Any teacher worth their chalk knows students love to tell stories! From describing their weekend activities of choice or sharing a favorite memory or imagining an outlandish solution to a complicated problem, kids have an instinctive understanding of narrative form.
It’s no wonder why the most common way people share information with each other is by telling stories. Being able to tell stories in an interesting way that aligns with a recognizable narrative structure makes it more likely that important information will be remembered and passed on.
It’s also helpful for students to be able to process and contextualize their life experiences by learning to recognize cause and effect as being more than just watching dominos fall over. Writing stories is a good place to start learning about more complex cause and effect, and it’s a great way for students to improve communication skills, grammar and vocabulary and develop their writing style.
We have compiled several writing prompts that focus on fundamental storytelling skills. We’ve also included a couple more sections filled with writing prompts that range from believable to utterly nonsensical!
Good plots are the result of good characters with interesting traits. Creating a realistic and compelling main character requires young learners to engage their empathy, consider events from a different perspective and develop their theory of mind.
Think about a situation where you wanted something different than another person and only one of you could get what they wanted. Set a timer for 10 minutes and then write about the experience. After half the writing time has passed, switch perspectives and write about how the other person felt about the same situation.
Interview the Hero (or the Villain!)
Imagine you’re the host of a podcast that interviews characters from popular media. Your favorite character is going to be on the pod (so exciting!). Write a list of 5 questions you want to ask the character (or come up with a list of 5 questions as a class to ask all the characters). Now that you have the questions, imagine the character’s responses and answer the questions as the character.
Making and Breaking Rules
Think about your favorite character from a story or movie. Now think about what they would do if they had the option to either make any rule or break any rule. What one rule would they make? What one rule would they break? If they could only do one or the other, which would they choose?
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Family and Friends
Write a fairy tale or a fable from the point of view of a friend or family member of the main character. Which one? Any of them!
“Little Red Riding Hood” from the perspective of her granny. “Cinderella” from the perspective of one of Prince Charming’s friends. The “Tortoise and the Hare” from the perspective of someone who cheered for the tortoise from the beginning. “Hansel and Gretel” from the perspective of the birds who ate the breadcrumbs that were supposed to lead the way home.
Kids These Days
Imagine a character that’s the same age as you, but they either live 100 years in the future or 100 years in the past. How is their life the same? How is it different? Do you think you’d get along with them, or are you too different?
Plotting but Not Scheming
Narratives don’t always have to be about saving the world from utter ruin, but a story with no stakes doesn’t hold tension in the same way as a story where there’s something on the line for the protagonist. Creating a coherent and logical plot is the result of understanding cause and effect, imagining how competing interests might play out and finding a satisfying place to conclude the events.
Write a story that uses the same line for the first line and the last line. This can be a reference to nature (“The crocuses were blooming in the snow”), a description of a character (“They were everyone’s best friend”) or one detail you want to focus on (“The key was stuck in the lock”).
Write about a road trip you’re going to take (real or imagined). Start at the beginning and keep going until you get to the end—remember to plan stops for snacks and look at roadside attractions!
Do the Time Warp
Write a story in reverse order, starting with the ending and working back to the beginning. This can be a tricky one, so we recommend starting with an outline, a mind map, a list or another way to keep track of the series of events before diving into the actual writing.
The Price of Influence
Write a story about a celebrity chef in a famous restaurant who finds out there are four popular celebrities eating at the restaurant on the same night. How do they make sure everything goes well for everyone? What new dishes will they serve to impress?
Building a New World
The most compelling and lasting narratives owe a lot of their success to the depths of their world-building. You don’t think of The Lord of the Rings without imagining Middle-Earth, and you don’t think of Harry Potter without imagining Hogwarts.
Creating worlds as believable and lived-in as these is all about paying attention to and conveying the details. This encourages students to practice mindfulness, improve their observation and recall skills and convey that information to readers.
