pick your favourite hobby or sport. Now pretend an alien has just landed on Earth and you need to teach it this hobby or sport. Write at least ten tips on how you would teach this alien.
- Use a random image generator and write a paragraph about the first picture you see.
- Write a letter to your favourite celebrity or character. What inspires you most about them? Can you think of a memorable moment where this person’s life affected yours? We have this helpful guide on writing a letter to your best friend for extra inspiration.
- Write down at least 10 benefits of writing. This can help motivate you and beat writer’s block.
- Complete this sentence in 10 different ways: Patrick waited for the school bus and…
- Pick up a random book from your bookshelf and go to page 9. Find the ninth sentence on that page. Use this sentence as a story starter.
- Create a character profile based on all the traits that you hate. It might help to list down all the traits first and then work on describing the character.
- What is the scariest or most dangerous situation you have ever been in? Why was this situation scary? How did you cope at that moment?
- Pretend that you’re a chat show host and you’re interviewing your favourite celebrity. Write down the script for this conversation.
- Using extreme detail, write down what you have been doing for the past one hour today. Think about your thoughts, feelings and actions during this time.
- Make a list of potential character names for your next story. You can use a fantasy name generator to help you.
- Describe a futuristic setting. What do you think the world would look like in 100 years time?
- Think about a recent argument you had with someone. Would you change anything about it? How would you resolve an argument in the future?
- Describe a fantasy world. What kind of creatures live in this world? What is the climate like? What everyday challenges would a typical citizen of this world face? You can use this fantasy world name generator for inspiration.
- At the flip of a switch, you turn into a dragon. What kind of dragon would you be? Describe your appearance, special abilities, likes and dislikes. You can use a dragon name generator to give yourself a cool dragon name.
- Pick your favourite book or a famous story. Now change the point of view. For example, you could rewrite the fairytale , Cinderella. This time around, Prince Charming could be the main character. What do you think Prince Charming was doing, while Cinderella was cleaning the floors and getting ready for the ball?
- Pick a random writing prompt and use it to write a short story. Check out this collection of over 300 writing prompts for kids to inspire you.
- Write a shopping list for a famous character in history. Imagine if you were Albert Einstein’s assistant, what kind of things would he shop for on a weekly basis?
- Create a fake advertisement poster for a random object that is near you right now. Your goal is to convince the reader to buy this object from you.
- What is the worst (or most annoying) sound that you can imagine? Describe this sound in great detail, so your reader can understand the pain you feel when hearing this sound.
- What is your favourite song at the moment? Pick one line from this song and describe a moment in your life that relates to this line.
- You’re hosting an imaginary dinner party at your house. Create a list of people you would invite, and some party invites. Think about the theme of the dinner party, the food you will serve and entertainment for the evening.
- You are waiting to see your dentist in the waiting room. Write down every thought you are having at this moment in time.
- Make a list of your greatest fears. Try to think of at least three fears. Now write a short story about a character who is forced to confront one of these fears.
- Create a ‘Wanted’ poster for a famous villain of your choice. Think about the crimes they have committed, and the reward you will give for having them caught.
- Imagine you are a journalist for the ‘Imagine Forest Times’ newspaper. Your task is to get an exclusive interview with the most famous villain of all time. Pick a villain of your choice and interview them for your newspaper article. What questions would you ask them, and what would their responses be?
- In a school playground, you see the school bully hurting a new kid. Write three short stories, one from each perspective in this scenario (The bully, the witness and the kid getting bullied).
- You just won $10 million dollars. What would you spend this money on?
- Pick a random animal, and research at least five interesting facts about this animal. Write a short story centred around one of these interesting facts.
- Pick a global issue that you are passionate about. This could be climate change, black lives matters, women’s rights etc. Now create a campaign poster for this global issue.
- Write an acrostic poem about an object near you right now (or even your own name). You could use a poetry idea generator to inspire you.
- Imagine you are the head chef of a 5-star restaurant. Recently the business has slowed down. Your task is to come up with a brand-new menu to excite customers. Watch this video prompt on YouTube to inspire you.
- What is your favourite food of all time? Imagine if this piece of food was alive, what would it say to you?
- If life was one big musical, what would you be singing about right now? Write the lyrics of your song.
- Create and describe the most ultimate villain of all time. What would their traits be? What would their past look like? Will they have any positive traits?
- Complete this sentence in at least 10 different ways: Every time I look out of the window, I…
- You have just made it into the local newspaper, but what for? Write down at least five potential newspaper headlines . Here’s an example, Local Boy Survives a Deadly Illness.
- If you were a witch or a wizard, what would your specialist area be and why? You might want to use a Harry Potter name generator or a witch name generator for inspiration.
- What is your favourite thing to do on a Saturday night? Write a short story centred around this activity.
- Your main character has just received the following items: A highlighter, a red cap, a teddy bear and a fork. What would your character do with these items? Can you write a story using these items?
- Create a timeline of your own life, from birth to this current moment. Think about the key events in your life, such as birthdays, graduations, weddings and so on. After you have done this, you can pick one key event from your life to write a story about.
- Think of a famous book or movie you like. Rewrite a scene from this book or movie, where the main character is an outsider. They watch the key events play out, but have no role in the story. What would their actions be? How would they react?
- Three very different characters have just won the lottery. Write a script for each character, as they reveal the big news to their best friend.
- Write a day in the life story of three different characters. How does each character start their day? What do they do throughout the day? And how does their day end?
- Write about the worst experience in your life so far. Think about a time when you were most upset or angry and describe it.
- Imagine you’ve found a time machine in your house. What year would you travel to and why?
- Describe your own superhero. Think about their appearance, special abilities and their superhero name. Will they have a secret identity? Who is their number one enemy?
- What is your favourite country in the world? Research five fun facts about this country and use one to write a short story.
- Set yourself at least three writing goals. This could be a good way to motivate yourself to write every day. For example, one goal might be to write at least 150 words a day.
- Create a character description based on the one fact, three fiction rule. Think about one fact or truth about yourself. And then add in three fictional or fantasy elements. For example, your character could be the same age as you in real life, this is your one fact. And the three fictional elements could be they have the ability to fly, talk in over 100 different languages and have green skin.
- Describe the perfect person. What traits would they have? Think about their appearance, their interests and their dislikes.
- Keep a daily journal or diary. This is a great way to keep writing every day. There are lots of things you can write about in your journal, such as you can write about the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of your day. Think about anything that inspired you or anything that upset you, or just write anything that comes to mind at the moment.
- Write a book review or a movie review. If you’re lost for inspiration, just watch a random movie or read any book that you can find. Then write a critical review on it. Think about the best parts of the book/movie and the worst parts. How would you improve the book or movie?
- Write down a conversation between yourself. You can imagine talking to your younger self or future self (i.e. in 10 years’ time). What would you tell them? Are there any lessons you learned or warnings you need to give? Maybe you could talk about what your life is like now and compare it to their life?
- Try writing some quick flash fiction stories . Flash fiction is normally around 500 words long, so try to stay within this limit.
- Write a six-word story about something that happened to you today or yesterday. A six-word story is basically an entire story told in just six words. Take for example: “Another football game ruined by me.” or “A dog’s painting sold for millions.” – Six-word stories are similar to writing newspaper headlines. The goal is to summarise your story in just six words.
- The most common monsters or creatures used in stories include vampires, werewolves , dragons, the bigfoot, sirens and the loch-ness monster. In a battle of intelligence, who do you think will win and why?
- Think about an important event in your life that has happened so far, such as a birthday or the birth of a new sibling. Now using the 5 W’s and 1 H technique describe this event in great detail. The 5 W’s include: What, Who, Where, Why, When and the 1 H is: How. Ask yourself questions about the event, such as what exactly happened on that day? Who was there? Why was this event important? When and where did it happen? And finally, how did it make you feel?
- Pretend to be someone else. Think about someone important in your life. Now put yourself into their shoes, and write a day in the life story about being them. What do you think they do on a daily basis? What situations would they encounter? How would they feel?
- Complete this sentence in at least 10 different ways: I remember…
- Write about your dream holiday. Where would you go? Who would you go with? And what kind of activities would you do?
- Which one item in your house do you use the most? Is it the television, computer, mobile phone, the sofa or the microwave? Now write a story of how this item was invented. You might want to do some research online and use these ideas to build up your story.
- In exactly 100 words, describe your bedroom. Try not to go over or under this word limit.
- Make a top ten list of your favourite animals. Based on this list create your own animal fact file, where you provide fun facts about each animal in your list.
- What is your favourite scene from a book or a movie? Write down this scene. Now rewrite the scene in a different genre, such as horror, comedy, drama etc.
- Change the main character of a story you recently read into a villain. For example, you could take a popular fairytale such as Jack and the Beanstalk, but this time re-write the story to make Jack the villain of the tale.
- Complete the following sentence in at least 10 different ways: Do you ever wonder…
- What does your name mean? Research the meaning of your own name, or a name that interests you. Then use this as inspiration for your next story. For example, the name ‘Marty’ means “Servant Of Mars, God Of War”. This could make a good concept for a sci-fi story.
- Make a list of three different types of heroes (or main characters) for potential future stories.
- If someone gave you $10 dollars, what would you spend it on and why?
- Describe the world’s most boring character in at least 100 words.
- What is the biggest problem in the world today, and how can you help fix this issue?
- Create your own travel brochure for your hometown. Think about why tourists might want to visit your hometown. What is your town’s history? What kind of activities can you do? You could even research some interesting facts.
- Make a list of all your favourite moments or memories in your life. Now pick one to write a short story about.
- Describe the scariest and ugliest monster you can imagine. You could even draw a picture of this monster with your description.
- Write seven haikus, one for each colour of the rainbow. That’s red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
- Imagine you are at the supermarket. Write down at least three funny scenarios that could happen to you at the supermarket. Use one for your next short story.
- Imagine your main character is at home staring at a photograph. Write the saddest scene possible. Your goal is to make your reader cry when reading this scene.
- What is happiness? In at least 150 words describe the feeling of happiness. You could use examples from your own life of when you felt happy.
- Think of a recent nightmare you had and write down everything you can remember. Use this nightmare as inspiration for your next story.
- Keep a dream journal. Every time you wake up in the middle of the night or early in the morning you can quickly jot down things that you remember from your dreams. These notes can then be used as inspiration for a short story.
- Your main character is having a really bad day. Describe this bad day and the series of events they experience. What’s the worst thing that could happen to your character?
- You find a box on your doorstep. You open this box and see the most amazing thing ever. Describe this amazing thing to your readers.
- Make a list of at least five possible settings or locations for future stories. Remember to describe each setting in detail.
- Think of something new you recently learned. Write this down. Now write a short story where your main character also learns the same thing.
- Describe the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your whole life. Your goal is to amaze your readers with its beauty.
- Make a list of things that make you happy or cheer you up. Try to think of at least five ideas. Now imagine living in a world where all these things were banned or against the law. Use this as inspiration for your next story.
- Would you rather be rich and alone or poor and very popular? Write a story based on the lives of these two characters.
- Imagine your main character is a Librarian. Write down at least three dark secrets they might have. Remember, the best secrets are always unexpected.
- There’s a history behind everything. Describe the history of your house. How and when was your house built? Think about the land it was built on and the people that may have lived here long before you.
- Imagine that you are the king or queen of a beautiful kingdom. Describe your kingdom in great detail. What kind of rules would you have? Would you be a kind ruler or an evil ruler of the kingdom?
- Make a wish list of at least three objects you wish you owned right now. Now use these three items in your next story. At least one of them must be the main prop in the story.
- Using nothing but the sense of taste, describe a nice Sunday afternoon at your house. Remember you can’t use your other senses (i.e see, hear, smell or touch) in this description.
- What’s the worst pain you felt in your life? Describe this pain in great detail, so your readers can also feel it.
- If you were lost on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere, what three must-have things would you pack and why?
- Particpate in online writing challenges or contests. Here at Imagine Forest, we offer daily writing challenges with a new prompt added every day to inspire you. Check out our challenges section in the menu.
Do you have any more fun creative writing exercises to share? Let us know in the comments below!
Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.
Florida State University
FSU | Writing Resources
The English Department
- College Composition
You know what they say about assuming…, would you rather…, alphabet lists—getting to know your classmates, tv personalities: trying on voices, looking beneath the surface.
Purpose of Exercise : To ease students into your classroom and the setting, including having a teacher who is young. This emphasizes stereotyping and assumptions as possibly being inconclusive or false.
Description : Instructor begins with a bit of role-playing and then students are led into a free write about their basic info then introduce themselves to the class.
Suggested Time : about 30 minutes
Procedure : This activity should be done on the first day of class and works well if you can blend in with your students, if just for the day. When you get to your classroom, sit down in a desk with your students. Wait maybe two or three minutes after class begins, ask a few surrounding students if they know anything about the TA and possibly say something to the effect of, “I can’t believe they’re late on the first day!” Wait until about five minutes after then get up and head to the front of class. Typically, this leaves students in shock because they never would have guessed you to be the instructor. Lead into an ice breaker wherein the students have to come up with three interesting things about themselves but they cannot write: their major, where they’re from, their favorite color or the sport they play. After everyone has introduced themselves and said their three things, discuss how we assume so many things about people based on looks or information like major etc. This works well to get them accustomed to the type of writing we do in FYC and the atmosphere we like to create for our classrooms.
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Purpose of Exercise: The purpose of this exercise is three-fold: to introduce students to each other, to show the variety of experiences and backgrounds each student brings to the classroom community, and to address stereotypes or preconceptions we may have about one another on first meeting.
Description: Distribute an index card to each student. Ask her or him to write a fact on the card that separates her or him from the rest of the class. This activity will help each student to connect a face to a name and a fun fact.
