Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ultimate Guide to Creative Writing Resources for Students

 Creative writing: that's my thing. I love to teach it, I love to do it, I love to read about it. Creative writing often gets shoved aside, playing second fiddle to report and essay writing. I hear parents lament often that "My kid hates to write!" But the vast majority of kids do, in fact, like to write. They just may not know it because they have only known the world of report writing. My hope is that all kids will have a chance to write creatively—to learn to love words and language.

In teaching creative writing classes at our homeschooling co-op and, of course, with my own three kids, I have pinned and bookmarked dozens of resources for teaching creative writing at home or in a classroom. Below are links to the ones I have found to be top notch. Please note that, except for the books listed at the end, these are all free resources. I have not included programs for which you must pay, but there are many good ones out there.

For more posts in the Ultimate Guides series, be sure to visit iHomeschool Network! Details and a special drawing are listed at the bottom of this post.


Teaching Creative Writing: This is one of my most popular posts ever. Come read some of my ideas for making creative writing incredibly fun!

Teaching Children to Write Poetry: Aadel of Natural Family Today embraces one of my mantras: "To write poetry, you must learn to observe and love the elements of language." She has some fabulous tips and techniques for challenging your children to create their very own awesome poetry.

Reading Poetry with Children: The best writers are avid readers who love the sound of words. In this post I offer suggestions for great poems to read with kids—and how to avoid over-analyzing them!

5 Techniques that Build Creative Thinking Skills: The creative process can be blocked in all kinds of ways. (See How Traditional Classrooms Hinder Creative Thinking.) This post suggests ways to clear the mind and push creativity forward.

Writing Prompts and {Free} Creative Writing Programs

SmallWorld's WordSmithery: {All ages.} Yes, I'm starting with my own stuff. Is that tacky? The WordSmithery is my free creative writing program. It's ongoing; you never know when I might add a lesson or two! I've taught this class to dozens of students and have had emails from dozens more saying, "We love this program! When are you going to write more?" One of these days, I promise. In the meantime, check it out if you haven't yet!

Amy's Creative Writing Lessons: {All ages.} Amy generously shares 9 lessons that she used in teaching creative writing at her co-op. She even includes PDF downloads of the hand-outs, organizers, and notes that she used for each class. This is great stuff!

The Teachers' Corner: {All ages.} Writing prompts, organized by month, for every day of the year! Most of the prompts are related to the various events, including birthdays, holidays, monthly celebrations, and important dates in history. You can download a PDF form of each of the writing prompts.

Bruce Van Patter's Let's Get Creative: {All ages.} Don't miss this one! This is a fantastic site for stimulating those creative juices. This one site contains hundreds of ideas for writing. Just a few of the features include:
  • The What-If Question Genie provides a seemingly endless supply of writing prompts, such as "What if a bully tripped over a missing friend?"
  • The Story Kitchen: Kids can pick out three details, Bruce starts the story, and the student finishes it.
  • Random Wacky Headline Maker: Provides very silly writing prompts in the form of headlines and gives tips for turning the headline into a story.
Teacher Vision:  {All ages.} An extensive collection of printables, graphic organizers, and lessons plans for teaching creative writing. Includes poetry activities, short-story writing exercises, journal topics, printable worksheets, art projects, and more.

Daily Writing Ideas: {Elementary.} Simple prompts organized by month. 

The Write Source: Provides an extensive list of writing topics by grade, 1st-high school

Story starter from Story-It
Story-It: {Elementary.} Downloadable picture prompts that provide a picture and lined paper on which to write.

Writing Bugs: {Elementary.} Downloadable prompts with lined paper. A new one is available every day!

Can Teach Prompts: {Upper elementary and older.} Dozens and dozens of quick prompts.

WritingFix: {All ages.} Interactive writing prompts, writing games, and story starters.

Corbett Harrison's Always Write:  {Middle and high school.} Great ideas for keeping a writer's notebook. I especially like the Bingo Cards—a fun way to encourage regular writing. (Click to download PDF bingo sample.) The site also includes a random prompt generator, with nearly 600 prompt possibilities. Be sure to look at his writer's notebook samples!

Teaching Creative Writing at The English Teacher: {High school.} Units for teaching facets of creative writing and complete lesson plans for a creative writing course. Fabulous resource!

Writing Prompts on Writing Forward: {High school and adult.} From "Poetry Prompts for Ranting and Raving" to "TV Inspired Writing Prompts," Melissa Donovan's site has an endless supply of ideas.