Everything in the world is the same, except that once every day everyone has to stop whatever they’re doing and _____ for ten minutes. Let your students choose the activity and have them write about how this would play out. Here are some ideas:
- Eat chocolate cake and ice cream
- Jump up and down
- Be silent
- Stand on their heads
Everything in the world is the same, except that there’s no _____ anymore. Let your students choose what’s missing, then have them write about how people would live without that one thing.
- Ice cream trucks
- Dogs or cats
Everything in the world is the same, except instead of _____ it’s _____. Let your students choose their swap, then write about how the world would be different.
- People paid for things with leaves instead of money
- Ice cream was for dinner and dinner was dessert
- People wore hamburgers on their feet instead of shoes
- Cars were powered with helium instead of gas
If you need a quick writing prompt that has a story written by the end, this is the place! Use them as is, change the details or combine them together to get your students working on longer pieces of fiction. For even better results, have your students try several of the above prompts for characters, plot and setting, and then put it all together by reminding them to use those literary skills when making one of the following prompts come to life!
- You wake up on a tropical island with the rest of your class. Everyone has their backpacks and that’s it. How do you plan to escape from the island?
- Write about your favorite place on Earth. Why is it your favorite? What makes it special?
- You’re standing in front of two identical doors. Do you choose the left door or the right door? Why? What’s on the other side?
- Imagine a student from another country is joining your class. Write a letter to welcome them and give them some tips on what to expect at your school.
- It’s the coldest day of winter. How do you spend the day? Make sure to include details about how you stay warm and your opinions about the temperature and snowfall.
- Your two best friends disagree about something. What do they disagree about? Do you try to help them solve the problem? How does it all work out?
- You go to your favorite restaurant, but they’re not serving your favorite food anymore! Do you choose something else or try to convince them to make your favorite out of the other food they have available? What happens?
- Write a story about your favorite dinosaur. Which dinosaur is it? What does it look like where they live? What is their daily life like? How do they find food and avoid predators?
Nothing but Nonsense
If your students aren’t warming up to more conventional writing prompts, try something a little more silly! Engaging in thought experiments that imagine a world completely different from our own is one of the best ways to get past writer’s block, mental sticking points and our own internal critic. After all, it’s hard to overthink whether your story choices are allowed by the rules of writing when the story itself isn’t bound by the usual rules!
- The pets are in charge now. Cats, dogs, hamsters, fish and the rest have taken over and switched places with people. What does your pet do, and how do you feel about it?
- You discover your tablet has magical powers. What powers does it have? How can you use these powers? What would you do with the powers to improve your life?
- Write a story that uses the sentence, “There were angry unicorns everywhere, but I knew exactly what to do.”
- You’re a bird! Where do you go? What do you see? What do you do?
- A wizard has cast a spell on the classroom. What is the spell and what does it do? Do you and your classmates try to break the spell, or do you like things better with the spell in effect?
- You can make one wish that’s guaranteed to come true. What do you wish for? What happens next?
- How do beetle bugs get the colors on their shell? What do they have to do to earn the ability to be shiny and bright?
- You’re given the chance to stop aging at any age you want but once you stop, you’ll stay that age forever. Which age do you choose? Why?
- Think about the last video you recorded or the last pictures you took. Write about it from the perspective of the camera. How does the camera feel? Is it happy being a camera? Is it happy about its job as a camera?
Your Whole Class Can Become Published Authors!
Once your class has the hang of writing short stories, incentivize them to create their best works by using one of our FREE classbook publishing kits! Simply sign up online, and we’ll turn your young learners into published authors. A classbook anthology of your students’ short stories makes for a meaningful keepsake and time capsule for your classroom. Parents can order copies, too!
You can also check out our blog and online Teacher’s Lounge for more writing activities, lesson plans and teaching strategies. Now that you have a collection of fun writing prompts, your students are ready to dive into writing and improve a myriad of important learning concepts!