Suggested Time: 30 minutes
Procedure: Divide the class in half, and distribute an index card to each student. Have him or her write a fact down that makes them unique: an experience he or she might have had, a talent, a hobby. Alternate between teams in reading the other teams’ cards, and ask each team to guess which member of the opposing team wrote that card. Award one point for each correct guess, and encourage students to elaborate on what they wrote on the card.
Purpose: This ice breaker is a great activity for students and I have found that it gives students a chance to get to know more about each other and text creativity without having to be forced into group situations that can be uncomfortable on the first day of class.
Suggested Time: 20-35 minutes
Procedure: You will need to ask the students to either take out a sheet of paper, or you can have slips of paper already prepared for them and pass them out. Then, you ask each person to create a “would you rather” question of his/her own on the slip of paper. Go ahead and lay out any ground rules for the questions. For example, make sure that everyone knows the questions need to be appropriate for the classroom setting. Give them an example of a “would you rather” question (I have copied and pasted some examples from the internet below). Give the students time to come up with questions and write them down. Then, there are a few ways you can go about sharing the questions/answers: 1) you can have the students go around and share their question with the class, and give time for a few responses or 2) you can collect the slips of paper (or sheets of paper) and randomly select ones to read for the class and allow for student responses. This exercise is great for ENC 1000-level courses where students are going to be challenged to be creative and use imagery and detail. Approximately 10-15 minutes should be allotted for explaining the exercises, passing out slips of paper and letting students write down their “would you rather” question. Then, the amount of time you spend going through the questions and getting feedback can vary between 10-20 minutes, depending on how much time you wish to spend on the activity.
Sample “Would You Rather” Questions...
- Would you rather run your tongue down ten feet of a New York City street or press your tongue into a strangers nostril?
- Would you rather be forgotten or hatefully remembered?
- Would you rather have a missing finger or have an extra toe?
Purpose: The aim of this exercise is to get students to introduce themselves and to initiate collaborative working relationships immediately. It emphasizes writing as a collaborative process that requires input and feedback from others. This exercise works well as an icebreaker in the first week or prior to the first peer workshop.
Description: Students exchange ideas with each other to complete an informal writing assignment.
Suggested Time: 20 minutes
Procedure: Ask every student to take out a loose piece of paper and write the letters of the alphabet vertically down the left side of the paper. Next, choose a topic; sometimes I ask students to suggest potential topics or I often simply choose “writing” as a way to start a discussion about it. When you’ve got a topic, give students only one or two minutes to write words they associate with the topic that start with every letter of the alphabet (i.e. for “writing”, A for “argument” etc). When the time limit is up, students will have incomplete alphabets. Next, ask your students to get up and introduce themselves to another student and trade with that person one missing word before moving on to someone else. After some time, students will eventually have completed their alphabets and met almost everyone in the class. Ask for a few volunteers to read their alphabet lists. At this point, I often talk about how writing is a collaborative endeavor and segue into an explanation of the peer workshop.
Purpose: T his icebreaker makes a great first day introduction, getting students interested in and excited about writing by exploring well-known TV voices and personally interesting topics.
Description: All you need is a whiteboard, and your class will need paper and pen. This discussion and exercise gets students thinking about who they see in the media, and analyzing what makes those people/characters what they are by mimicking those elements unique to their TV “voice.”
Suggested Time: 15 – 20 minutes
Procedure: Start out by asking the class if they like writing. You’ll probably get a roomful of “Noooos!” Ask them if they ever write on their own. Again, most will insist “Never!” Then, of course, exclaim “Excellent!” Throw them for a loop. Ask them if they ever email anybody, or use IM – isn’t this writing? This should cause a bit of a shift in classroom thought, so take the opportunity to have the students come-up with a topic – any topic – that they’ve been dealing with in their first days at FSU and that they might IM, email, or text about. You might write some on the board, and choose from among these, or get a group consensus on one topic. For example, if someone yells out, “Parking!” go with that.
Then ask the class to come-up with some different TV/Movie Personas to add to the board in another column: The Terminator, Paris Hilton, etc – you can throw in something off-the-wall, like Wylie Cayote. When you’ve got about 3 or so characters down, set the students to writing about their chosen situation at FSU from the perspective of EACH character, one at a time, in 2-4 minute shifts. Encourage them to write in the ‘voice’ of that character - how would that person/think talk, think and behave?
By the end of the exercise, the students should have 3 brief descriptions of a single situation in 3 different voices. Take some time to share a few, depending on the time that you have. Discuss how writing offers us the opportunity to explore our own, and various other voices, as well as those topics that are most important to us in ways that may be further-reaching than text, IM, or email.
Purpose of Exercise: This exercise accompanies “In Case You Ever Want To Go Home Again” by Barbara Kingsolver (published in On Writing ). It is designed to ask students to apply specific parts of the reading to their own lives and examine their experiences beyond surface-level.
Description: This exercise engages students in conversation with one another about personal topics, but it allows them to do so without the risk involved in sharing “too much.” Sometimes students are shy to share in class because they don’t want to reveal too much of themselves; however, this exercise allows them to be personal while maintaining some distance. Kingsolver’s essay is an excellent starting point for personal engagement in the classroom, especially for first-year students who have just recently left their homes.
Suggested Time: 50 minutes
Procedure: Have the students read “In Case You Ever Want To Go Home Again” before class. In class, show the following quotes and writing prompts on the projector. Read through each quote and prompt as a class, and then give the students 15-20 minutes to think about and write a personal response to one of the quotes/prompts. Collect the papers and read some of the responses out loud anonymously. Use the student responses as the basis for a conversation about surface-level perceptions, the truth behind situations, and honesty.
Additional Information: Below are the quotes and writing prompts:
“It’s human, to want the world to see us as we think we ought to be seen” (Kingsolver 471).
- If the world could see you, your families, your memories as they authentically are on the inside, what would they see? Would this be different than the “you” shown on the outside?
“Imagine singing at the top of your lungs in the shower as you always do, then one day turning off the water and throwing back the curtain to see there in your bathroom a crowd of people, rapt, with videotape. I wanted to throw a towel over my head” (Kingsolver 472).
- If the world read your personal journal, what would it find? Would people be surprised? Embarrassed? Upset? Happy?
“I had written: ‘Pittman was 20 years behind the nation in practically every way you can think of except the rate of teenage pregnancies…we were the last place in the country to get the dial system. Up until 1973, you just picked up the receiver and said, Marge, get me my Uncle Roscoe…I’ve photographed my hometown in its undershirt” (Kingsolver 473).
- What is the real description of your hometown? (Not the “Visitor’s Guide” description) What do only people who live in your hometown know about it? How do the insiders describe it? What does your hometown look like it its “undershirt?”
“I was a bookworm who never quite fit her clothes. I managed to look fine in my school pictures, but as usual the truth lay elsewhere” (Kingsolver 474).
- What is the truth behind your photographs? Choose one specific picture and tell us what people see and then the truth behind it.
“Before the book signing was over, more than one of my old schoolmates had sidled up and whispered: ‘That Lou Ann character, the insecure one? I know you based her on me” (Kingsolver 476).
- Do we all have insecurities and uncertainties? Do we consider other people’s insecurities or just our own? Do we try to hide our insecurities from other people, and why or why not?
Just Add Students
Tools to Help You Teach Middle School ELA
5 Creative Writing Activities Students Love
Need to engage your students? Whether you are teaching a creative writing class or a traditional one, here are fun, quick writing activities you can use to any time to get your reluctant writers — writing!
They are great when:
- there are 20 minutes before the assembly starts
- one class gets ahead of another – and you need a “holding” lesson until you can get your classes aligned
- students are super-squirrelly, but still need to work
- your class is stagnant and everyone needs a boost (including you!)
- you’re looking for creative writing games
- students need a quick creative writing activity to warm them up
- you want to introduce a new writing unit
It’s great to have quick, fun creative writing exercises and lesson plans to turn to when you have extra class time to fill.
If students don’t finish, have them hold onto them for another day. There always seems to be a pocket of time you need to fill — and these quick creative writing prompts are perfect! No printed worksheets necessary!
1. Pass-back Stories
If you haven’t taught them, here is how they work:
- Every student has a blank piece of paper and pen.
- The teacher provides the story starter. It can be something like, “Suddenly, the lights went out,” or “Our camping trip was going great until,” or “I knew it was a bad idea to…”
- The students write the story starter at the top of the page and then start writing the story.
- The teacher sets the timer (2 minutes or so); when the timer goes off, the students must pass their paper back to the person behind them. The last person in the row, runs her paper up to the first person. Students must stop writing when the teacher calls time — even if they are in the middle of a sentence!
- Continue with each student down the row adding to the story.
- After a few rounds, students will end up with their own paper again. They then need to write a conclusion to their story.
Reasons to love this little lesson:
- It’s fast and fun
- Students love reading and adding to each other’s stories
- Students are practicing spontaneous writing – their imaginations are firing and their creative writing skills are being challenged.
- Reinforces writing skills – students know their story needs to have a beginning, middle, and end.
- Perfect to add to your back to school writing ideas.
- Provide creative writing exercises for beginners
- Review of when to start new paragraphs
- Works with middle school through high school students.
- If you’re looking for a fun end of the year activity , give this a try.
Adjustments you might want to make:
- Rearrange your classroom into even rows.
- Set some rules and restrictions. For example, you may want to stipulate that no real people can be mentioned in the story, or that it must be rated G.
- Once students get the idea, you can have “challenge” items in each round. For example, students have to include a groundhog, or must use the word “confetti.” I announce this right before setting the timer.
- Play with the time limit. The time limit makes it a fun writing game. Try not too give them too much time; you want them to finish writing in the middle of an idea — that creates a challenge for the next writer!
- Collect all the stories at the end of the class. Read a few of the best to the class the next day — or allow students to read their stories in small groups. I like to collect and read to sort out any stories that might have pushed boundaries or forgotten the rules!
Once your students do this, they will beg you to write pass-back stories, but I wouldn’t recommend using them more that a few times in a school year. That keeps them fresh and exciting!
2. Guess-who Character Cards
If you haven’t taught it, here’s how it works:
- Provide each students with a picture of someone they are not familiar with. It could be a picture from an ad, a “Guess Who” game card, or a photo you find online. The important thing is that students don’t know the person.
- Have students write a quick description of the person. Encourage them to create as clear a detailed description as possible.
- Collect descriptions, post pictures around the room, redistribute descriptions and challenge students to match the picture with the description.
- challenges students to look at details in a photo. (If you need more descriptive writing activities, you might be interested in this post. )
- fun and fast — students love matching the description with the photo
- writing with a purpose – students know their descriptions must be accurate and specific
- encourages students to use descriptive words
- add to your beginner writing exercises to help students pay attention to details
Adjustments you may want to make:
- If you teach more than one section, swap descriptions so students need to read and match pictures and descriptions from a completely different class.
- Allow students to work with a partner
- Turn it into one of your writing games by providing points for correct matches.
3. Guess-who Characters — with a twist!
How it works:
- Follow the directions for the Guess-who character description above except instead of writing a description of the character, students write dialogue the character has.
- Students have the chance to see how dialogue tells us about a character.
- It provides writing with voice.
- P ractice writing dialogue .
- It’s one of those school writing prompts that really engages!
- Perfect to add to your creative writing lessons as a start of the year review of dialogue
- Allow students to work together with two different pictures. The characters in the pictures might be having a conversation, argument, or debate.
- Extend the lesson into a full scene that involves the character.
- Challenge students to write a backstory about the character.
4. Quirky prompts
Students love learning about the oddball holidays that are so popular (you can find them in my “What to teach this month” posts ).
How to do this:
- Choose a quirky holiday. It doesn’t have to be the holiday of the day — any quirky day will work!
- Ask students to plan a celebration for the day. They can write a flyer, an ad, a commercial, or create a party plan.
- Or have students describe what happens at this celebration. They can include as much description as possible.
- students love the quirkiness of this assignment!
- creative and imaginative
- these work for extra practice for creative writing lessons for high school or middle school
- If you have more time, you can give students different holidays. They can describe the celebration without naming it. Later, students can try to match the holiday and the description.
- Allow students to include illustrations with their descriptions.
- Ask students to come up with slogans, flag, or fashion wear for the holiday. Make sure they can justify their creation.
5. Use story starters!
You can find 22 story starters in my store!
How to use them:
- Print the story starter writing prompts (you may want to use cardstock).
- Distribute them to your students & let them get started.
Reasons to love these:
- your students will want to know what story starter their classmates have, so this makes for a great opportunity for students to read their writing aloud!
- super easy to use! Print and use.
- flexible creative writing activities for elementary, middle, or high school
- you can also use these as a “fast finisher” prompt or a warm up .
- incorporate them into your creative writing class.
- perfect for the end of the school year or before a break begins
- students can trade story starters and start over.
Ready for more?
Once your students are warmed up, give them the opportunity to really stretch their writing skills by crafting a short story.
This story writing activity will take your students through the entire writing process. You can find this one and other school writing activities in my shop .
Creative writing activities can challenge and stretch your students — give one of these a try!
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100 Writing Practice Lessons & Exercises
by Joe Bunting | 50 comments
Want to become a better writer? Perhaps you want to write novels, or maybe you just want to get better grades in your essay writing assignments , or maybe you'd like to start a popular blog .
If you want to write better, you need practice. But what does a writing practice actually look like? In this post, I'm going to give you everything you need to kick off your writing practice and become a better writer faster.
What Is Writing Practice?
Writing practice is a method of becoming a better writer that usually involves reading lessons about the writing process, using writing prompts, doing creative writing exercises , or finishing writing pieces, like essays, short stories , novels , or books . The best writing practice is deliberate, timed, and involves feedback.
How Do You Practice Writing?
This was the question I had when I first started The Write Practice in 2011. I knew how to practice a sport and how to practice playing an instrument. But for some reason, even after studying it in college, I wasn't sure how to practice writing.
I set out to create the best writing practice I could. The Write Practice is the result.
