Monday, August 15, 2011


by Joan Waites

Back in November of last year, I wrote a blog entry featuring a “story starter” exercise which used a single prop to jump-start story ideas. At a recent workshop weekend offered by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators ,workshop leader author David LaRochelle lead us in another “story starter” exercise that  would work well for students of all ages, and can be adapted to use as an “art starter” as well.

Using index cards, ask students to write down on five separate cards the following:

A Character 

 (Example:  spider, robot, 12 year old girl)

An Emotional Situation 

(Example:  losing your best friend, moving to a new country, not making the cut for the soccer team)

A Place

(Example:  frozen lake, another universe, the top floor of a skyscraper)

An Object

(Example:  sewing needle, lava rock, teddy bear)

Next, have students shuffle the cards and exchange 2-3 of the cards with a partner.

Finally, using the cards they have chosen, ask students to quickly write down ten ideas (one or two sentences) for a story based on the words on their cards. Pick one of these ideas and develop it further.

For a variation of this exercise, have students cut different pictures from magazines, newspapers, or junk mail. Ask them to find pictures of people, animals, places and objects and glue them to the cards.  Have students exchange several cards with each other.  Students will then draw a character in a location and/or with an object based on the cards they have chosen telling the story in their illustrations.

Using this exercise with either the written word or with pictures, students have endless possibilities to jump-start their imaginations!

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