Like playing pretend, creative writing is the art of creating something from nothing. It’s painting with any brush and any palette you like; it’s writing music without being restricted to only using real instruments. As beloved children’s author C.S. Lewis once said, “You can make anything by writing.”
The key to teaching 4th grade creative writing is coming up with enrichment activities that let your students fully explore the “creative” part of it. It’s all about going beyond simply understanding the mechanics in order to discover and play with new ways of using them to create—and publish—something totally unique.
Activity #1: Silly Simile Grab Bags
This enrichment activity puts the fun back into the fundamentals of creative writing by bringing out your students’ silly sides. Ask your students to work on their own to come up with a single simile using the framed sentence “a [blank] as [blank] as a [blank].” Then, provide them each with three index cards. On the back of two cards, have them write “noun.” On the third card, have them write “adjective.” On the opposite sides of the cards, ask them to write the nouns and adjective from their similes—for instance, the simile “a dog as clever as a fox” would generate a noun card for “dog,” an adjective card for “clever,” and a noun card for “fox.”
Have them place all of the noun cards in one large bag and the adjectives in another. Mix them up well! Then, have each student choose two noun cards and one adjective at random and use them to create a new simile. Chances are there will be more than one strange comparison as a result! Be sure to have your students share their new similes with the class and talk about how each one could make sense, if you just look at it the right way. Even the weirdest similes can be made to work with a little creativity!
Activity #2: Collaborative Blackout Poetry
This enrichment activity introduces a little creative collaboration into the writing process. Start by having your students brainstorm together as a class to develop an overall theme to write about. Ask them to each write a one-page short story on that theme. Then, ask them to make clean copies—type them up and print them out, if possible!—and trade their stories with a fellow classmate. Finally, walk them through the process of creating blackout poetry, using their partner’s short story as the canvas for their work!
Activity #3: Character Creation
If you or your students happen to be fans of games like Dungeons & Dragons or The Elder Scrolls, you’re in for a treat with this creative writing activity. Begin by creating—or finding and downloading a free copy of—a generic character building worksheet. Ideally, this will include items like the character’s name, where they are from, their age, their occupation, their gender, et cetera. Divide your students into pairs or groups and ask each team to work together using the worksheet to create an original fictional character.
Once the characters are complete, ask each team to share theirs with the class. Have your students take notes, or make copies to share. When every character has been introduced, ask your students to each write their own (individual) short stories about how all of these characters wound up in the same place. It’s an excellent exercise in both character and plot development. It’s also a ton of fun. You can even join in the fun and create a character of your own to use as an example for the class!
Activity #4: Fictional History
This enrichment activity combines the creative freedom of fiction with historical context to help guide students in developing their writing skills. Ask your students to come up with an imaginary historical figure and give them a name, an occupation, and a time period in which to reside. Ask them to write about who this person was and their greatest historical achievement—and explain why no one has heard of them or their achievement before now!
The catch: their stories must include factual details that reflect the setting they have chosen. This can include anything from referencing recent events from their chosen time period, describing the city, town or country in which they achieved greatness (or infamy) or even simply including details about how their fictional historical figure dressed and what they ate for breakfast.
Making Creative Writing Enrichment Exciting
Every teacher knows the easiest lessons to teach are the ones your students are actually excited to learn. While the creative writing process can be a joy in itself for some, many students may need a little extra push to feel inspired. That’s where these enrichment activities come in—by making the lesson as engaging and enjoyable as possible, you’re opening their minds to possibilities they may not otherwise have considered and helping them to explore their own creative potential.
Furthermore, by publishing their work, you’re not only motivating them to put 110% effort into their writing, you’re also building up their confidence as writers and as students. This, in turn, will encourage them to continue to explore their own boundaries and broaden their horizons. Who knows? Perhaps one of them will become the next C.S. Lewis someday. The possibilities are endless!