by Robin Merrill, mom and freelance writer.
The only thing more fun than creative writing is creative writing with young writers. They never cease to impress me with just how unlimited their imaginations truly are. Here are some creative writing exercises you might like to try with the young writers in your life!
#1 – Exquisite Corpse
You will need at least two writers for this exercise, and the more the merrier. Feel free to mix ages—that can liven things up!
Start with blank sheets of paper. Ask each writer to write a single line of poetry at the top of the page. You might want to remind them not to worry about rhyming. You also might want to time them. A short amount of time will encourage creativity and discourage self-doubt.
Once everyone has written a single line, everybody needs to fold their papers over so that no one can read what they’ve written. They then pass their papers to the next person in the group. Receiving a new piece of paper, without unfolding anything, each writer adds one line to the poem. Again, fold the paper over and then pass it to the next person.
If you have a small group, you might want to go around more than once. If you have a large group, you do not need to go all the way around, especially if you are working with young writers and short attention spans. Once the poems are completed, have someone read them aloud. This usually leads to laughter, and once in a while, you get a poem that makes some sense, eerily enough!
#2 – Description and Connection
This can be done with one or more writers!
Choose two objects. Try to choose two objects that don’t have any obvious connections with each other: worm and crayon, cucumber and hat, doll and phone book.
Show your writer(s) one of the objects, and ask them to describe the object in as much detail as possible. You might want to time them. A time limit adds a sense of adventure to the exercise.
Once they’ve finished with the first object, show them the second object and ask them to do the same, beginning with a new paragraph.
Then, give them a new sheet of paper, and looking at the two paragraphs they’ve just written, ask them to write a third paragraph about how these two objects are connected. This may be easy for some writers, and some writers will claim that there is no connection, but encourage them that there is always a connection!
Once everyone is done writing, it can be fun to share those third paragraphs with the group, to see how many different connections two seemingly unconnected objects can have!
#3 – The Last Shall Be First
This is a great exercise to do with one writer, but of course, it can be done with a group too!
Give your young writer a sheet of lined paper, with a single line of poetry written on about the 12th line. This line can be from a famous poem or something you make up. It doesn’t matter! Then, ask your writer to write a poem that ends with this line. He or she can work backwards, or start at the beginning and try to steer a poem toward that ending line!
#4 – Gertrude Stein
The great American poet Gertrude Stein played with sound in her poetry. Though many of her poems don’t “make sense” in a conventional way, when read aloud, they create a kind of music. In this exercise, encourage your child to forget about meaning, and to only think about what “sounds cool.”
You might read a few Stein poems together (widely available online) to get in the mood. Then, ask your writer to write a line of poetry. Then ask him or her to forget what it might mean, and to try and make the next line sound cool next to the first one. Continue in this manner, and encourage changing gears and crazy ideas. Be sure to read the poem aloud!
#5 – Grab Bag
This is one activity to keep on hand to pull out on rainy days! Write or print many words on small pieces of paper, and put them all in a hat, bag, or envelope. Use unusual words, ones that your young writer knows, but doesn’t necessarily use on a daily basis.
Examples could include: axe, daisy, moon, bury, candle, skip, flicker, sting, and knot. Ask your young writer to, without looking, choose three words from the hat. Then give him or her sixty seconds to write a poem using those three words.