I found that the best writing practice has three aspects:
Deliberate . Writing whatever you feel like may be cathartic, but it's not an effective way to become a better writer or build your writing skills. You'll get better faster by practicing a specific technique or aspect of the writing process each time you sit down to write.
This is why we have a new lesson about the writing process each day on The Write Practice, followed by a practice prompt at the end so you can put what you learned to use immediately.
Timed . It's no secret writers struggle with focus. There are just too many interesting distractions—Facebook, email, Kim Kardashian's Instagram feed (just kidding about that last one, sort of)—and writing is just too hard sometimes.
Setting a timer, even for just fifteen minutes, is an easy and effective way to stay focused on what's important.
This is why in our writing practice prompt at the end of each post we have a time limit, usually with a link to an online tool egg timer , so you can focus on deliberate practice without getting distracted.
Feedback . Getting feedback is one of the requirements to deliberately practice writing or any other craft. Feedback can look like listening to the reactions of your readers or asking for constructive criticism from editors and other writers.
This is why we ask you to post your writing practice after each lesson, so that you can get feedback from other writers in The Write Practice community. It's also why we set up The Write Practice Pro community , to provide critique groups for writers to get feedback on each finished piece of writing.
Our 100+ Best Creative Writing Practice Exercises and Lessons
Now that you know how we practice writing at The Write Practice, here are our best writing practice lessons to jumpstart your writing skills with some daily writing exercises, for beginner writers to even the most expert writers:
All-Time, Top 10 Writing Lessons and Exercises
These ten posts are our most viewed articles to boost your writing practice:
1. What is Plot? The 6 Elements of Plot and How to Use Them . Great stories use similar elements in wildly different ways to build page-turning stories. Click here to read what they are and learn how to start using them !
2. Top 100 Short Story Ideas . Here are over a hundred writing prompts in a variety of genres. If you need ideas for your next story, check this out!
3. How To Use Neither, Nor, Or, and Nor Correctly . Even good writers struggle figuring out when to use neither/nor and either/or. In this post, our copy-queen Liz Bureman settles the confusion once and for all. Click to continue to the writing exercise
4. Ten Secrets To Write Better Stories . How does Pixar manage to create such great stories, year after year? And how do you write a good story? In this post, I distill everything I've learned about how to write a good story into ten tips. Click to continue to the writing exercise
5. 35 Questions To Ask Your Characters From Marcel Proust . To get to know my characters better, I use a list of questions known as the Proust Questionnaire, made famous by French author, Marcel Proust. Click to continue to the writing exercise
6. How a Scene List Can Change Your Novel-Writing Life . Creating a scene list changed my novel-writing life, and doing the same will change yours too. Includes examples of the scene lists from famous authors. Click to continue to the writing exercise
7. Why You Need to be Using the Oxford Comma . Most people I've met have no idea what the Oxford comma is, but it's probably something that you have used frequently in your writing. Click to continue to the writing exercise
8. Six Surprising Ways to Write Better Interview Questions. The interview is the most-used tool in a journalist's bag. But that doesn't mean novelists, bloggers, and even students can't and don't interview people. Here's how to conduct a great interview. Click to continue to the writing exercise
9. Why You Should Try Writing in Second Person . You've probably used first person and third person point-of-view already. But what about second person? This post explains three reasons why you should try writing from this point-of-view. Click to continue to the writing exercise
10. The Secret to Show, Don't Tell . You've heard the classic writing rule, “Show. Don't Tell.” Every writing blog ever has talked about it, and for good reason. Showing, for some reason, is really difficult. Click to continue to the writing exercise.
12 Exercises and Lessons To Become a Better Writer
How do you become a better writer? These posts share our best advice:
- Want to Be a Better Writer? Cut These 7 Words
- What I Mean When I Say I Am A Writer
- How to Become a Writer: 3 Simple Steps
- 72% of Writers Struggle With THIS
- 7 Lies About Becoming a Writer That You Probably Believe
- 10 Questions to Find Your Unique Writing Voice
- The Best Writing Book I’ve Ever Read
- The Best Way to Become a Better Writer
- The Creative Writer’s Toolkit: 6 Tools You Can’t Write Without
- Should You Write More or Write Better: Quantity vs Quality
- How to Become a Better Writer in One, Simple Step
- 11 Writing Tips That Will Change Your Life
6 Lessons and Exercises from Great Writers
If you want to be a writer, learn from the great writers who have gone before you:
- 23 Essential Quotes from Ernest Hemingway About Writing
- 29 Quotes that Explain How to Become a Better Writer
- 10 Lessons Dr. Seuss Can Teach Writers
- 10 Writing Tips from Ursula Le Guin
- Once Upon a Time: Pixar Prompt
- All the Pretty Words: Writing In the Style of Cormac McCarthy
12 Genre and Format Specific Writing Lessons and Exercises
Here are our best writing lessons for specific types of writing, including essays, screenplays, memoir, short stories, children's books, and humor writing:
- Writing an Essay? Here Are 10 Effective Tips
- How To Write a Screenplay: The 5 Step Process
- How to Write a Great Memoir: a Complete Guide
- How to Write a Short Story from Start to Finish
- How to Write a Thriller Novel
- How to Write a Children's Book
- How to Write a Love Story
- How to Write a Coming of Age Story or Book
- How to Write an Adventure Book
- 5 Key Elements for Successful Short Stories
- 4 Tips to Write a Novel That Will Be Adapted Into a Movie
- Humor Writing for People Who Aren’t Funny
14 Characterization Lessons and Exercises
Good characters are the foundation of good fiction. Here are our best lessons to create better characters:
- Character Development: How to Create Characters Audiences Will Love
- Writing Villains: 9 Evil Examples of the Villain Archetype
- How NOT to Introduce a New Character
- The Strongest Form of Characterization
- The Most Important Character Archetype
- How Do You Build A Strong Character In Your Writing?
- 75+ Antihero Examples and How to Use Them
- How to Explore Your Characters’ Motivations
- 8 Tips for Naming Characters
- The Protagonist: How to Center Your Story
- Heroes vs. Anti-Heroes: Which Is Right For Your Story?
- The Weakest Form of Characterization
- How to Write With an Accent
- How To Create a Character Sketch Using Scrivener
15 Grammar Lessons and Exercises
I talk to so many writers, some of whom are published authors, who struggle with grammar. Here are our best writing lessons on grammar:
- Is It Okay To End A Sentence With A Preposition?
- Contractions List: When To Use and When To Avoid
- Good vs. Well
- Connotation vs. Denotation
- Per Se vs. Per Say
- When You SHOULD Use Passive Voice
- When Do You Use “Quotation Marks”
- Polysyndeton and Asyndeton: Definition and Examples
- The Case Against Twilight
- Affect Versus Effect
- Stop Saying “Literally”
- What Is a Comma Splice? And Why Do Editors Hate Them?
- Intra vs. Inter: Why No One Plays Intermural Sports
- Alright and Alot: Words That Are Not Words
- The Poor, Misunderstood Semicolon
4 Journalism Lessons and Exercises
Want to be a journalist? Or even use techniques from journalism to improve your novel, essay, or screenplay? Here are our best writing lessons on journalism:
- Six Ways to Ask Better Questions In Interviews
- How Should You Interview Someone? Over Email? In Person?
- What If They Don’t Want to Talk to You?
- Eleven Habits of a Highly Effective Interviewers
16 Plot and Structure Lessons and Exercises
Want to write a good story? Our top plot and structure lessons will help:
- The Ten Types of Story and How to Master Them
- Points of a Story: 6 Plot Points Every Story Needs
- How to Shape a Story: The 6 Arcs
- 7 Keys To Write the Perfect First Line of a Novel
- The Secret to Creating Conflict
- 4 Tips to Avoid Having Your Short Story Rejected by a Literary Magazine
- 7 Steps to Creating Suspense
- 5 Elements of Storytelling
- 3 Important Rules for Writing Endings
- A Writer’s Cheatsheet to Plot and Structure
- Overcoming the Monster
- How to Satisfy Your Reader With a Great Ending
- Pow! Boom! Ka-Pow! 5 Tips to Write Fight Scenes
- The Dramatic Question and Suspense in Fiction
- How to Write a Memorable Beginning and Ending
- How to Write the Perfect First Page
6 Lessons and Exercises to Beat Writer's Block
Writer's block is real, and it can completely derail your writing. Here are six lessons to get writing again:
- How To Write Whether You Feel Like it Or Not
- This Fun Creative Writing Exercise Will Change Your Life
- When You Should Be Writing But Can't…
- What to do When Your Word Count is Too Low
- 7 Tricks to Write More with Less Willpower
- When You Don’t Know What to Write, Write About Your Insecurities
7 Literary Technique Lessons and Exercises
These writing and storytelling techniques will teach you a few tricks of the trade you may not have discovered before:
- 3 Tips to “Show, Don’t Tell” Emotions and Moods
- 3 Reasons to Write Stream of Consciousness Narrative
- 16 Observations About Real Dialogue
- Intertextuality As A Literary Device
- Why You Should Use Symbolism In Your Writing
- 6 Ways to Evoke Emotion in Poetry and Prose
- 3 Tips To Write Modern Allegorical Novels
- Symbol vs. Motif: What’s the Difference
3 Inspirational Writing Lessons and Exercises
Need some inspiration? Here are three of our most inspiring posts:
- Why We Write: Four Reasons
- You Must Remember Every Scar
- 17 Reasons to Write Something NOW
3 Publishing Blogging Lessons and Exercises
If you want to get published, these three lessons will help:
- The Secret to Writing On Your Blog Every Day
- How to Publish Your Book and Sell Your First 1,000 Copies
- How to Get Published in Literary Magazines
11 Writing Prompts
Need inspiration or just a kick in the pants to write. Try one of our top writing prompts :
- Grandfathers [writing prompt]
- Out of Place [writing prompt]
- Sleepless [writing prompt]
- Longing [writing prompt]
- Write About Yourself [writing prompt]
- 3 Reasons You Should Write Ghost Stories
- Road Trip [writing prompt]
- Morning [writing prompt]
- The Beach [writing prompt]
- Fall [writing prompt]
- How to Use Six-Word Stories As Writing Prompts
Is It Time To Begin Your Writing Practice?
It's clear that if you want to become a writer, you need to practice writing. We've created a proven process to practice your writing at The Write Practice, but even if you don't join our community, I hope you'll start practicing in some way today.
Personally, I waited far too long to start practicing and it set my writing back years.
How about you? Do you think practicing writing is important? Let me know in the comments section .
Choose one of the writing practice posts above. Then, read the lesson and participate in the writing exercise, posting your work in the Pro Practice Workshop . And if you post, please give feedback to your fellow writers who also posted their practices.
Have fun and happy practicing!
Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).
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The best writing exercises bring out our latent creativity. Especially if you ever feel stuck or blocked, making creative writing exercises part of your daily writing practice can be a great way to both hone your skills and explore new frontiers in your writing. Whether you’re a poet, essayist, storyteller, or genre-bending author, these free writing exercises will jumpstart your creative juices and improve your writing abilities.
24 of the Best Free Writing Exercises to Try Out Today
The best creative writing exercises will push you out of your comfort zone and get you to experiment with words. Language is your sandbox, so let’s build some sand castles with these exercises and writing prompts.
Write With Limitations
The English language is huge, complicated, and — quite frankly — chaotic. Writing with self-imposed limitations can help you create novel and inventive pieces.
What does “limitations” mean in this context? Basically, force yourself not to use certain words, descriptions, or figures of speech. Some writing exercises using limitations include the following:
- Write without using adverbs or adjectives.
- Write without using the passive voice – no “being verbs” whatsoever. (Also called “E-Prime” writing.)
- Write a story without using a common letter – just like Ernest Vincent Wright did .
- Write a poem where each line has six words.
- Write without using any pronouns.
Among exercises to improve writing skills, writing with limitations has the clearest benefits. This practice challenges your brain to think about language productively. Additionally, these limitations force you to use unconventional language – which, in turn, makes you write with lucidity, avidity, and invention.
Check Out Our Online Writing Courses!
The Wandering Heart: Tales of Connection
with Giulietta Nardone
November 29th, 2023
Wander through the rooms of your own life to discover stories of deep connection, reconnection or loss of connection and fashion your findings into stories suitable for blog posts, essays, short memoirs, short plays, scenes in screenplays, or chapters of novels.
Poems of All Sizes: Haiku, Tanka, and Japanese Poetic Forms
with Miho Kinnas
November 30th, 2023
Explore the history and poetics of Japanese poetry forms, and write haiku, tanka, renga, haiga, and linked verse poetry.
Kickstart Your Novel
with Eman Quotah
December 3rd, 2023
How do novelists turn an idea into a published book? Gain the confidence to be a novelist in this transformational 3 hour workshop.
Show and Tell: How to Write Captivating Memoir and Nonfiction
with Brad Wetzler
December 5th, 2023
Your true story of healing or transformation can captivate and empower your readers. Learn how to balance showing the vivid details of your own journey with telling the broader themes for readers to apply in their own lives.
Call of the Weird: Poetry and Nature
with Caitlin Scarano
December 6th, 2023
Turn your poetic lens towards the outdoors in this six week workshop, where we'll put to verse everything strange and wonderful about the natural world.
Freewriting & Stream of Consciousness
What do you do when the words just don’t come out? How can you write better if you can’t seem to write at all? One of the best poetry exercises, as well as writing exercises in general, is to start your day by freewriting.
Freewriting, also known as “stream of consciousness writing,” involves writing your thoughts down the moment they come. There’s no filtering what you write, and no controlling what you think: topicality, style, and continuity are wholly unnecessary in the freewriting process. While the idea of freewriting seems easy, it’s much harder than you think – examining your thoughts without controlling them takes a while to master, and the impulse to control what you write isn’t easy to tame. Try these exercises to master the skill:
- Do a timed freewrite. Start with five minutes.
