How to improve creative writing? Throughout primary school, children will be expected to write creatively. A significant part of this requirement is developing their story writing.

When will children be expected to write creatively?

By the end of Key Stage 1, children should be able to write simple stories which include time connectives to indicate the order of events. They will be encouraged to use simple and complex sentences and keep the tense of their story consistent. Teachers will expect children to use some interesting adjectives and use the correct punctuation.

During Years 3 and 4, teachers will place more emphasis on the structure of a story and ask children to write stories which have a clear beginning, middle and end. Teachers will also expect a child to expand their use of adjectives and powerful verbs and to use more sophisticated connectives, such as ‘because’, ‘however’ and ‘although’. They might also start using speech in their stories.

In Years 5 and 6, children should be more confident in effectively structuring their stories and using connectives, adverbials, and some descriptive techniques (such as similes, metaphors, personification and hyperbole). Teachers will encourage children to use a wider variety of punctuation, including brackets, exclamation marks and semicolons. They will also expect children to confidently integrate dialogue between characters in their stories to expand the action.

How to help children with their story planning

It is important that children have an idea of what is going to happen in their story before they start writing, as it could end up not making sense if it has no structure.

One method of helping children plan their story is with the ‘sandwich method’. This involves giving children a diagram and asking them to write ideas for the beginning of the story in the top piece of bread, the main action in the middle ‘filling’, and ideas for the ending in the bottom piece of bread. Here is an example diagram:

This method can help children write more coherent stories, as they can refer to the diagram when they write and it will prompt them to remember plot details.

It is also important to remind children that good stories often follow simple plot lines. Make sure your child understands that focussing their story around one main part of action is more effective. This is because too much action will overcomplicate it and make it hard to follow.

A good idea could be to write a story which gives the characters a problem and explores how they solve it.

Using too many characters can also lower the quality of their writing, as children will not have time to develop detailed descriptions.

Developing characters

It is worth spending time developing detailed character descriptions with your child, as they can then expand or adapt these when they write new stories.

When developing characters in class, teachers may provide children with a character description sheet which has sections for them to fill out, including:

What does your character look like?

  • What adjectives could you use to describe them?
  • What similes or metaphors could you use?
  • How do they move?
  • What are the character’s personality traits?
  • What problem does your character have?
  • Do they solve the problem?

Draw a picture of your character

As children are completing this exercise, it is likely that teachers will hand out description word banks filled with example adjectives, verbs and adverbs. This will encourage children to be more creative with their vocabulary and should help them to improve their story writing.

One way to help children with their character descriptions at home is to give them a picture of a character, such as ‘an old man’, ‘an evil witch’ or ‘a superhero’, and ask them to write words and phrases around it to describe them. This will encourage children to use their imagination and the picture will help to provide inspiration.

How to encourage children who struggle writing creatively

Sometimes when children are asked to write a story they have lots of good ideas but struggle to get these down in writing. This may be particularly true of children who find it difficult to write neatly and coherently.

A good way of making creative writing less daunting is by encouraging children to draw pictures which represent their ideas. They might draw a detailed picture of their character or where they want the action of their story to take place. Drawing is helpful for children to plan their story and expand on the ideas they have in their mind.
Once they have drawn some pictures, you could then ask your child to write a few sentences under each one to describe the characters or setting they have drawn. Writing a few sentences of a story each night will help children to improve their creative writing, without them feeling overwhelmed by writing a whole story in one go.

Mind mapping

Children tend to be more enthusiastic about writing stories when they can write about a topic which really interests them. If you know your child is interested in space, or dinosaurs for example, you could encourage them to mind map everything they can think of which relates to this topic. Here is an example of a helpful mind map:

The 5 senses are a good starting point to encourage children to use their imagination. They can think about what their characters would be able to hear, see, smell, taste and touch in the setting of the story.

During this exercise, you could ask your child to write some sentences using descriptive techniques, like a simile. For example, they might come up with:

‘The astronaut felt as light as a feather’.

‘The rocket groaned in complaint’. (personification)

Reading and creative writing

When children are first learning about story writing, teachers might use the book that they are reading as a class to start discussions on the plot and the characters. Children could be asked to draw a story map which explains what happens in the book, or they might have to write a diary entry pretending to be one of the characters.
Often teachers will spend a significant amount of time analysing and exploring a book with the class, as this will help children learn what is involved in story writing before they start writing their own.

Continuing to read with your child at home is also important so that children are learning new words and expanding their vocabulary. Children might be inspired by how an author describes one of the characters in the book. This could then help them when they create their own characters, as they might use some of these descriptions and expand or adapt them.

How does Learning Street help children with creative writing?

Throughout the Learning Street courses, there are various occasions for the child to write their own sentences or short stories. This repeated practice combined with them improving their English skills through our core English skills will help the child to be able to make their stories more complex and improve their creative writing.

Paired reading also helps as other stories will often give children inspiration for ideas for their own stories.

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