Writing Portfolio: {High School.} A fantastic list of 60 largely autobiographical assignments designed for a writer's notebook. Each assignment is available to download in a Word or PDF doc. Example: "Imagine you are leaving home forever, and you can only take with you what will fit in one medium-sized suitcase. Specifically, what will you take with you and why? Explain."

NaNoWriMo Young Writers Project: {Middle/High School.} NaNoWriMo happens every November! It's a writing event where the challenge is to complete an entire novel in just 30 days, from  November 1 to November 30.

Imagination Prompts: {High school and adult.} Random prompt generator. Examples: "Describe your mother's wedding dress. What do you know about her wedding?"and "What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?" 

Specific Topics

Poetry Teachers:  {Elementary.} Easy instructions on how to write all kinds of poetry. Includes lots of funny poems.

Haiku at In the Moonlight a Worm: {All ages.} This is a wonderful site for learning the history of and how to write haiku.

Art Journaling: {All ages.} Inspiration, rationale, and ideas for encouraging art journaling—a combination of art and writing.

Bio-poems: {All ages.} Bio-poems are part autobiography and part poem. This is a great introductory tool and discussion prompt for inspiring creative writing in reluctant poets.

Form Poetry at Pizzaz: {All ages.} Links to writing all kinds of form poetry and also some fun stories.

 How Letter Writing Can Nurture a Love for Writing in Your Child: {All ages.} Don't let letter writing become a lost art! People still love getting real letters in the mail, and Rashmie has great ideas for inspiring your kids to write letters.

The Five Fact of Fiction: {Middle and high school.} This free 47-page unit is loaded with tips, guidelines, and models, focusing primarily on character as the most important aspect of fiction writing.The link takes you to the downloadable PDF.

Photography for Creative Writing: {Middle and high school.} Teens love to take pictures. This is a great lesson on using photography along with creative writing.

Outta Ray's Head Poetry Lessons: {Middle and high school.} Outta Ray's Head is one of my favorite sites in general, and this page links to dozens of different poetry lessons.

Creating Dynamic Characters: {High school.} Teaches students how to use methods of characterization to reveal character. PDF files included on "instruction" tab.

Short stories: {High school.}54 ideas for short stories. Includes some traditional ideas and also three-element starters, such as: "A stolen ring, fear of spiders, and a sinister stranger."

Teaching Students to Read and Write Short Stories: {High school.} This is a thorough downloadable guide to teaching short story writing to high schoolers, from brainstorming to editing and publishing.

You Can Write a Short Story: {Middle and high school.} This is a 3-part series (look on the sidebar on the site for parts 2 and 3) that encourages young writers to follow through with the story-writing process.

Hands-On Projects

Most of these projects can be adapted to use with all ages.

Synonym wheel
Synonym Wheels: This is a fabulous project for learning to use the thesaurus and for encouraging writers to use more interesting words.

Alphabet Animal Alliterations: Samples of how kids can practice alliteration by drawing pictures to match an alliterative phrase or sentence of their choice.

Brightening Winter with Poetry Collages:  My post on combining words with artwork to brighten up the dull days of winter.

Field Trip Notebooks: A great idea for combining field trip memories with journaling!

"Add It" Writing Game: I always use a game to warm up my creative writing classes. This one from Fruit in Season is a favorite in my classes.

Encouraging Children to Write Fan Fiction: On The Homeschool Classroom, Dee shares ideas for writing fan fiction —stories written about already existing characters or settings. This is a fantastic way to break into story writing.

Picture Prompts for Writing:See how Cindy's kids use a picture as a starting point for stories.

Newspaper blackout poem
Newspaper Blackout Poems: Take a newspaper article, black out words you don't want and keep the others, until you see a poem emerge.  One of our favorite projects!

Family Newsletter: My son called his The Freakshow Weekly. Here's a slightly more serious one from Our Journey Westward. However your kids want to do it, a newsletter is a fantastic way to write creatively!

Making Books in Your Homeschool: Book making provides a multisensory approach to learning: hands are busy, minds are exploding with ideas, connections are being made between topic and task. This post of mine on The Homeschool Classroom gives ideas and inspiration for making books.

Simile rainbow
8 Fantastic Hands-on Poetry Projects: This post of mine on The Homeschool Classroom links to several fun projects we've done, including the simile rainbow above.

Collaging a Self-Portrait with Magazine Cuttings and Mixed Media: A beautiful project that integrates art, words, and portraiture.

Shape-Book Patterns: Younger kids love writing stories and poetry in shape books. This site features dozens of shape books to download and print.

