Like every other learning topic and core academic skill, some young learners naturally gravitate toward and excel at writing, while others may find it a bit more challenging. For many students, writing activities can take up a lot of mental bandwidth: there are letters to memorize, sounds to remember and spelling words to learn by heart. If you add overly complicated writing activities—or even worse, boring writing activities—you and your class will face a long and potentially frustrating time. Instead, try adding more quick and creative writing activities focusing on building essential skills.
Read on for 14 writing activities to help your 2nd-grade students build writing proficiency!
Filling out a Mad Libs page together as a class can be a fun, low-stakes way to ease your students into creative writing. Choose an especially funny Mad Libs page and go around the classroom, asking each student to fill in a word blank. If you have more blanks than students, call on random students to finish the page or ask for volunteers!
Alternatively, take a page from a book you’re reading in class and swap out a large collection of the words for blanks labeled with the correct part of speech. Go around the room to complete the DIY Mad Lib or have each student work independently. Ask kids to read their favorite sentences to the class.
Comic strips are another fun, lower-stakes way to practice writing and build writing proficiency. Students can focus on writing dialog (and sometimes narration) without getting distracted by writing descriptions. This is also an effective way to entice students who prefer visual arts into exploring writing: they get to draw and color, plus they can add words to make their drawings more impactful.
Templates for comic strips can easily be found online, or you and your students can freehand the panels and then fill them in. Another option is to collect published comic strips, especially classics like Calvin and Hobbs or Peanuts, and then remove the words from the speech bubbles. Then, challenge your class to create a story matching the pictures!
Linguistic Deep-Dive Stories
If there are specific vocabulary words that your 2nd-grade classes need help understanding, turn those words into topics for writing activities! First, explain the word and share its meaning with the class. You can also share any exciting history or etymology to help make the word more memorable. After that, ask your students to write a story that relates to the word somehow.
Ways this can be done include writing about a character named after this word, writing a story where characters say this word multiple times, writing about the word but never using the word itself in the story, using many different synonyms of the word, making up a story about how it was invented or anything else that relates the word to the story in some way.
Reflecting on your day with kind consideration is a helpful aspect of mindfulness and beneficial to overall better mental health. Journaling is one of the most accessible ways to reflect, and it also creates a handy document that can be referred to later to review overall progress and general trends.
To avoid students falling into habits of procrastination or task paralysis, it’s best to have a topic or two available for anyone who isn’t in the mood to free-write. Interesting topics include describing what the student had for lunch, sharing something they did that they’re proud of, listing five things the student is grateful for or guessing what might happen next in their favorite TV show, book series, or movie they’re looking forward to.
Practice vocabulary words with more mindfulness and intention. For each vocabulary word, ask students to write the word at the top of the page. Next, copy a brief definition of the word onto the page. Then, draw an illustration of the word.
You can do this for all vocabulary words, ending with each student creating a fully illustrated dictionary of all the vocabulary words your class has encountered throughout the year, or you can focus on specific vocabulary words throughout the year.
Write a Story, Pass It On
Ask each student to write the first sentence or two of a story, then pass the paper to the person on their left (with the last person on the left passing the paper to the next row down). The next student reads the preceding sentence and writes the following sentence of the story. Then, they fold the paper so that only their sentence shows, and they pass it on to the person on their left. Continue until each piece of paper has been around the room once.
While this activity will seem wildly ridiculous and funny while it’s happening, the real fun comes when each student reads the final story after they get their papers back! Ask volunteers to read their stories aloud to the whole class for extra fun.
Pictures to Words
Show a picture to your classroom and challenge your students to write a few paragraphs about what they believe the picture is showing. The best images for this activity are photos or art that show something in motion, groups of people interacting, people or animals engaged in a task or something extraordinary or noteworthy. As with all other classroom activities, teachers get bonus points for humor and style.
If you want your students to focus on something specific in the picture or think about a particular subject, you can add writing prompts, like asking them to consider how a specific person or creature is feeling, what’s just happened or what’s about to happen next.
Dinner Party Planning
Ask your students to imagine they’ll be planning a fancy meal. The first thing they’ll be thinking about is the menu! Have them write out all the food they want to serve, with options ranging from snacks and sweets to entrees and sides, or whatever they’d prefer to serve. Next, ask them to list the ingredients needed to make all the food they want. (If they aren’t sure about the recipe, it’s okay to guess!)
After they plan their meals, have students write an invitation explaining what the meal will be and the occasion being celebrated.
Taking the time to acknowledge kindness and focus on the positive aspects of life helps to better manage negativity and correlates with improved mental health outcomes. You can double the beneficial impacts of gratitude by acknowledging kindness with an act of kindness: hand out sheets of cardstock or construction paper, along with other art supplies, and ask your students to write a card for someone they want to thank.
Ideally, they’ll want to thank someone for a specific action. This ensures that the person they make the card for feels appreciated and personally cared for.
Start at the Beginning
Give your students a famous first line to a story and ask them to write the next couple of paragraphs—or finish the whole story! We recommend borrowing from the classics, your classroom’s favorites or taking the first line of any book in your classroom library. If all else fails, there’s always “Once upon a time…”
Now take the same idea, but with a different approach: give your students a famous last line and ask them to write a few paragraphs of a story that ends with that line—or write the whole story! May we suggest, “And they all lived happily ever after”?
Start with pages of text copied from books—anthologies and poetry collections are great for this, and so are textbooks that are just a few grade levels higher than your classroom. Each of your students gets a page, and their challenge is to create a poem or short story from the groups of words on the page. Students can do this by cutting out sections they like and gluing them onto a new sheet of paper. They can also add words, cross out words or cut off parts of words.
Another way to do this is by sharing the same page with the whole classroom, either on an overhead projector or with a shared document across classroom computers. Then, students copy down the words and phrases they want to use manually instead of altering the page.
This can be used as its own writing activity, but it works equally well to supplement other writing activities! Start with a jar or other similar container. Next, fill the jar with a collection of short writing prompts. Prompts can range from characters to story complications, famous quotes, interesting words, compelling photos or other visual art.
As its own activity, pass the jar around the classroom and have each student pull out a writing prompt. To supplement other writing activities, have students pull a writing prompt from the inspiration jar whenever they say they don’t know what to write about. You can get your students more involved by asking them to contribute their own writing prompts to the inspiration jar (you will, of course, want to review the suggestions rather than having students contribute them without oversight!)
Help Your Students Publish a Book of Their Own Writing!
Another exciting (and our favorite) way to build writing proficiency with your students is to have your class create a collaborative classbook and become published authors through our FREE classbook publishing kits! Simply sign up online, and we’ll provide everything you need to publish your students’ writing and illustrations, including any help you need along the way.
Some of the activities listed above are great places to start when you’re choosing a theme for your classbook! Each of your students will contribute one page of writing and one page of illustration to help create something special you’ll be proud to show off for years to come—you’ll get a free classroom copy, and parents can also order copies to keep at home as a literary time capsule and keepsake for the future.
You can also check out our blog and online Teacher’s Lounge for more writing activities, lesson plans and teaching strategies. Now that you’ve added more ideas to your own list of writing activities to build your students’ writing proficiency, your students will be on their way to further developing and improving their communication and reading skills!