- Freewrite until you fill up the entirety of something – an envelope, a receipt, a postcard, etc.
- Freewrite after meditating.
- Freewrite off of the first word of today’s newspaper.
Among daily writing exercises, freewriting is one of the best writing exercises. Poets can use freewritten material as inspiration for their poetry. Prose writers can also find inspiration for future stories from the depths of their consciousnesses. Start your writing day with freewriting, and watch your creativity blossom.
Copy What You Read
Plagiarism is still off the table; however, you can learn a lot by paying attention to how other people write. This is what we call “reading like a writer.”
Reading like a writer means paying attention to the craft elements that make an excellent piece of literature work. Good writing requires different writing styles, figurative language, story structures, and/or poetry forms, as well as key word choice.
When you notice these craft elements, you can go ahead and emulate them in your own work. As a fiction writer , you might be drawn to the way Haruki Murakami weaves folklore into his stories, and decide to write a story like that yourself. Or, as a poet, you might be inspired by Terrance Hayes’ Golden Shovel form — enough so that you write a Golden Shovel yourself.
- Read a favorite poem, and write your own poem in the same poetic form.
- Blackout poetry: take another poem, cross out words you don’t want to use, circle words you do, and write a poem based on the circled words.
- Copy a single sentence from a favorite novel, and write a short-short story with it.
Among free writing exercises, this is a great way to learn from the best. The best kinds of exercises to improve writing skills involve building upon the current canon of works — as Isaac Newton said, you achieve something great by “standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Write From Different Perspectives
The conventional advice given to writers is to “write what you know.” We couldn’t disagree with that statement more. The best creative works force both the writer and the reader to consider new perspectives and learn something new; writing from a new point-of-view makes for a great exercise in expanding your creative limits.
Try these ideas as daily writing exercises:
- Write a story with the same plot, but with two or more perspectives. For example, you could write a lover’s quarrel from two different view points.
- Write from the point-of-view of a famous historical figure.
- Write a story or poem from the perspective of an object: a statue, a doll, a roomba, etc.
- Write from the perspective of a person you dislike.
While playing with perspective makes for a great fiction writing exercise , poets and essayists can do this too. Patricia Smith’s poem “Skinhead,” for example, is a persona piece written from the perspective of a white nationalist, but the poem clearly condemns the speaker’s beliefs.
Thus, perspective writing also works as a poetry exercise and an essay writing practice exercise . If you’re stuck in your own head, try writing in someone else’s!
Write Metaphor Lists
All creative writers need figurative language. While metaphors, similes, and synecdoches are more prominent in poetry , prose writers need the power of metaphor to truly engross their reader. Among both exercises to improve writing skills and fun writing exercises for adults, writing metaphor lists is one of the best writing exercises out there.
A metaphor list is simple. On a notebook, create two columns. In one column, write down only concrete nouns. Things like a pillow, a tree, a cat, a cloud, and anything that can be perceived with one of the five senses.
In the other list, write down only abstract ideas. Things like love, hate, war, peace, justice, closure, and reconciliation — anything that is conceptual and cannot be directly perceived.
Now, choose a random noun and a random concept, and create a metaphor or simile with them. Delve into the metaphor and explain the comparison. For example, you might say “Love is like a pillow — it can comfort, or it can smother.”
Once you’ve mastered the metaphor list, you can try the following ideas to challenge yourself:
- Create a coherent poem out of your metaphor list.
- Turn your metaphor list into a short story.
- Try making lists with a different figurative language device, such as personification, pathetic fallacy, or metonymy.
Any free creative writing exercise that focuses on figurative language can aid your writing immensely, as it helps writers add insight and emotionality to their work. This is an especially great creative writing exercise for beginners as they learn the elements of style and language.
Of course, the best way to improve your creative writing skills is simply to write every day. Keeping a daily journal is a great way to exercise your writing mind. By sitting down with your personal observations and writing without an agenda or audience, a daily writing practice remains one of the best writing exercises , regardless of your genre or level of expertise.
Consider these ideas for your daily journal:
- Track your mood and emotions throughout the day. Write those emotions in metaphor — avoid commonplace adjectives and nouns.
- Write about your day from the second- or third-person.
- Journal your day in verse. Use stanzas, line breaks, and figurative language.
- Write about your day backwards.
- Write about your day using Freytag’s pyramid . Build up to a meaningful climax, even if nothing significant seemed to happen today.
Writing Exercises: Have Fun with Them!
Many of these writing exercises might feel challenging at first—and that’s a good thing! You will unlock new ideas and writing strengths by struggling through these creative challenges. The main point is to have fun with them and use them to explore within your writing, without indulging too many monologues from your inner critic.
Are you looking for more exercises to improve your writing skills? Our instructors can offer prompts, illuminating lectures, one-to-one feedback, and more to help you improve your craft. Check out our upcoming creative writing courses , and let’s put these skills to practice.
Thank you for this. I’ve been stuck for months—more than that, actually, and you’d think that a pandemic stay-at-home would be the perfect time to do some writing. But no. I’m as stuck as ever. In fact, the only time I seem able to write consistently and well is when I’m taking one of your classes! I’m still saving my pennies, but these exercises will hopefully get me writing in the meantime. Thanks again!
Hi Kathy, I’m glad to hear some of these tips might spark your creativity 🙂 I feel the same way, I was hoping the stay-at-home order might spark some creativity, but we shouldn’t push ourselves too hard – especially in the midst of a crisis.
The best part about writing: all you have to do is try, and you’ve already succeeded. Good luck on your writing endeavors!
Bravo….!What a great piece! Honestly I learnt a lot here!
I picked interest in poetry just a week ago after reading a beautiful piece which captivated my mind into the world of writing. I’d love to write great poems but I don’t know anything about poetry, I need a coach, a motivator and an inspiration to be able to do this. This piece really helped me but I will appreciate some more tips and help from you or anyone else willing to help, I am really fervid about this.
Thanks for your comment! I’m so excited for you to start your journey with poetry. We have more advice for poetry writing at the articles under this link: https://writers.com/category/poetry
Additionally, you might be interested in two of our upcoming poetry courses: Poetry Workshop and How to Craft a Poem .
If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at [email protected] . Many thanks, and happy writing!
[…] 24 Best Writing Exercises to Become a Better Writer | writers.com […]
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As a writer, I often struggle to break free from the chains of writer’s block, but this blog has gifted me with a map of inspiration to navigate through those creative storms. It’s like being handed a box of enchanted writing exercises
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- Research-Based Teaching Tips
Efficient Ways to Improve Student Writing
Strategies, Ideas, and Recommendations from the faculty Development Literature
- View the improvement of students’ writing as your responsibility. Teaching writing is not only the job of the English department alone. Writing is an essential tool for learning a discipline and helping students improve their writing skills is a responsibility for all faculty.
- Let students know that you value good writing. Stress the importance of clear, thoughtful writing. Faculty who tell students that good writing will be rewarded and poor writing will be penalized receive better essays than instructors who don't make such demands. In the syllabus, on the first day, and throughout the term, remind students that they must make their best effort in expressing themselves on paper. Back up your statements with comments on early assignments that show you really mean it, and your students will respond.
- Regularly assign brief writing exercises in your classes. To vary the pace of a lecture course, ask students to write a few minutes during class. Some mixture of in-class writing, outside writing assignments, and exams with open-ended questions will give students the practice they need to improve their skills.
- Provide guidance throughout the writing process. After you have made the assignment, discuss the value of outlines and notes, explain how to select and narrow a topic, and critique the first draft, define plagiarism as well.
- Don't feel as though you have to read and grade every piece of your students' writing. Ask students to analyze each other's work during class, or ask them to critique their work in small groups. Students will learn that they are writing in order to think more clearly, not obtain a grade. Keep in mind, you can collect students' papers and skim their work.
- Find other faculty members who are trying to use writing more effectively in their courses. Pool ideas about ways in which writing can help students learn more about the subject matter. See if there is sufficient interest in your discipline to warrant drawing up guidelines. Students welcome handouts that give them specific instructions on how to write papers for a particular course or in a particular subject area.
Teaching Writing When You Are Not an English Teacher
- Remind students that writing is a process that helps us clarify ideas. Tell students that writing is a way of learning, not an end in itself. Also let them know that writing is a complicated, messy, nonlinear process filled with false starts. Help them to identify the writer's key activities:
- Developing ideas
- Finding a focus and a thesis
- Composing a draft
- Getting feedback and comments from others
- Revising the draft by expanding ideas, clarifying meaning, reorganizing
- Presenting the finished work to readers
- Explain that writing is hard work. Share with your class your own struggles in grappling with difficult topics. If they know that writing takes effort, they won't be discouraged by their own pace or progress. One faculty member shared with students their notebook that contained the chronology of one of his published articles: first ideas, successive drafts, submitted manuscript, reviewers' suggested changes, revised version, galley proofs, and published article.
- Give students opportunities to talk about their writing. Students need to talk about papers in progress so that they can formulate their thoughts, generate ideas, and focus their topics. Take five or ten minutes of class time for students to read their writing to each other in small groups or pairs. It's important for students to hear what their peers have written.
- Encourage students to revise their work. Provide formal steps for revision by asking students to submit first drafts of papers for your review or for peer critique. You can also give your students the option of revising and rewriting one assignment during the semester for a higher grade. Faculty report that 10 to 40 percent of the students take advantage of this option.
- Explain thesis statements. A thesis statement makes an assertion about some issue. A common student problem is to write papers that present overviews of facts with no thesis statement or that have a diffuse thesis statement.
- Stress clarity and specificity. The more the abstract and difficult the topic, the more concrete the student's language should be. Inflated language and academic jargon camouflage rather than clarify their point.
- Explain the importance of grammar and sentence structure, as well as content. Students shouldn't think that English teachers are the only judges of grammar and style. Tell your students that you will be looking at both quality of their writing and the content.
- Distribute bibliographies and tip sheets on good writing practices. Check with your English department or writing center to identify materials that can be easily distributed to students. Consider giving your students a bibliography of writing guides, for example:
Crews, F.C. Random House Handbook. (6th ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992.
A classic comprehensive textbook for college students. Well written and well worth reading.
Lanham, R.A. Revising Prose . (3rd ed.) New York: Scribner's, 1991. Techniques for eliminating
bureaucratese and restoring energy to tired prose.
Tollefson, S. K. Grammar Grams and Grammar Grams II . New York: HarperCollins, 1989,
1992. Two short, witty guides that answer common questions about grammar, style, and usage. Both are fun to read.
- Science and Engineering Barrass, R. Scientists Must Write. New York: Chapman and Hall, 1978. Biddle, A. W., and Bean, D. J. Writer's Guide: Life Sciences. Lexington, Mass.: Heath, 1987.
- Arts and Humanities Barnet, S. A Short Guide to Writing About Art . Boston: Little, Brown, 1989. Goldman, B. Reading and Writing in the Arts. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1978.
- Social Sciences Biddle, A. W., Fulwiler, T., and Holland, K.M. Writer's Guide: Psychology . Lexington, Mass,:
Heath, 1987. McCloskey, D. N. The Writing of Economics . New York: Macmillan, 1987.
- Ask a composition instructor to give a presentation to your students. Invite a guest speaker from the composition department or student learning center to talk to your students about effective writing and common writing problems. Faculty who have invited these experts report that such presentations reinforce the values of the importance of writing.
- Let students know about available tutoring services. Individual or group tutoring in writing is available on most campuses. Ask someone from the tutoring center to give a demonstration in your class.
- Use computers to help students write better. Locally developed and commercially available software are now being used by faculty to help students plan, write, and revise their written work. Some software available allows instructors to monitor students' work in progress and lets students collaborate with their classmates.
Assigning In-Class Writing Activities
- Ask students to write what they know about a topic before you discuss it. Ask your students to write a brief summary of what they already know or what opinions they hold regarding the subject you are about to discuss. The purpose of this is to focus the students' attention, there is no need to collect the summaries.
- Ask students to respond in writing to questions you pose during class. Prior to class starting, list two or three short-answer questions on the board and ask your students to write down their responses. Your questions might call for a review of material you have already discussed or recalling information from assigned readings.
- Ask students to write from a pro or con position. When presenting an argument, stop and ask your students to write down all the reasons and evidence they can think of that supports one side or the other. These statements can be used as the basis for discussion.
- During class, pause for a three-minute write. Periodically ask students to write freely for three minutes on a specific question or topic. They should write whatever pops into their mind without worrying about grammar, spelling, phrasing, or organization. This kind of free writing, according to writing experts, helps students synthesize diverse ideas and identify points they may not understand. There is no need to collect these exercises.
- Have students write a brief summary at the end of class. At the end of the class period, give your students index cards to jot down the key themes, major points, or general principles of the day's discussion. You can easily collect the index cards and review them to see whether the class understood the discussion.
- Have one student keep minutes to be read at the next class meeting. By taking minutes, students get a chance to develop their listening, synthesizing, and writing skills. Boris (1983) suggests the following:
- Prepare your students by having everyone take careful notes for the class period, go home and rework them into minutes, and hand them in for comments. It can be the students' discretion whether the minutes are in outline or narrative form.
- Decide on one to two good models to read or distribute to the class.
- At the beginning of each of the following classes, assign one student to take minutes for the period.
- Give a piece of carbon paper to the student who is taking minutes so that you can have a rough copy. The student then takes the original home and revises it in time to read it aloud at the next class meeting.
- After the student has read their minutes, ask other students to comment on their accuracy and quality. If necessary, the student will revise the minutes and turn in two copies, one for grading and one for your files.
- Structure small group discussion around a writing task. For example, have your students pick three words that are of major importance to the day's session. Ask your class to write freely for two to three minutes on just one of the words. Next, give the students five to ten minutes to meet in groups to share what they have written and generate questions to ask in class.
