The purpose of this blog for teachers and my mission as a kids’ book author who does frequent visits to schools is to MAKE WRITING VISIBLE. So much of writing is invisible, inside our brains. That’s where we get our ideas. That’s where we figure out what will happen in our stories. That’s where our creativity lives. That’s where our characters come to life. But are there ways to make all those invisible happenings more visible? YES! I believe we can and we must. By making writing more visible, we take the mystery out of the process. We offer young authors help and hope for becoming better authors. So please join me in MAKING WRITING VISIBLE!

Ideas for Getting Ideas

Have your students ever whined, "But, teacher, I don't know what to write about?" No one likes whining, and you can’t supply ideas for all your students. There’s only one of you and so many of them. And, besides, even if you were inclined to give them ideas to write about, you SHOULDN’T! Your students need to learn to come up with ideas by themselves—that’s what authors do. The more your students generate their own ideas for writing, the easier it will become for them over time.

But there is a mini-lesson you CAN do to help your students to learn about ideas for getting ideas. See the two-page handout in the Blog Link below. The first page is blank for students to fill in and the second page is sort of a “cheat sheet” for you (but feel free to generate your own cheat sheet =).

Give each student a copy of the blank page with the heading “Ideas for Getting Ideas for Writing.” Tell them they have to think of how they get ideas for stories--NOT what the actual ideas are (i.e. my dog got lost, the time I went camping); but rather ways they came up with those ideas. Give them an example to get them started. You could write READING A BOOK up on the board. Then say, “When I read the book A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen, it reminded me of the time our family went camping. I’d like to write about that camping trip. And so reading a book triggered an idea for my writing. What other things can trigger ideas for writing?” Give students a set time, such as two minutes, to write on their worksheets TWO ways they get ideas for writing.

After students are finished, then have the class share the ideas they wrote down. You should write a comprehensive class list on the board with everyone’s ideas for getting ideas. But also ask students to copy/write the ideas their fellow classmates generated onto their own papers too—that way each student will have a master list of ways to get ideas for stories. These papers can then be kept in the front of each of their writing folders. And, by all means, the list should not be static—add to it as the school year goes along.

Then the next time, during writing workshop, when students get STUCK for ideas, refer them to their “idea” paper for help. Less whining, more ideas—all good! And you’ll make “getting ideas” MORE VISIBLE to your students—yay!



Ideas for Getting Ideas Worksheet

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How DO Authors Get Ideas?

How DO authors get ideas? Sometimes it can seem like a great mystery. Ideas are invisible, hidden in our brains until we tell someone about them or write them down.

Before your students analyze how they get ideas for their own stories, back up and teach them to investigate how other authors get ideas for stories. As a class, investigate and discuss picture books and possible ways the authors got their ideas for those books.

When you read a book aloud, have students make guesses for how the author might have gotten the idea for the story. Was it something that actually happened to the author—what they experienced? Was it something they read about—from history, perhaps? Was it based on a hot topic that’s popular or has been in the news?

Read books thoroughly. There may be hints for how authors actually got their ideas in the dedication, in an afterword, in the author’s biographical blurb on the book flap, or on the author’s website. In some books, it will be clear where the idea came from. In other books, it won’t be clear. And that’s okay. The point isn’t that your students figure out how authors of all books get their ideas. The point is that they start thinking more about how ideas for stories could be generated. Keep a running list in your classroom of how other authors get their ideas. Such a list might help students find ways to get ideas for their own stories.

By talking about how authors get ideas for stories, you are making writing more VISIBLE for your students. Making writing more visible for students is always a good thing.


Check out books mentioned by Lynn in this video:
School Picture Day
The Dump Man’s Treasures
Lighthouse Christmas by Toni Buzzeo
Pond Babies by Cathryn Falwell
The Rosie Stories by Cynthia Voigt

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