Sunday, January 23, 2011


A common complaint from kids (and adults, for that matter) is “I can’t think of anything to write!”

Trying to help a group of kids come up with ideas for stories is a little like trying to catch smoke with a net. The more you try to explain the different ways to generate story ideas, the murkier things become.  Looking out into the room, you can see their eyes glazing over.

A good exercise for elementary school aged kids is to have them write about their own childhood (as short as it may be!). That’s too general, of course, and so tightening their options is a good idea. One direction to go would be to have your students write about the funniest memory they have of their own family. The great thing about this exercise is that if they can’t remember a funny episode, they can simply make one up. By using their own families, each student has a cast of characters who are defined and ready to go. All they need to do is either ‘pretend’ that a funny event has happened in the past, or retell a real one.

Maybe their funny memory happened during a holiday (a Thanksgiving dinner disaster, perhaps). It could have happened on a family vacation.  Remind them of those long car rides to DisneyWorld, or of family reunions. Many will have brothers and sisters, or dogs and cats.  If they don’t, they can add one into their story and see what happens. It’s their chance to have the pet llama they always wanted for their birthday, but never got.

While they are writing their funny family memory, it’s a good time to remind students that when you write humor, exaggeration is your friend. If Aunt Ethel is tidy, she is super tidy. She is so tidy that she walks around the dinner table wiping the condensation from the water glasses so it doesn’t drip on the plastic tablecloth.

If Uncle Ernie snored through your big sister’s wedding, he was so loud the bride and groom couldn’t hear their vows.
  When retelling a funny memory, exaggeration is like an amplifier. It turns up the funny volume. But if you use too much exaggeration, your reader won’t know where to focus.  If Uncle Ernie is the star of your funniest memory, let his story build and climax, and make the best use of exaggeration when he snores through your sister’s wedding.

1 comment:

  1. GREAT suggestions !!! Especially the exageration factor. Well done.