- Use peer response groups. Divide your class into groups of three or four, no larger. Ask your students to bring to class enough copies of a rough draft of a paper for each person in their group. Give your students guidelines for critiquing the drafts. In any response task, the most important step is for the reader to note the part of the paper that is the strongest and describe to the writer why it worked so well. The following instructions can also be given to the reader:
- State the main point of the paper in a single sentence
- List the major subtopics
- Identify confusing sections of the paper
- Decide whether each section of the paper has enough detail, evidence, and information
- Indicate whether the paper's points follow one another in sequence
- Judge the appropriateness of the opening and concluding paragraphs
- Identify the strengths of the paper
Written critiques done as homework are likely to be more thoughtful, but critiques may also be done during the class period.
- Use read-around groups. Read-around groups are a technique used with short assignments (two to four pages) which allows everyone to read everyone else's paper. Divide the class into groups no larger than four students and divide the papers (coded for anonymity) into as many sets as there are groups. Give each group a set and ask the students to read each paper silently and decide on the best paper in the set. Each group should discuss their choices and come to a consensus on the best paper. The paper's code number is recorded by the group, and the same process is repeated with a new set of papers. After all the groups have read all the sets of papers, someone from each group writes on the board the code number from the best paper in each set. The recurring numbers are circled. Generally, one to three papers stand out.
- Ask students to identify the characteristics of effective writing. After completing the read-around activity, ask your students to reconsider those papers which were voted as excellent by the entire class and to write down features that made each paper outstanding. Write their comments on the board, asking for elaboration and probing vague generalities. In pairs, the students discuss the comments on the board and try to put them into categories such as organization, awareness of audience, thoroughness of detail, etc. You might need to help your students arrange the characteristics into meaningful categories.
The Strategies, Ideas and Recommendations Here Come Primarily From:
Gross Davis, B. Tools for Teaching . San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1993.
And These Additional Sources…
Boris, E. Z. "Classroom Minutes: A Valuable Teaching Device." Improving College and
University Teaching, 1983,31(2), 70-73.
Elbow, P. "Using Writing to Teach Something Else." Unpublished paper, 1987.
Hawisher, G. E., and Selfe, C. L. (eds.). Critical Perspectives on Computers and
Composition Instruction. New York: Teachers College Press, 1989.
Holdstein, D. H., and Selfe, C. L. (eds.). Computers and Writing: Theory, Research,
Practice. New York: Modern Language Association, 1990.
Lowman, J. Mastering the Techniques of Teaching . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984.
Petersen, B. T. "Additional Resources in the Practice of Writing Across the Disciplines."
In C. W. Griffin (ed.), Teaching Writing in All Disciplines . New Directions in Teaching and Learning, no. 12. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1982.
Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education.
Bright Idea Network , 1989. (For information contact David Graf, Iowa State University, Ames.)
Pytlik, B. P. "Teaching Teachers of Writing: Workshops on Writing as a Collaborative
Process." College Teaching , 1989, 37(1), 12-14.
Tollefson, S. K. Encouraging Student Writing . Berkeley: Office of Educational
Development, University of California, 1988.
Walvoord, B. F. Helping Students Write Well: A Guide for Teachers in All Disciplines.
(2nd ed.) New York: Modern Language Association, 1986.
Watkins, B. T. "More and More Professors in Many Academic Disciplines Routinely
Require Students to Do Extensive Writing." Chronicle of Higher Education, 1990, 36(44), pp. A13-14, A16.
In-Class Writing Activities for College Students
Writing is an essential skill in a liberal arts education and is something each person needs to learn how to do in their lifetime.
We’ll give you an overview here of the best writing activities, as well as why these writing activities are important. If you’re really in a crunch for your next essay , though, check out this cheap college essay writing service for custom papers.
Whether you’re a student or a professor, keep reading for our writing activity tips as well as some great recommendations on where to get custom writing online in a pinch.
Why Are Writing Activities Helpful?
There’s only one thing that separates a good writer from a great writer: practice. Great writers aren’t born that way, they write as much as possible, and use writing activities to target specific areas that they need to work on.
If you’re a writer, you may be familiar with the term “writer’s block.” You really want to write something, but you just can’t seem to get started. Any of the writing activities we are about to discuss here are super helpful for getting over that writer’s block.
Writing activities can also help you work on specific types of writing that you are not experienced in. For example, if you have written tons of academic essays for your classes, and suddenly you are assigned to write a piece of creative fiction, you might feel super out of your comfort zone. You can try some of the activities below in order to get that creative side of your writing brain turned all the way on.
Best In-Class Writing Activities
Here’s our list of some writing activities that may be super helpful for college students wishing to improve their writing skills.
This one is super simple, and it’s very helpful if you or your students are experiencing writer’s block. All you have to do is grab a pencil and paper, and set a timer for anywhere between one and ten minutes. Start the timer, and begin writing about whatever comes to mind. The only rule during this activity is that your pencil cannot leave the paper until the timer goes off.
This is a great brainstorming activity. When you’re finished, it may seem like just a bunch of gibberish, but read over it all and find a topic or sentence you wrote that you liked, and use it as inspiration for whatever your next writing assignment is.
To take this activity even further. Pick one or two sentences from your free-write , and write a 500-word paper about whatever those sentences say. This will really help to get your writer wheels turning.
This one is great for any sort of creative writing you wish to do. It’s very simple: pick three or four random words with no association to each other. Then write a story that uses all of those words. For example, I could say elevator, strawberry, notebook, and you would have to write a creative story that involves each of those words. Try it out!
Bubble mapping is a great activity that can be used for both nonfiction and fiction writing. It’s great if you’re a visual learner that has trouble organizing topics using just words. Bubble mapping is simply a form of outlining, but it is drawn in bubbles.
All you need to do is put your central topic in a bubble at the center of a blank sheet of paper, coming off of the bubbles you can write or draw the related points, stories, or characters you are going to cover, and off of those bubbles, you can write or draw the specific details associated with each of those bubbles.
When you’re done you’ll have a great mess of bubbles, pictures, and words that will serve as a great organizational tool for your writing.
What If I Need Help Writing My Paper?
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Activities like free-writing, improve writing, and bubble mapping are all great in-class writing activities for college students that need to hone in on certain skills or get over their writer’s block. However, some papers may just be too difficult, and there’s no shame in asking for help. If you need quality, affordable, custom papers, check out cheap college essay writing services online .
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What are your favorite writing activities? Have you ever used a writing service? Tell us about your experience below, and don’t forget to share this article on social media.
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10 Fun Classroom Writing Games to Improve Literacy Skills
The best writing games to engage students
A colleague of mine recently shared these ten great writing game ideas to improve literacy skills in the classroom. They are simple to play and can be applied to nearly all year levels.
These are some of the best writing games that require minimal or no setup time and are an excellent option for substitute teachers looking to quickly break the ice with students or English teachers just seeking fresh ideas to brighten up their lessons. Enjoy.
Remember that if you are looking for more excellent free resources and structured guides to teaching all aspects of English, especially writing, be sure to visit literacyideas.com .
Start with a short sentence or group of words. Pass it around to about 6 people, with the rule that each person must add (a word or a group of words) or change ONE word ( to another word or a group of words) to make the sentence more specific and more enjoyable.
Students write sentences or longer texts and substitute drawings for nouns.
COMPLETE DIGITAL AND PRINT FUN WRITING UNIT
25 FUN and ENGAGING writing tasks your students can complete INDEPENDENTLY with NO PREP REQUIRED that they will absolutely love.
Fully EDITABLE and works as with all DIGITAL PLATFORMS such as Google Classroom, or you can PRINT them for traditional writing tasks.
It’s in the bag
Place an object in a bag- ensure the students don’t see it. Students feel the object in the bag and use words to describe how it feels. They take it out and add /alter their adjectives.
Touch and tell
An object is passed around a group of students. Each student suggests an adjective to describe it.
Students provide an adjectival phrase or clause to describe the object
Students randomly select from a box a picture of an animal, person or object that moves. They brainstorm action verbs for the chosen object.
The students can supply verbs and adverbs
They can supply adjectives or adjectival groups
Read a text ( this case narrative ), and at a particular point, stop and ask students to select a character and suggest, for example:
- What the character is doing, thinking, and feeling ( focus on processes)
Change the meaning- change one word
Students locate and change one word that will alter the sentence’s meaning.
They share their alterations and discuss which part of speech was the most important in changing the meaning .
Locate and classify
Read a text and ask students to write nouns on cards ( red), adjectives (blue), and articles in orange. Rearrange words to create different noun groups. Students can also locate verbs ( green card) and adverbs (yellow). Rearrange all the words to create new sentences.
Students can locate adjectival phrases, clauses, or adverbial phrases and write these on other coloured cards.
Grammar toss- Sentence making
Players must throw a 1 before they can begin. The winner is the first person to make a sentence that includes all of the following:
- A group of words that tell what or who ( singular)
- A group of words that tell when
- A verb in the past tense
- An adverb telling how
- A group of words telling where
They can then rearrange the sentence parts to see how many ways they can make another meaningful sentence.
Other parts of speech can be used for each number thrown.
Toss and write
Before the activity, a cube is prepared. Upon each face of the cube, a task is written that requires specific grammar knowledge. For example:
Make a sentence
Make a question
Provide two adjectives
Provide two verbs
Create a noun group (e.g. article, adjective/s noun)
Provide a noun and an adverb
Students select a subject ( noun) from a tin. They throw the cube, and whichever side of the cube faces up is the task they must attempt.
OTHER GREAT ARTICLES RELATED TO WRITING GAMES
10 fun writing activities for the reluctant writer
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7 Fun Writing Sub Plans for Substitute Teachers
The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh. A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here. Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.
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Department of English
FYW courses put a primary emphasis on the circulation and development of ongoing academic projects rather than coverage of a specific content or explicit instruction in discrete skills. A FYW course functions as an academic seminar and, in this way, is built on the contributions of its members.
Because student projects provide the central focus of the course, then, working with student writing should be a part of most class sessions .
Ways to Feature Student Work
- Circulate drafts in process or portions of drafts in any number of ways (volunteers, random selection, copying a page (or even various sentences) from several drafts, asking students to choose a favorite paragraph or a place where they work with more than one text, etc.).
- Ask students to characterize, frame, or situate each other’s work (perhaps in a genre such as headnote, introduction, afterword, blog post, or even review).
- Build things together in a shared online space (e.g., a Course Bibliography in a Google Doc; an annotation or glossary of key terms in a Google Doc; a HuskyCT blog or discussion thread exploring potential extensions of the texts).
- Have students post drafts as discussion threads, allowing all students access and assigning a peer review process (with guidelines) for all group members.
- Build some peer reviewing in class and some out of class (through email or course management software).
- Help students build “affinity networks” or writing groups around similar projects.
- Feature a particular project from one student or from a collection you’ve made to help work through a problem or issue.
- Share reflective writing and process notes.
- Assign cover letters, informal (mid-process) presentations, formal presentations, or re-mediation projects (putting the larger project into a new genre or context).
Examples of Class Activities
Below is a list of in-class activities that instructors use in classes. These activities are not meant to be picked to “fill time.” They should be chosen to facilitate writing and group work and to meet that day’s specific learning outcomes. These are not the only activities you could or should do in class, but they should help instructors conceptualize the work of a single class period.
When students do individual or group work in class, be sure to have time afterward for the whole class to come together to reflect on and/or discuss the work that has been done. To avoid having students simply list what they discussed or found, it may be useful to structure that time as informal presentations, or to have groups upload their findings/ work to a common HuskyCT or Google Drive area. Some instructors also have groups write what they’ve done on the board or large-sized paper if a classroom is not tech-enabled.
The following examples are organized by generalized types of activities.
Working with Difficult Texts
Unpacking Difficult Passages
Prepare a handout with difficult passages from the text, or have students identify difficult passages in the reading. Assign students to different groups based on a particular passage. In groups, have students trace how a term or concept is used in a particular passage and in the text as a whole. They should pull specific quotes that help them back up their understanding. Groups should use the textual evidence as a means to begin “translating” the passages. Afterward, they should go back to the text and reflect on why the author(s) used a specific term or concept in the text.
Visually Mapping a Text
A variation of this activity is to have students map the key terms visually. Together in groups, students should map and link key terms used by the author. Maps might not (and perhaps should not) be linear—students are encouraged to see the many ways the terms seem to interact in the text. Afterward, groups can compare maps to add lines or connections that they may not have noticed previously.
Exploring the Uses of a Text
Current, Past, or Future Contexts
Depending on your course inquiry and assignments, you may want students to consider how class readings can apply to and work in relation to different contexts, especially in the beginning stages of a larger assignment. Your specific learning goals will help determine which context will make most sense for your class to explore.
Current Context: Choose a current issue or have students work together to find a current issue that relates to your course inquiry and the text. Choose yourself or have students select key terms or concepts from the reading to help them examine or analyze the issue. Students will need to conduct research on the issue in groups. Then, on their own, in writing, students should draw connections between the text and issue.
Past Context: Ask students to bring a laptop or tablet to class, or divide them into groups (at least one student in each group should have a laptop). Using their devices, students should explore the sociohistorical context of the reading in order to consider how it might have affected the text’s rhetoric (or vice versa).
Future Contexts: Have students consider how the text might be useful for future conflicts, issues, or developments in society or academia. The future context may be best paired with either the current or past contexts to demonstrate the development of ideas or movements over time. Students should explore self- or group-generated questions through individual writing, then discuss or otherwise share their ideas.
In small groups, students brainstorm for situations or concepts that the reading doesn’t seem to account for and why or how that situation or concept might be important to include or discuss in the conversation. The class makes a list of these various missing pieces, and then students individually reflect on how these choices reflect the priorities and rhetorical strategies of the author. What do their choices reveal about their aims?
What Is This Text? Who Is This Author?
