Tips for Teaching Creative Writing Using Literature

5 min read

While I’ve loved creative writing – actually writing creatively, teaching it can get rather boring. How many writing prompts and story starters can one person handle?

Instead of relying on repetitive techniques, I would incorporate creative writing projects into literature assignments. Not only did this spice up the lesson plans, but the creative writing is a great way to reinforce what your child just read.

Teaching Creative Writing Using Literature

Reading books with your children not only opens up the whole world to them, but often kick-starts their creative writing juices.   For instance, after reading “The Wizard of Oz,” ask your children to write a story about a strange world.

When teaching creative writing to children, I’ve found that using maps, props, cards, books they’ve read, or pictures help them organize their thoughts and create characters and a plot.  Here are a few books and activities that will help your child get started.

The Adventures of Grassie Green in the Colored Worlds: Create a Map of a New World

In this assignment, students will create a “new old world.” It incorporates art, writing and geography skills.

Draw an island on a crinkled up paper bag to show that the map is old.  Add some features like mountains, a volcano, rivers, forests, beaches, caves, villages, swamps, or lakes.  How about adding an old, deserted pirate town?

Islands don’t have to be tropical.  There can be rocky islands, jungle islands, and since this is an imaginary story, how about rainbow islands, candy islands, islands made of toys, or any combination of elements you want.

Decide who lives on the island. Maybe it’s a clan of long-lost Vikings, rock people, whacky animals, or talking birds. Maybe there are two groups on each side of the island that don’t get along with each other. This might help you give the land a name.

Finally, start the story by bringing to the island a main character or two. What would happen when two kids get shipwrecked there, or a time-traveler shows up?  They need to have a goal as well.  It could be as simple as trying to get home, or as grand as finding an object that’s needed to save the world.

Because you have a picture of your island it is easy to create a plot as your characters move from one part of the island to the other.  Create a problem to overcome at each feature.  For instance, the cave may be full of poisonous snakes or spiders and you have to swing on a rope to get past them.

The Little Squeegy Bug: Imagine Yourself as a Tiny Bug Explorer

While this book is geared or the younger set, this activity can be used with older students too.

First, give your character a reason to explore.  Maybe you’re looking for a lost treasure, a rare animal, or a cure for a terrible bug disease.  As a tiny creature, everything looks different to you.
Use numbered popsicle sticks and string to map out your journey in the yard.  Wind the string around each stick as you place it in the ground.  Each stick represents a problem that you must overcome to continue your quest.  Maybe you have to think of a way to get over a big rock, cross a puddle on a leaf raft, get away from a hungry bird, ride on a dandelion seed, or in a toy car.

Finally, decide how you solve the final problem and find what you’re looking for.

Asian Children’s Favorite Stories: A Treasury of Folktales from China, Japan, Korea, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia: How Did the Tiger Get Its Stripes?

Origin stories are all the rage. It’s fun to imagine how things became they way there are.

These types of stories are called folktales.  They have historically explained things.  Have your child draw a picture or make a clay figure of his favorite animal.

Make a list of the characteristics that make this animal unusual or different.

Write a story that explains how the animal got a particular trait.  (How a tiger gets his stripes, how an elephant got large ears, why an eagle has a white head, or how a giraffe got a long neck.)   For instance, start the story about elephants when they had tiny ears.  Tell us the problems the elephant had.  Tell how his ears grew to solve his problems.

It’s never too early to start training your child in creative writing.  If your child is too young to write the story himself, have him tell you the story and you can write it down.  Children love to illustrate their stories in a fancy notebook.  There are even book making kits available at bookstores.  Once you start exploring the endless number of props that are available to inspire writing, you will be amazed by your child’s imagination and writing ability.  Who knows?  They may become a famous author someday.

For more ideas on teaching writing, check out these Writing Units for Middle School. 

Also published on Medium.



Sounds like a good plan. I majored in Creative Writing in college so I’m a big supporter of it ;).


Good tips! I’m new to your blog. Are you a public school teacher? What grade do you teach?


I see now that it appears you homeschool.


When I was in school, creative writing assignments were one of my favorite parts of language arts. Quite a few of my teachers tied our writing assignments to the book we were reading as a class. So, it’s a great idea to do that with home-schooling lesson plans, too. I also liked when we had essay assignments in English that related to parts of history we were studying at the same time in our U.S. history class.


What wonderful prompts. I think they set a good example of what you’re asking for, by having the ‘example’ of how it was done in literature. Thanks!

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