Learning is better with laughter. Maybe it sounds a bit silly—after all, education is a serious matter—but humor isn’t just for fun. As one American Psychological Association article illuminates, “when used effectively, classroom comedy can improve student performance by reducing anxiety, boosting participation and increasing students’ motivation to focus on the material.” In short, laughter helps students learn.
The good news is, humor is easy to inject into your lesson plans to make writing more fun for your students. These giggle-worthy writing activities for 3rd grade encourage humor in the classroom (and in your students’ writing) without forcing you to tell a single knock-knock joke—unless, of course, you want to.
Writing Activity #1: Fun With Puns
Whether they make you laugh or groan, puns are a great way to explore homonyms and figurative language with your third grade students. Even the Bard himself loved to play with words—some estimate that Shakespeare used an upwards of 3,000 puns over the course of his career as a playwright.
Study some puns together with your students and discuss what makes them work and why they’re funny (or not). Then ask them to come up with some of their own, either using vocabulary words or referencing a recent lesson or classroom activity. The more, the merrier. Finally, be sure to ask for volunteers to share their best punny witticisms with the class!
Writing Activity #2: Creative Captions
They say a picture is worth a thousand words—but sometimes a caption is even better. A silly caption-writing activity is the perfect way to take your third grade students’ love of internet memes to a higher, more literary, level. Start with a picture. Either ask your students to bring in funny photos from home or ask them to draw something silly.
Once their photos or drawings are ready, have them swap images with another student and ask them to brainstorm humorous captions for their classmate’s image. Finally, have the original artists choose their favorite of their partner’s captions and add it below their image. Once everything has been graded, be sure to hang their pictures up somewhere in the classroom to lighten things up!
Writing Activity #3: Silly Ever Afters
For a more collaborative writing activity, ask your third grade writers to write the first few paragraphs of a funny fantasy story. Perhaps the hero of the story is a lazy knight who prefers napping to dragon-hunting, or maybe the princess is secretly obsessed with collecting pet frogs. After they write the beginning of the story, ask them to stop and form groups of three (or more, if necessary).
Ask them to pass their papers to another student in their group. Then, have them continue to write the story, trying to up the ante on how ridiculous they can make it (while still making some amount of sense). Have them exchange papers one more time with the last group member to finish the story—again, the sillier, the better! Finally, ask them to share the completed stories with the class. The results (and the students’ reactions to them) are always entertaining.
Tips for Teaching Creative Writing to Young Students
When it comes to elementary schoolers, some of your students may struggle more with writing than others. Some parents emphasize teaching their children reading and writing skills from a young age, but you are bound to have students that have very little experience.
Help these students along and get them more comfortable with the process of writing with these useful tips.
Practice Makes Perfect
Needless to say, the most effective way to improve your young students’ writing skills is to have them do it on a consistent basis. Practice makes perfect, after all! A weekly writing assignment is a great way to increase their exposure. Make sure that these assignments are not too arduous, as you don’t want to burn them out, but a good half-hour-long, in-class writing session once a week will do them a great service.
This writing assignment could be something consistent, like every Friday your students have to write about their favorite part of the week, or every Monday your students have to write about what they did over the weekend. On the contrary, turn your Wednesday afternoons into Writing Wednesdays and provide your students with fun new writing prompts every week.
This will provide some excellent, meaningful practice for those of your students who struggle with writing and will also help further the skills of your more experienced young writers!
In addition, this can be a perfect opportunity to improve their grammar and vocabulary skills. A story is only as good as its grammar, which is why it is important to teach your students from a young age about the fundamentals of proper grammar (specifically punctuation like commas and apostrophes) and word choice.
Explain the Elements of a Story
Writing a story can be difficult if your students are unfamiliar with the essential elements that make up a good narrative. Keep in mind that third graders will most likely struggle to understand concepts like theming and symbolism, but it is important that they understand what story elements like characters, settings, point of view and plot are and why they are significant.
Characters are a story element that your students are accustomed to, but, in order to write a story that has characters with consistent motivations and personality traits, your students must be able to understand what makes the different characters of a story tick.
A good way to practice this is to have your students pick out a short story or a book that they have read and create a chart where they list out the different traits, motivations and characteristics of each of the major characters in the story. This will help them to better understand how characters in a story work.
When it comes time to write their own story, they can do the same activity. This way they have a good foundation and understanding of the characters they are going to be writing about.
Like characters, setting is probably a narrative element that your students are familiar with. However, it is important to emphasize that the setting of a story is not just where the story takes place but is also when the story takes place. To help them better understand the setting of a particular book, you could have them draw a picture and describe the setting of the story.
Once this is finished, you can compile all of your students’ drawings and descriptions and turn them into a classbook!
Point of view is one of the more complex narrative elements (at least to elementary school students), but is nonetheless important for them to understand. Without a fundamental understanding of how point of view works, a story may struggle to make sense or have a consistent tone if the point of view has not been properly decided.
You can help your students better understand point of view by making them familiar with the pronouns that are associated with each point of view.
One way you can do this is by handing out a few different short stories to each student and have them analyze the different pronouns that are used to determine if the story is told in the first-person (I, we, our, us, etc… ) or third-person (he, she, they, them, their, etc… ).
Last but not least, plot is certainly a narrative element that you will want your young students to understand. What’s a story without a plot? Needless to say, any stories that your third graders are writing probably will not have very complicated plot threads, but you should still educate them in the sub-elements of a plot (i.e. introduction, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, ending, etc…).
With a thorough understanding of the different phases of a plot and how a plot develops from beginning to end, your students will be more adequately prepared for the complex writing assignments that will come later in their educational career.
Read, Read, Read!
Of course, we have yet to mention one of the most, if not the most, effective way to improve your students’ writing: reading! In his memoir titled On Writing, Stephen King wrote “if you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time to write.” The more reading exposure and experience that your students have, the better writers they will become.
Developing those literacy skills from a young age is one of the best ways to set your students up for success in the future. I encourage my students to designate a half-hour period a few times a week for individual quiet reading time. In addition, you could pick out a couple of age-appropriate novels for your class to vote on. Once a book is decided on, you can read a chapter or two at the end of each day.
On Fridays, your students can write about their favorite part of either book from that week. The more practice they have, the better off they’ll be!
Write, Learn and Be Merry!
Fun puns, crazy captions and humorous fairy tales—there are myriad ways to make language arts an enjoyable classroom subject for all. All you need to do is encourage your students to write their own jokes and tell their own silly stories, and merriment will ensue. In addition, by publishing their work, you can help them spread the gift of joy and laughter to others and perhaps even inspire fellow classes to write and publish their own fun, creative projects.
For more fun writing activities and project ideas, be sure to take a peek at our online Teacher’s Lounge, a community where elementary school teachers can share their creative teaching ideas and methods with one another—and don’t forget to sign up for your FREE publishing kit!