Any assigned text can be accompanied with a small research component designed to help students place the text in a larger context. If you assign a text by Judith Butler, for exam- ple, students could be assigned roles to establish this context. One set of students could research Butler the person; another set could say more about what her influential writings are (and what they seek to do); a third set of students could trace the reception and influence of these texts. Based on this research, have students reflect in writing on the significance of these contexts and what these findings demonstrate about academic writing and this specific conversation. Next, use the contexts explored as a jumping-off point for students to begin exploring their next assignment.
Information Literacy and Handling Sources
One way to begin the conversation about Information Literacy (InfoLit) and how to use sources effectively is to ask students to explore how other writers use sources. Working with the texts used in class, invite students to choose, in groups, one of the works that the author has cited. Have students locate that source, read it (in its entirety if it’s short or just the relevant section if it’s long).
After reading the source, ask students to freewrite on the source’s main idea, what kind of source it is, and why the author used it. Then, in groups, have students discuss how the author of the class text used the source and how the source is contributing to the class text’s author’s main claims.
After facilitating a brief class discussion of the groups’ findings, have students reflect, individually in writing, on the different ways a writer can use sources and how such choices can inform their own writing.
InfoLit Through Terms, Search Engines, and Databases
As a class, have students brainstorm a research question that engages with the next essay prompt. Afterward, have students brainstorm the kind of sources that may be useful for exploring said question, the fields that may already discussing or provide insight on the topic (like specific news sources or subject specific databases). Then, for each kind of source or each discipline, have students brainstorm key terms and discuss why certain terms are more useful than others in certain searches. After the list has been made, have students determine where to look for this information. From this point, you can decide whether to proceed with the search as a class or to have students to break into groups to explore different terms, search engines, and databases.
You may want to engage your students in a conversation about research questions before this activity or in a prior class period. Students will likely not be sure how to craft meaningful research questions. Be sure that you build in moments for students to reflect in writing on what the activity means for their own research processes.
Documenting the Research Process
As a take-home assignment, have students take screenshots of their research process for a larger project (including pictures of the key terms they use, the search results, the articles they select, etc.) or record their research process. Students can either save the images on their computer or print them (whichever is more convenient). If they took a video, ask them to bring in their computer with the video. In class, have students map out the process—from where they began to where they ended. It may be best to do this on large sheets of paper, index cards, or construction paper. As they map out the process, have students make connections through a freewrite between the choices they made (e.g., how one term led to a new term, how they followed several hyperlinks and where that led them). Once they have finished their map/web and their freewrite, have students pair up and talk through their process and connections. In pairs, students should help each other identify gaps in their research and brainstorm new terms, websites, databases, etc., to explore. At the end, have students write out a research plan for the next portion of their assignment.
Have students bring an annotated bibliography and the original sources to class. It’s important to stress that this research often includes a lot of excess—simply choosing the first hit is often not the right match for a research project. Have students write about the choices they made in selecting their sources and reflect on how these sources contribute to their developing projects.
An alternative or add-on to this activity is to make students’ in-class work multimodal. With their annotated bibliographies, have students use either Prezi or construction paper and string to create a web that represents connections between sources. Students can address these questions: How do the sources talk to each other? How do they agree or disagree or qualify each other’s discussions? After students create their webs, have them reflect on the gaps that seem to exist in their web or identify the outlying sources that no longer work in their developing projects.
Depending on your course, you may want to make the annotated bibliography a collaborative project, where students contribute the sources they have found to a class archive that other students are encouraged to draw on in their writing projects. Google Docs (or a similar technology) can enable your class to create a “living” bibliography that each student can alter, add to, and improve throughout the semester.
Working with Other Voices
Have students highlight all the material borrowed or quoted from another source (including their own previous projects) in their essays in one color, and in a different color highlight all the places where they respond to or analyze those passages. Then ask them to evaluate their use of other voices—or trade papers and discuss with a partner. Are the passages adequately unpacked, explained, and analyzed? Is the reader left hanging? Are there more quotations than the students’ own words? How does the student build on and revise or drop things they wrote about in the previous assignment?
This activity could work well alongside a discussion of the difference between summary and analysis.
Have students pass their essays around in groups. Each student should choose at least one quotation in their peer’s paper and answer the following questions: Do you know where the quote is from? Does the writer describe how or why the quote is useful for considering something interesting or troubling about their project? Is the quote integrated into the discussion of the paragraph? Afterward, students can return their papers to the original writer, and students can spend five to ten minutes revising their use of that quote.
Have students create a reverse outline of a reading, thinking about questions like: Where is the agenda, the method, and the evidence? Is the argument linear? Does the reading present a compelling argument or an interesting idea? Students can do this work individually, in groups, or together as a class. They can also identify what work each paragraph of a challenging section is doing in the author’s argument (beyond what each paragraph is saying). For instance, is a paragraph introducing a key term or idea? Illustrating a key point of evidence?
Be sure to give students time to reflect on what they have discovered through the reverse outline and how it can apply to their own writing. You may want to give them an in-class writing activity that asks them to take their own draft and model it after the essay and reflect on how the new structure influences the content and purpose of their draft.
Mapping the Text
Using the whiteboard, blank paper, or colored construction paper, have students, in groups, create a visual map of the text that they read for class. Encourage them to make design choices that reflect the author’s purpose in the text. Students can then discuss the choices the writer made in response to a specific audience or conversation.
Project (or copy and distribute) a student’s introduction to the class and have students write what in the introduction is helpful for them as readers and what they might still need information on (for instance, if the required texts for the assignment haven’t been introduced). Have them restate the author’s project in their own words. Afterward, students s hould gather in groups to discuss various strategies for addressing potential issues that may have arisen, and then the whole class can discuss approaches to revision.
Also, before looking at student writing, you might have students consider introductions from the assigned readings, especially if you’re asking students to write in a similar genre. Discussing the readings can then serve as a jumping-off point for looking at student work.
Revision can be one of the toughest aspects of writing for students to fully grasp and take advantage of. Extensively working with revising in class to demonstrate what effective revision can look like helps students to understand that revision is more than simply correcting grammar and word choice. At any stage in the drafting process, working on revision with the entire class can help students conceptualize how revising can be done effectively. Depending on your class and its needs, you may either want to pre-select students whose essays best exemplify an issue the majority of the class is grappling with or have students volunteer their work themselves. If you pre-select students, you’re most likely going to gear your discussion toward a particular issue that the sample drafts exemplify. Self-volunteered drafts may engage several different issues. As students look at the samples, have them think about how the project might be supported with texts from the class, how it contributes new knowledge, and how the writer might move forward in the essay. It may be helpful to have the student identify a specific location where they’re having trouble. As you go about your discussion, you will be modeling ways of responding to texts in peer review. Be sure to make that explicit to the students.
After reading a round of student drafts, you may find that there are common challenges that students are working through. These common issues can be the basis of in-class workshops to help students navigate these particular challenges. Below are two examples, but there are many other writing challenges to work with in class.
Transitions: Some students may be listing their major points in the body of the paper rather than developing a project; consequently, you might call on a student volunteer, or project two anonymous paragraphs from a student paper, to examine how one paragraph moves to the next. Ask students how the two paragraphs might be related and, in groups, have them rewrite the ends and beginnings of the two paragraphs so as to make explicit how the ideas in the paragraphs build on and relate to one another. Have each group present their revisions and discuss their strategies.
In-Text Citations/Using Sources: Using sources effectively in a text is a challenge for many students. Students must not only cite information correctly, but also integrate the quote into their own language and consider how the quote is working with their argument. You may first want to examine an assigned text and, as a whole class or in smaller groups, analyze the author’s use of quotations and other outside sources. Try to push students to decipher the different ways that sources can be used to support a point (using a text like Joseph Harris’s or FYW’s webpage Why Quote? can give students a vocabulary or starting point for discussion). From here, get a volunteer from class (or choose a student ahead of time) and project or distribute a paragraph from their essay. As a class, discuss how the writer could revise their quotations and citations. Then, have students turn to their own texts and work on the way that they use sources in their projects.
Pair students and have them read each other’s paper aloud. Paired read-alouds can be used at different points in the drafting process for different purposes. With a rough draft, you can ask: Does the new set of eyes see more places to push the project further? Are there places where the evidence is unclear? Where might more textual support be needed? At a more polished stage, read-alouds can highlight fluency, sentence structure, and grammatical errors.
Useful for working through difficult readings, reverse outlines are also beneficial to students during drafting. Have students reverse outline their own papers, identifying the individual aims and rhetorical moves of each paragraph, and then have them reflect on what they have noticed. Or have students swap papers and reverse outline their peers’ papers, and then return the papers to their original authors. The students could also reflect on what they notice from their peers’ rendering of their projects. In any case, at the end of the activity, give students time to write about and reflect on what the reverse outline has revealed to them about their work and how they’ll use it to move forward with their draft.
For a more multimodal approach, students can create their reverse outlines using Prezi, construction paper, or the like.
Creating Revision Plans from Feedback
Students don’t always know what to do with comments after they receive your feedback or feedback from peers, so it might be useful to build in time for them to prioritize and plan. Have students look at a sample paper with comments first; then engage them in a discussion of how to prioritize and use feedback. Afterward, give them the opportunity to reflect on their own feedback and write a revision plan.
If you’re doing a portfolio in your course or wish for students to document their writing process, you may want to collect and respond to their revision plans or stress that they keep track of these documents.
Writing About Their Own Writing
At any stage in the writing process, ask your students to reflect on the writing that they have done so far, using the following prompts for in-class, informal, ungraded writing: What personal investment do you have in this issue? Why does your argument matter? What counter-interpretations might work against your emerging claims? What are you struggling with most as you approach the draft? How does how you are writing aid (or complicate) your answers to these first questions? If you choose to, you can discuss these writings as a class or in small groups.
Representing the Writing Process
Have students use markers, pencils, Play-Doh, pipe cleaners—check out the art cart in the FYW office—to draw, make, or sculpt a representation of a certain part of the writing process (perhaps right after students have completed an assignment). Afterward, give them a few minutes to write about their representation. In small groups, students can share their various processes. Doing so allows students to unpack what approaches and strategies worked—it also gives them a chance to see how others approached a similar task.
Near the end of the semester, have students read over their major essays and extract one or two “keywords” or important themes from each. (For instance, if a student wrote an essay about capitalist values in Maus, one keyword from that essay might be “capitalism,” or “homo economicus.”) In a new document, have students write their lists of keywords at the top of the page. They should then write a brief story in class that in some way touches on each of these themes.
It’s not necessary to use the word itself—so, if one keyword is “masculinity,” the student doesn’t actually have to say “masculinity” somewhere in the story, so long as the idea is present. For example, if a student’s keywords were “capitalism,” “dystopia,” and “masculinity,” the student might write a story about a young man in a dystopian society who, in order to prove his masculinity and support his paralyzed father, has to engage in gladiatorial combat. Maybe this gladiatorial combat is televised, with pauses in the fighting for advertisements for men’s deodorant, etc.
At the end of a class session, you can ask your students to write short responses to questions like: What is the one big idea or new insight you’ve taken from today’s class? What is still confusing for you? This will help students practice metacognition by allowing them to consider what in their thinking has changed and what remains a challenge for them moving forward.
Writing Across Technology
Key Terms and Infographics
Students can mine a text for key terms and concepts in groups. After discussing the terms and concepts in a larger group, the small groups can then use Piktochart or Canva to create an infographic to help explain how a specific term is being used in a text. This exercise can be framed with the following question: Assuming that your audience is future students in this class, how can you visually explain how the author is using [a particular key term]?
Critical and Creative Captioning
Practice using captioning software for videos, such as with YouTube or Amara. Students can consider how captioning functions rhetorically and depends on concepts of audience, context, and purpose. This activity can be used as students work on their own videos (such as a Concept in 60 video), or students can work in groups to caption sections of a short video in class. (Movie trailers often work pretty well here.)
Ask students to use the design concepts from The Academic Writer to analyze the design of a visual text—a book cover works well. After evaluating the effectiveness of the design choices in the text, let students work in groups to propose alternative covers. This can be done on computers (using software like Word, PowerPoint, GIMP, or Illustrator) or with paper and markers. Students can then present their designs (explaining why these designs are effective) and vote on the elements they’d like to include in a reprint of the text.
If all students have access to bring-your-own personal technology (laptops, smartphones, or other mobile devices with internet access), discussions can become hybrid spaces with the use of platforms like Twitter, Padlet, and Socrative. Allowing students to participate in discussions through technology can help second-language writers, students who are shy, and students with disabilities—and can, in fact, help all students contribute in more thoughtful ways, because writing an answer allows for more time to think. The platform being used can be projected, giving everyone easy access to responses. The instructor can choose to read these responses aloud to focus and direct the discussion or ask students to take a couple of moments to quietly compose responses to spark new avenues of inquiry.
Screencasting the Writing Process
Have students use a program like Kaltura or PowerPoint to screencast their writing as they work through a draft at home. Once they have turned in the essay, have students bring the video to class to watch individually. As they watch their videos, have them describe what’s happening and take notes on what they’re noticing about how they write. Afterward, have them discuss in groups what they noticed. After the discussion, have students review their notes and reflect on what went well and what could be worked on as they proceed in their next assignment.
Recorded Elevator Pitches
Sometimes students work through ideas best when they talk about them aloud. When they’re early in the writing or research process, have them pitch their developing ideas to each other in a minute or less and use their smartphones to record their pitch. At the end of the pitch, peers should provide feedback. As students move on to the next partner, they should incorporate the previous partner’s feedback (or make revisions based on their own observations). At the end, have students listen to their pitches and reflect on what changed from one pitch to the next.
- Teaching Tips
20 Interactive Classroom Activities for College Students [Plus: Free List of 45+ Activities]
Planning to use interactive classroom activities intentionally can really transform the learning dynamic. Here are 20 activities to get you started.
