Like Stacey, I think it’s imperative that kids have lists in their notebooks about writing ideas. I think one of the most powerful lessons we can give students in regards to finding writing ideas is to help them find topics they can mine. What I mean by this, is finding topics that have many topics inside of them. For instance, if a student writes a story about fishing with her grandpa, I may ask her: “What other grandpa stories do you have?” or “What other fishing stories do you have?” Instead of using a topic once and moving on, we try to get kids to linger with a topic and find more story ideas buried within it. Here are two lessons I’ve used in classrooms to help kids learn this concept.
A list I used to have my middle school students keep was called Writing Territories. It is an idea that I gleaned from Nancie Atwell’s In the Middle. She also has a lesson on this idea in her set Lessons that Change Writers.
The basic gist of the idea is that we all have territories on which we can write well. Instead of generating single story ideas, we identify territories in our lives that have a wealth of story ideas. Here are a few items on my territory list to give you a flavor for this kind of list:
- Jeff, my brother. Talk about a wealth of story ideas here! (I talk about some of my favorites with students during the focus lesson.
- Teaching. A lot of what I write is about teaching writing (after all, I keep two blogs on the subject!). I have hundreds of ideas I could write about on this topic.
- Campfires. I really enjoy these. I have many experiences around a campfire that could lead to many writing project ideas.
- Sam, my son. He’s a year and a half and I could write about him in any genre. Currently, he is a major writing territory for me. I keep a blog of stories about him (and my family) as well as most of my scrapbooking is focused around this topic.
In primary classrooms, I often give a similar lesson in which we identify kinds of stories. I create a chart that says:
I’ll snap a photo of this chart to post later. 🙂