Travel Brochure: Stretch outside poetry and stories to nonfiction writing! Travel brochures can be a great way to incorporate geography with creative writing.

Making Books Blog: This blog features dozens of ideas for making simple, beautiful books of poetry. Innovative ideas with great results.


There are bazillions of writing books out there, ranging from the earliest writers to adults. These are my absolute favorites.

If You’re Trying to Teach Kids to Write, You’ve Gotta Have This Book! by Marjorie Frank. {All ages.} This is my all-time favorite guide to teaching creative writing. It's an idea book, not curriculum. Every single page is absolutely stuffed with ideas and inspiration.

Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing by Karen Benke. {Elementary to middle.} This is a high-energy idea factory, filled with all kinds of writing prompts and activities to stimulate creative thinking.

500 Writing Prompts for Kids  by Bryan Cohen. {All ages.} This is an absolute goldmine of writing prompts. Read my review of this fantastic book, and then go buy it! Cohen also now has writing prompt workbooks for various grades. Visit his website for information on these.

Kids Write by Rebecca Olien. {Elementary and Middle.} Great ideas and activities for writing sci fi, mystery, autobiography and more. Writing experiences are interwoven with other forms of artistic expression, including theatre, puppetry, and photography, as well as music, drawing, and crafts.

How To Make a Journal of Your Life by Dan Price. {High school to adult.} I absolutely love this little book. Price teaches readers how to take all those creative ideas and put them on paper, encouraging jotting down neat things that happen and also sketching, even if you think you are terrible at it.
My Future Listography: All I Hope to Do in Lists by Lisa Nola. If you have a teen girl in your home, I bet she would love this book! It's just a blank book with writing prompts on each page that range from "habits I want to break" to "places I want to travel."

A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You by Ralph Fletcher. {Middle and high school.} Fletcher offers terrific advice on how to observe the world around you and record it in a writer's notebook.

101 Creative Writing Exercises by Melissa Donovan. {Middle school to adult.} Melissa's website, Writing Forward, is packed with articles about creative writing. Her book is also filled with tools, techniques, and writing ideas.

Get Published

Stone Soup: Described as "the perfect gift for children who love to read, Stone Soup publishes children's writing and art (up through age 13). Many libraries carry the magazine if you'd like to browse through it.

Self-Publishing: This family does a beautiful job writing, illustrating, and publishing their own books. What treasures these will be someday!

Kids Can Publish: Lists all kinds of contests and places for kids of all ages to submit their work.

The Slam: A forum for teens to submit their work—and have it workshopped with a critical eye by their peers.

Teen Ink: A literary magazine for and by teens.

Do you have absolute favorite resources for teaching creative writing to your kids that I am missing? Let me know in the comments, and I might add your suggestions!

This is just one of nearly 40 Ultimate Guide posts hosted by iHomeschool Network. Click on the link to  see a variety of topics  homeschool to homemaking to marriage. Come by and enjoy the Ultimate Guides from iHN. Comment and you'll be automatically entered in a drawing to win one of four prizes (see iHN link above) donated by Apologia. Four random people who comment on any of the Ultimate posts will win these four books. So the more you comment on the different posts, the greater your chances of winning!


  1. Sarah, this is wonderful. I have a friend who has been asking and asking if I could find something just like this for her. This will be a blessing tomany. I can't wait to sit and really take the time to read through this and pull it into our homeschool writing!

  2. These are some really useful links! We need more writing inspiration in our homeschool and I'm looking forward to using some of these ideas.

  3. Thanks for including !

  4. when I see ultimate guide to something, I'm pretty skeptical. I have to say this is awesome!!!!!! Totally ultimate! ;) Thanks for the resources! Hopefully, I used enough !!!!!! to get my point across. :)

  5. Oh me, I sooo need help with creative writing, or just teaching writing in general! Thank you so much. I am bookmarking this so I can come back and look at more of the links.

  6. What marvelous resources! Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. I loved this article. So much really good and useful information.

    More importantly, I love that you have captured so many ways to keep children creative! In today's world, there are so many things stripping kids of their beautiful creative selves and dampening their imaginations...this article combats that with endless solutions.

    Thank you

  8. Great ideas and information, It do helps me a lot..

  9. Hi! If you're updating your list sometime, I'd love to have my website included. It has lot of resources and links for teachers, homeschoolers, teen and pre-teen writers. You can find it here: Thanks. I'll be linking to your page from my website. It's a fabulous list of resources.

  10. This is a fantastic list, and exactly what I needed for planning my year. Thank you!!

  11. Thanks for this, there clearly is a real wealth of resources out there!


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