Top Hat Staff
How interactive are your classroom activities? Do you have less energy for class than you used to? Do you find student grades declining? And are the teaching methods you’ve always relied on not working as well as they once did? We spoke to two college instructors, Chris Merlo and Monika Semma. Their strategies for interactive classroom activities will energize your class and get the discussion moving again.
Table of contents
- Why are interactive activities important in college?
6 community-building activities
5 communication activities for college students, 3 motivational activities for college students.
- 6 team-building activities for college students
Interactive classroom activities, in short
Why are interactive classroom activities important.
Merlo, a computer science teacher, says that interactive classroom activities are not new to students, and one main reason why teachers have trouble connecting is that they fail to adapt to their students’ perspectives.
“My six-year-old son doesn’t find iPads amazing; to him, they’ve always just existed. Similarly, to a lot of students today, experiences like team exercises and flipped classrooms, while foreign to many instructors are not new.
“If we care about reaching today’s students, who seem to have a different idea of student responsibilities than we had, perhaps we have to reach them on their terms.
“In my thirties, I could still find a lot of similarities with my twenty-something students. But now, in my forties? Not so much. What I’ve started to realize is that it isn’t just the little things, like whether they’ve seen Ghostbusters. (They haven’t.) It’s the big things, like how they learn.”
Semma, a humanities TA, found that the chalk-and-talk approach failed on her first day in front of a class. “It was a lot like parallel parking in front of 20 people,” she said. “I looked more like a classmate. I dropped the eraser on my face whilst trying to write my name on the board. One of my students called me ‘mom.’”
“I chalked it up to first day jitters, but that same quietness crept its way back into my classroom for the next tutorial, and the next tutorial and the next. While nearly silent in class, my students were rather vocal in the endless stream of emails that flooded my inbox. That way I knew they wanted to learn. I also knew that I had to find a way to make tutorials more engaging.”
From these experiences, Merlo and Semma now share some interactive classroom activities for students and for teachers that can turn a quiet classroom full of people unwilling to speak up to a hive of debate, making the student learning experience more collaborative for everyone.
Energize your college classroom and get discussions flowing. Download The Best Classroom Activities for College Courses to engage and motivate students.
1. Open-ended questions
Chris Merlo: Open-ended questions don’t take any planning. All they take is a class with at least one student who isn’t too shy. I remember a class a few semesters ago that started with nine students. Due to a couple of medical conditions and a job opportunity, three of the students had to drop the semester. The problem was that these three students were the ones I counted on to ask questions and keep the class lively! Once I was left with six introverted people, conversations during class seemed to stop.
By luck, I stumbled on something that got the students talking again. I said, “What has been the most difficult thing about [the project that was due soon]?” This opened the floodgates—students love to complain, especially about us and our demands. This one simple question led to twenty minutes of discussion involving all six students. I wasn’t even sure what a couple of these students’ voices sounded like, but once I gave them an open-ended opportunity to complain about an assignment, they were off to the races. A truly successful classroom activity.
2. What’s wrong with this example?
Chris Merlo: Students also love to find a professor’s mistakes—like me, I’m sure you’ve found this out the hard way. When I teach computer science, I will make up a program that, for instance, performs the wrong arithmetic, and have students find the bug. In a particularly quiet or disengaged class, you can incentivize students with five points on the next exam, or something similar.
If you teach history, you might use flawed examples that change a key person’s name, such as “King Henry VIII (instead of King John) signed the Magna Carta in 1215,” or match a person to an incorrect event: “Gavrilo Princip is considered to have fired the first shot in the Spanish Civil War (instead of World War I).” Beam these examples on the whiteboard, and let the students’ competitiveness drive them to get the right answer before their classmates.
3. Let students critique each other
Chris Merlo: This can go badly if you don’t set some ground rules for civility, but done well, classroom activities like this really help open up collaborative learning. One of my colleagues devised a great exercise: First, give students about half of their class time to write instructions that an imaginary robot can understand to draw a recognizable picture, like a corporate logo, without telling students what will happen later. Then assign each student’s instructions to a randomly chosen classmate, and have the classmate pretend to be the robot, attempting to follow the instructions and draw the same logo.
After a few minutes, introduce a specific student who can share their results with the class, then ask their partner to share the initial instructions. This method gives students a chance to communicate with each other (“That’s not what I meant!”) and laugh and bond, while learning an important lesson.
This exercise teaches computer science students the difficulty and importance of writing clear instructions. I have seen this exercise not only teach pairs of such students meaningful lessons but encourage friendships that extended beyond my classroom.
4. Pass the “mic”
Monika Semma: As an instructor, it’s amazing how much information you can gather from a student-centered review session. Specifically, if you leave the review in the hands of your students, you can get an easy and thorough assessment of what is being absorbed, and what is being left by the wayside. The more you encourage participation, the more you’ll see where your class is struggling and the more comfortable students will become with course material. Here’s how to transform a standard review into one of your more popular classroom activities:
- A week before the review, ask students to email you two to five key terms or theories that they feel they need to brush up on. Take all that data and compress it until you have a solid working list of what students want to review most.
- In class, provide students with visual access to the list (I found writing all the terms on a chalkboard to be most effective). Instruct the class to have their notes out in front of them, with a pad of paper or blank Word document at their fingertips, and encourage them to take notes as the review is in progress.
- A trinket of sorts (I highly recommend a plush ball), used as a “microphone,” helps to give students equal opportunity to direct the review without putting individuals on the spot too aggressively. The rules are simple: she or he who holds the “mic” can pick one term from the list and using their notes, can offer up what they already know about the term or concept, what they are unsure of, or what they need more elaboration on.
- Actively listen to the speaker and give them some positive cues if they seem unsure; it’s okay to help them along the way, but important to step back and let this review remain student-centered. Once the speaker has said their piece, open the floor to the rest of the class for questions or additional comments. If you find that the discussion has taken a departure from the right direction, re-center the class and provide further elaboration if need be.
- Erase each term discussed from the list as you go, and have the speaker pass (or throw) on the “mic” to a fellow classmate, and keep tossing the ball around after each concept/term is discussed.
Students will have a tendency to pick the terms that they are most comfortable speaking about and those left consistently untouched will give you a clear assessment of the subjects in which your class is struggling, and where comprehension is lacking. Once your class has narrowed down the list to just a few terms, you can switch gears into a more classic review session. Bringing a bit of interaction and fun into a review can help loosen things up during exam time, when students and teachers alike are really starting to feel the pressure.
5. Use YouTube for classroom activities
Monika Semma: Do you remember the pure and utter joy you felt upon seeing your professor wheel in the giant VHS machine into class? Technology has certainly changed—but the awesome powers of visual media have not. Making your students smile can be a difficult task, but by channeling your inner Bill Nye the Science Guy you can make university learning fun again.
A large part of meaningful learning is finding interactive classroom activities that are relevant to daily life—and I can think of no technology more relevant to current students than YouTube.
A crafty YouTube search can yield a video relevant to almost anything in your curriculum and paired with an essay or academic journal, a slightly silly video can go a long way in helping your students contextualize what they are learning.
Even if your comedic attempts plunge into failure, at the very least, a short clip will get the class discussion ball rolling. Watch the video as a class and then break up into smaller groups to discuss it. Get your students thinking about how the clip they are shown pairs with the primary sources they’ve already read.
6. Close reading
Monika Semma: In the humanities, we all know the benefits of close reading activities—they get classroom discussion rolling and students engaging with the material and open up the floor for social and combination learners to shine. “Close reading” is a learning technique in which students are asked to conduct a detailed analysis or interpretation of a small piece of text. It is particularly effective in getting students to move away from the general and engage more with specific details or ideas.
If you’re introducing new and complex material to your class, or if you feel as though your students are struggling with an equation, theory, or concept; giving them the opportunity to break it down into smaller and more concrete parts for further evaluation will help to enhance their understanding of the material as a whole.
And while this technique is often employed in the humanities, classroom activities like this can be easily transferred to any discipline. A physics student will benefit from having an opportunity to break down a complicated equation in the same way that a biology student can better understand a cell by looking at it through a microscope.
In any case, evaluating what kinds of textbooks, lesson plans and pedagogy we are asking our students to connect with is always a good idea.
Group size: 10 students (minimum)
Course type: Online (synchronous), in-person
This activity helps build rapport and respect in your classroom. After you tackle a complex lecture topic, give students time to individually reflect on their learnings. This can be accomplished through guided prompts or left as an open-ended exercise. Once students have gathered their thoughts, encourage them to share their views either through an online discussion thread or a conversation with peers during class time.
Collaborative concept mapping is the process of visually organizing concepts and ideas and understanding how they relate to each other. This exercise is a great way for students to look outside of their individual experiences and perspectives. Groups can use this tactic to review previous work or to help them map ideas for projects and assignments. For in-person classes, you can ask students to cover classroom walls with sticky notes and chart paper. For online classes, there are many online tools that make it simple to map out connections between ideas, like Google Docs or the digital whiteboard feature in Zoom.
Group size: Groups of 5–10 students
Propose a topic or issue to your class. Group students together (or in breakout rooms if you’re teaching remotely) according to the position they take on the specific issue. Ask the groups of students to come up with a few arguments or examples to support their position. Write each group’s statements on the virtual whiteboard and use these as a starting point for discussion. A natural next step is to debate the strengths and weaknesses of each argument, to help students improve their critical thinking and analysis skills.
Compare and contrast
Group size: Groups of 5–10 students
Ask your students to focus on a specific chapter in your textbook. Then, place them in groups and ask them to make connections and identify differences between ideas that can be found in course readings and other articles and videos they may find. This way, they can compare their ideas in small groups and learn from one another’s perspectives. In online real-time classes, instructors can use Zoom breakout rooms to put students in small groups.
This activity will improve students’ problem-solving skills and can help engage them in more dynamic discussions. Start by proposing a topic or controversial statement. Then follow these steps to get conversations going. In online classes, students can either raise their hands virtually or use an online discussion forum to engage with their peers.
- Assessment: What is the issue or problem at hand?
- Diagnosis: What is the root cause of this issue or problem?
- Action: How can we solve the issue?
Group size: Groups of 3–7 students
Provide students with a moral or ethical dilemma, using a hypothetical situation or a real-world situation. Then ask them to explore potential solutions as a group. This activity encourages students to think outside the box to develop creative solutions to the problem. In online learning environments, students can use discussion threads or Zoom breakout rooms.
Group size: Groups of 4–6 students
Course type: In-person
This activity exposes students’ ideas in a controlled way, prompting discussions that flow naturally. To start, share a list of discussion questions pertaining to a course reading, video or case study. Put students into groups and give them five-to-ten minutes to discuss, then have two students rotate to another group. The students who have just joined a group have an opportunity to share findings from their last discussion, before answering the second question with their new group. After another five-to-ten minutes, the students who haven’t rotated yet will join a new group.
This or that
Course type: Online (synchronous or asynchronous), in-person
This activity allows students to see where their peers stand on a variety of different topics and issues. Instructors should distribute a list of provocative statements before class, allowing students to read ahead. Then, they can ask students to indicate whether they agree, disagree or are neutral on the topic in advance, using an online discussion thread or Google Doc. In class, use another discussion thread or live chat to have students of differing opinions share their views. After a few minutes, encourage one or two members in each group to defend their position amongst a new group of students. Ask students to repeat this process for several rounds to help familiarize themselves with a variety of standpoints.
6 team-building classroom activities for college students
Snowball discussions .
Group size: 2–4 students per group
Assign students a case study or worksheet to discuss with a partner, then have them share their thoughts with the larger group. Use breakout rooms in Zoom and randomly assign students in pairs with a discussion question. After a few minutes, combine rooms to form groups of four. After another five minutes, combine groups of four to become a larger group of eight—and so on until the whole class is back together again.
Make it personal
Group size: Groups of 2–8 students
After you’ve covered a topic or concept in your lecture, divide students into small discussion groups (or breakout rooms online). Ask the groups questions like “How did this impact your prior knowledge of the topic?” or “What was your initial reaction to this source/article/fact?” to encourage students to reflect on their personal connections to the course concepts they are learning.
Group size: 20–25 students (maximum)
A statement that has two possible responses—agree or disagree—is read out loud. Depending on whether they agree or disagree with this statement, students move to one side of the room or the other. After everyone has chosen a side, ask one or two students on each side to take turns defending their positions. This allows students to visualize where their peers’ opinions come from, relative to their own.
Group size: Groups of 3–8 students
Course type: Online (synchronous)
Place students in small groups (or virtual breakout rooms) and pose a broad question or problem to them that is likely to result in lots of different ideas, such as “What was the greatest innovation of the 21st century?” or “How would society be different if _____ never occurred?” Ask students to generate responses by writing ideas on pieces of paper (one idea per page) or in a discussion thread (if you’re teaching online). Once lots of ideas have been generated, have students begin grouping their ideas into similar categories, then label the categories and discuss why the ideas fit within them, how the categories relate to one another and so on. This allows students to engage in higher-level thinking by analyzing ideas and organizing them in relation to one another.
Group size: 20 students (minimum)
Ask students to prepare for a discussion by reviewing a course reading or group of texts and coming up with a few higher-order discussion questions about the text. In class, pose an introductory, open-ended question. From there, students continue the conversation, prompting one another to support their claims with evidence from previous course concepts or texts. There doesn’t need to be a particular order to how students speak, but they are encouraged to respectfully share the floor with their peers.
Group size: 20 students (maximum)
Students form two circles: an inner circle and an outer circle. Each student on the inside is paired with a student on the outside; they face each other. Pose a question to the whole group and have pairs discuss their responses with each other. After three-to-five minutes, have students on the outside circle move one space to the right so they are standing in front of a new person. Pose a new question, and the process is repeated, exposing students to the different perspectives of their peers.
