Objective: To develop creative writing skills.
Recommended Grades: 3-6
Estimated Time: 30-45 minutes
My name is Joe Turbessi. I use Culliver Crantz as my author name for my middle grade book series called FrightVision. To go along with the series, I offer “FrightStorming” sessions to schools where I do an interactive brainstorming session with the kids to come up with stories in real time using their ideas.
This blog is based on school visits that I have done across the country for students in grades three through six. This activity is such a fun and creative way to get your students engaged and participating in the classroom and also at home with virtual learning. This lesson plan can be implemented as a group or individually.
Get Started – Important Parts of a Story
First, it’s important to get students thinking about the essential parts of a story that they will need in order to brainstorm their own idea. I encourage teachers to start with a quick and painless exercise of having students write down what’s important for a story.
Now that we have an idea of what we need to create a story and the students’ minds are thinking in this way, let’s ramp it up and get this brainstorming session started!
The first thing we need is a main character. When I do these sessions with a group of students, I always tell them: this is a huge responsibility! This is the character that we’re going to create our whole story about, so we need a name for our character and three things to go with it: 1) Something that the character loves, 2) Something that the character hates, and 3) Something that the character is afraid of.
We’re not done yet because we need more information about our important main character. Let’s go ahead and add to each of our lists until we have 3-4 things in each of the three major categories.
Brainstorming – Coming Up With Your Story Idea
Now, to keep the students focused, I use a story prompt here that includes a setting, story idea, and a title. This prompt will keep the students on task and thinking about how their character is going to fit into this story. There are plenty of places to find story prompts, including the FrightVision spooky activity book—FrightFully Fun Puzzles, Games, & Stories. Or you and your students can create your own story prompt.*
*I suggest generating the story prompt separate from creating your character—this makes for more fun!
Here’s where the brainstorming really comes into play. The students have an idea and a character with unique characteristics, which they are going to use to create their story idea. Let’s choose this prompt from the FrightVision spooky activity book:
For this story prompt from the FrightVision activity book, “The Lake House”, the something in the lake could be a snake. Why did I mention snake? Because that’s what their main character is afraid of. We want our main characters to grow and conquer their fears.
But, as I always ask the students during this activity: Do we just have our character walk outside of the house and they’re at the lake and they meet the snake? No! Of course not! We need an epic journey that will take us there and we’re going to use as many of the characteristics that we created BEFORE we knew the prompt. This makes for some really interesting and different ideas.
Based on the character in this example, we know that we’re going to feature some spiders, heights, and maybe even a slice of pizza during our trip to the lake. This will add substance to our story.
I always encourage the students to break things down. Much like we did with our character, we have to think about the lake. So, what’s in the lake? What’s around the lake—what does that terrain look like?
Then, once we have a good idea of the lake area, let’s think about our epic journey. What happens on our journey? What challenges will our character face?
We’ve broken our story down into smaller pieces, now we add it all together to formulate our whole storyline.
Each time your students create new components to the story, ask them why they did that. They should be able to relate each event back to their character.
All of these sessions are going to be unique. Every time your students do this exercise, even if they use the same prompt, the end result will most likely be different. The entire exercise is mainly based on the character that they create, which will drive their idea.
Fuel Their Imagination – Ask “What If?”
Always encourage them to ask the question, ‘what if’?
This question will enable them to use their imagination and enhance their idea, eventually helping them come up with an ending to their story. And if they’re like me, they’ll want to have a major twist that ties into all of the characteristics that they’ve been using to brainstorm!
Once your students get their idea brainstormed, they’ll have to organize and outline their story. We’ll save that for another time!
If you like this activity, but don’t want to host it yourself and you’re looking to bring someone into your classroom to do it, feel free to reach out! I always enjoy having the opportunity to host FrightStorming sessions with students!
About the Author:
Culliver Crantz is the award winning author and creator of the FrightVision middle grade book series! Currently, there are 9 books released in the series and there are more coming soon. Crantz has done FrightStorming sessions all over the United States, both virtually and in person. Those sessions have resulted in ecstatic students and extremely satisfied teachers. There are plenty of testimonials on the FrightVision website (click on Educators tab) and there is also a reading and curriculum guide for The Cursed Coin (FrightVision Book one), which is tied to common core standards and includes STEM activities.
Crantz always encourages readers to be part of the FrightVision series and often hosts writing and video contests for kids, events that are family friendly, and will soon be hosting a book club experience. For more about FrightVision and Culliver Crantz, go to www.FrightVisionBooks.com.
To contact Culliver Crantz about visiting your classroom, email: [email protected].