Making your classes more interactive should help your students want to come to class and take part in it. Giving them a more active role will give them a sense of ownership, and this can lead to students taking more pride in their work and responsibility for their grades.
A more interactive class can also make things easier for you—the more work students do in class, the less you have to do. Even two minutes of not talking can re-energize you for the rest of the class.
Plus, these six methods outlined above don’t require any large-scale changes to your class prep. Set up a couple of activities in advance here and there, to support what you’ve been doing, and plan which portion of your class will feature them.
The reality remains that sometimes, students do have to be taught subject matter that is anything but exciting. That doesn’t mean that we can’t make it more enjoyable to teach or learn. It may not be possible to incorporate classroom activities into every lecture, but finding some room for these approaches can go a long way in facilitating a positive learning environment.
And let’s not forget, sometimes even an educator needs a brief departure from the everyday-ordinary-sit-and-listen-to-me-lecture regimen.
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These OWL resources contain grammar exercises about adjectives, adverbs, appositives, articles, count and noncount nouns, prepositions, and tense consistency.
Adjective or Adverb?
These two exercises ask you to practice and apply these rules by completing multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank activities that you may print. Once you print and complete the exercise, click the "Go to Answers" link to see the answers for this exercise.
This exercise asks you to identify the appositive in the example sentences. Print the exercise and click the "Go to Answers" link to see the answers for this exercise.
This exercises asks you to practice and apply these "a"/"an" rules. Print and complete the exercises, and click the "Go to Answers" link to see the answers for this exercise.
Count and Noncount Nouns
These exercises ask you to practice using count and noncount nouns and include an exercise on using quantity terms. Print these exercises and click the "Go to Answers" link to see the answers for this exercise.
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10 Creative Writing Activities That Help Students Tell Their Stories
Lower the stakes and help them get started.
“I don’t have a story. There’s nothing interesting about my life!” Sound familiar? I don’t know a teacher who hasn’t heard students say this. When we ask our students to write about themselves, they get stuck. We know how important it is for them to tell their own stories. It’s how we explore our identities and keep our histories and cultures alive. It can even be dangerous when we don’t tell our stories (check out this Ted Talk given by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and share it with your students for more on that). Storytelling is essential for every subject, not just English Language Arts; students dive deeper and engage when they practice thinking about how their own stories intersect with historical events, civic engagement, and the real-world implications of STEM. These 10 creative writing activities can work in every subject you teach:
Here are 10 of our favorite story telling activities that inspire students:
1. write an “i am from” poem.
Students read the poem “I am From” by George Ella Lyon. Then, they draft a poem about their own identity in the same format Lyon used. Finally, students create a video to publish their poems. We love this one because the mentor text gives a clear structure and example that students can follow. But the end result is truly unique, just like their story.
2. Design a social media post to share an important memory
How can you use your unique perspective to tell a story? We want our students to learn that they are truly unique and have stories that only they can tell that other people want to hear or could relate to or learn from. In this activity, students watch two Pixar-in-a-Box videos on Khan Academy to learn about storytelling and perspective. Then, they identify an interesting or poignant memory and design a social media post.
3. Create an image using a line to chart an emotional journey
How do you show emotion using a single line? In this activity, students watch a Pixar in a Box video on Khan Academy to learn about how lines communicate character, emotion, and tension. Then they experiment with these aspects as they write their story. We love using this for pre-writing and to help students explore their story arc. Also, for students who love to draw or learn visually, this can help them get started telling their story and show them that there are many different ways to tell a story.
4. Tell the story behind your name
Sharing the story behind our name is a way to tell a story about ourselves, our culture, and our family history. And if there isn’t a story behind it, we can talk about how we feel about it and describe what it sounds like. In this activity, students use video to introduce themselves to their classmates by discussing the origin of their name. This project asks students to connect their names (and identities) to their personal and familial histories and to larger historical forces. If you’re looking for a mentor text that pairs well with this one, try “My Name” by Sandra Cisneros .
5. Develop a visual character sketch
Give students the time to create a character sketch of themselves. This will help them see how they fit into their story. In this lesson, students create a visual character sketch. They’ll treat themselves like a character and learn to see themselves objectively.
6. Create a webpage to outline the story of your movie
Building a story spine is a great way to show students how to put the parts of their story in an order that makes sense. It’s an exercise in making choices about structure. We like this activity because it gives students a chance to see different examples of structure in storytelling. Then, they consider the question: how can you use structure to set your story up for success? Finally, they design and illustrate an outline for their story.
7. Respond to a variety of writing prompts
Sometimes our students get stuck because they aren’t inspired or need a different entry point into telling their story. Give them a lot of writing prompts that they can choose from. Pass out paper and pencils. Set a timer for fifteen minutes. Then, write 3-4 writing prompts on the board. Encourage students to free-write and not worry about whether their ideas are good or right. Some of our favorite prompts to encourage students to tell their story are:
- I don’t know why I remember…
- What’s your favorite place and why?
- What objects tell the story of your life?
- What might surprise someone to learn about you?
8. Create a self-portrait exploring identity and self-expression
Part of what makes writing your own story so difficult for students is that they are just building their identity. In this activity, students explore how they and others define their identity. What role does identity play in determining how they are perceived and treated by others? What remains hidden and what is shown publicly?
9. Film a video to share an important story from your life
Encourage students to think about how to tell the story of a day they faced their fears. Students consider the question: How can you use different shot types to tell your story? They watch a video from Pixar in a Box on Khan Academy to learn about different camera shots and their use in storytelling. Then, they use Adobe Spark Post or Photoshop and choose three moments from their story to make into shots. We love using this to help students think about pace and perspective. Sometimes what we leave out of our story is just as important as what we include.
10. Try wild writing
Laurie Powers created a process where you read a poem and then select two lines from it. Students start their own writing with one of those lines. Anytime that they get stuck, they repeat their jump-off line again. This is a standalone activity or a daily writing warm-up, and it works with any poem. We love how it lowers the stakes. Can’t think of anything to write? Repeat the jump-off line and start again. Here are some of our favorite jump-off lines:
- The truth is…
- Some people say…
- Here’s what I forgot to tell you…
- Some questions have no answers…
- Here’s what I’m afraid to write about…
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55 Creative Writing Activities and Exercises
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Have you ever heard these questions or statements from your students?
- I don’t know where to begin.
- How can I make my story interesting?
- I’m just not creative.
- What should my story be about?
If so, you won’t want to miss these creative writing activities.
What Are Creative Writing Activities?
Activities that teach creative writing serve as drills to exercise your student’s writing muscle. When used effectively, they help reluctant writers get past that intimidating blank paper and encourage the words to flow.
When I think of creative writing exercises , writing prompts immediately come to mind. And, yes, writing from a prompt is certainly an example of a creative writing activity (a highly effective one).
However, writing prompts are only one way to teach creative writing. Other types of activities include games, collaboration with others, sensory activities, and comic strip creation to name a few.
Unlike writing assignments, creative writing activities aren’t necessarily meant to create a perfectly polished finished project.
Instead, they serve as more of a warmup and imagination boost.
Picture-based writing exercises are especially fun. You can download one for free below!
get this picture prompt printable for free!
How to use creative writing exercises effectively.
When teaching creative writing , the most effective exercises inspire and engage the student.
Remember that worn-out prompt your teacher probably hauled out every year?
“What I Did This Summer…”
Cue the groaning.
Instead of presenting your student with lackluster topics like that one, let’s talk about ways to engage and excite them.
For Kids or Beginners
Early writers tend to possess misconceptions about writing. Many picture sitting down for hours straight, polishing a story from beginning to end.
Even for experienced writers, this is next-to-impossible to do. It’s preconceived ideas like these that overwhelm and discourage students before they’ve even started.
Instead of assigning an essay to complete, start with simple, short writing exercises for elementary students such as:
- Creating comic strips using a template
- Talking out loud about a recent dream
- Writing a poem using rhyming words you provide
- Creating an acrostic from a special word
Creative writing exercises don’t have to end in a finished piece of work. If the exercise encouraged creative thinking and helped the student put pen to paper, it’s done its job.
For Middle School
Creative writing activities for middle school can be a little more inventive. They now have the fundamental reading and writing skills to wield their words properly.
Here are some ideas for middle school writing exercises you can try at home:
- Creating Mad Lib-style stories by changing out nouns, verbs, and adjectives in their favorite tales
- Storyboarding a short film
- Writing a family newsletter
- Creating crossword puzzles
For High School
Your high school student may be starting to prepare for college essays and other important creative writing assignments.
It’s more critical than ever for her to exercise her writing skills on a regular basis.
One great way to keep your high schooler’s mind thinking creatively is to have her make “listicles” of tips or facts about something she’s interested in already.
Another fun and effective creative writing exercise for high school is to have your student retell classic stories with a twist.
List of 55 Creative Writing Activities for Students of All Ages
No matter what age range your students may be, I think you’ll find something that suits their personality and interests in this list of creative writing ideas. Enjoy!
- Using only the sense of hearing, describe your surroundings.
- Write a paragraph from your shoes’ point of view. How do they view the world? What does a “day in the life of a shoe” look like?
- Imagine what the world will be like in 200 years. Describe it.
- Write a letter to someone you know who moved away. What has he or she missed? Should he or she move back? Why?
- Make up an imaginary friend. What does he or she look like? What does he or she like to do?
- Create a story about a person you know. Use as many details as possible.
- Write a poem that describes a place you have been.
- Soak up the season you’re in with seasonal creative writing prompts. Here are some ideas for fall and winter .
- Write a song where each line starts with the next letter in the alphabet.
- Create a list of words related to something you love.
- Write a short story based on a true event in your life.
- Rewrite a chapter of your favorite book from the antagonist’s point of view.
- Write a letter to your future self. What do you want to make sure you remember?
- Go on a five-senses scavenger hunt. Find three items for each sense. Create a story using the items you found.
- Create a story around an interesting picture ( try these fun picture writing prompts! )
- Find an ad in a magazine or elsewhere and rewrite the description to convince people NOT to buy the advertised item.
- Write a story using the last word of each sentence as the first word of the next.
- Describe everything you’re sensing right now, using all five senses.
- Write a list of animals A to Z with a one-sentence description of each one. Feel free to include imaginary animals.
- Design your dream room in detail.
- Write a script of yourself interviewing a famous person. Include his or her answers.
- Describe what high school would be like if you lived on the moon. What would you be learning about? How would you be learning it?
- Describe a day in the life of a famous person in history. Include both mundane and exciting details of things they may have experienced on a normal day.
- Pick up something on a bookshelf or end table nearby. Now write a commercial script for it to convince your audience that they absolutely must own this thing.
- Plan a birthday party for your best friend. Describe the decorations, food, and everything else.
- Write a very short story about three siblings fighting over a toy. Now rewrite it twice, each time from a different character’s perspective.
- Tell a story from the point of view of a pigeon on a city street.
- Create a menu for a deli you’ll be opening soon. Name each sandwich after something or someone in real life and list the fillings and type of bread.
- Pretend you just became famous for something. Write 3 exciting newspaper headlines about the topic or reason behind your newfound fame.
- Keep a one-line-a-day journal. Every day, write down one thought or sentence about something that happened that day or how you felt about the day.
- Have you ever had a nightmare? Write what happened but with a new ending where everything turns out okay (perhaps the monster was your dad in a costume, preparing to surprise you at your birthday party).
- Write a “tweet” about something that happened to you recently, using only 140 characters.
- Take an important event in your life or the life of someone in your family. Write one sentence answering each of the 6 journalistic questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes and write nonstop, starting with the words “I remember.” If you get stuck, write “I remember” again until you get unstuck.
- Pick something you use often (a toothbrush, your desk, etc). Then tell the story of how it was invented. If you don’t know, make something up.
- Choose a princess or hero and write a one-paragraph story about him or her traveling to a distant land.
- Pretend you are a tour guide for a local attraction. It can be a library, a park, or a museum, but it could also be a place that wouldn’t normally hold tours (such as an arcade). Write a speech about what you tell your tour group as you walk around the attraction.
- Create a marketing brochure for your favorite activity or fun place to go.
- Make a list of 10 future story settings. Write one sentence describing each. For example, “ in the dark, musty cellar of my grandmother’s house, surrounded by dried-up jars of canned peaches… ”
- Make a list of foods included in a dinner party catered by the world’s worst cook, describing how each course looks, smells, and tastes. Include your reactions while eating it.
- Write out your own version of instructions for playing your favorite game.
- Pretend you’ve lost your sight for one night. Describe going out to eat at a restaurant, using smells, textures, and sounds to tell your story.
- Write a script for an interesting phone conversation in which the reader can only hear one side.
- Tell the story of an object someone threw away from the perspective of the person who tossed it out. Then tell the story of that same object from the perspective of a person who finds it and deems it a treasure.
- List your 3 least favorite chores. Pick one and write a one paragraph detailing why you can’t possibly complete that chore ever again.
- Write an excerpt from your dog’s diary (pretend he keeps one).
- Write the script for a movie trailer—real or imagined.
- Create an acrostic for a holiday of your choice.
- Pretend you’re the master of a role-playing game, describing a sticky situation in which the other players now find themselves. Describe the scenario in writing.
- Compose a funny or dramatic caption for a photo.
- Parents, place a textured object in a box without letting your student see it. Have him or her reach in, touch the object, and then describe how it feels.
- Write lyrics for a parody of a song.
- Make a list of 10-20 songs that would be played if a movie was made about your life.
- Describe the sounds, smells, sights, and textures you’d experience if you went to the beach for the day.
- Write an election speech with ludicrous and impossible campaign promises.
One of the best ways to encourage students to write regularly is by providing fun creative writing activities .
They serve to encourage both the habit and mindset of writing with imagination. If you need extra help with that, check out Creative Freewriting Adventure :
bring excitement into your student’s writing – no prep required!
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