4 Low-Prep Creative Writing Ideas

In need of a quick, low-prep lesson? Here are some creative writing activities that my students and I have enjoyed over the last year. These ideas work whether you are teaching in person, online, or hybrid, and they all allow students to exercise their creative writing skills and senses of humor.

“Speak into the Mic” image from Alan Levine (CC BY 2.0; https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/5560626994)

1. Travel Radio Dramas

Begin by explaining that before television, radio dramas were a form of entertainment. Radio dramas were performed with interesting voices and sound effects to capture the audience’s attention.

Tell students that they will virtually travel with their groups. As a group, first, they need to decide on a travel destination and a problem that will happen. For example, my group might choose to travel to the Yellow Mountains and the problem is that a huge thunderstorm starts.

After the students have decided on their destination and problem, they write a script together. Virtually, use a shared document like Google Docs. As students write, they can think about what sound effects they can make with the things around them, like shaking a sheet of paper for thunder.

After they have written the script, finish the activity by asking them to record a performance of their radio drama for their classmates to listen to.

2. Gif-y Sentences

Gifs are like next-level photos when it comes to prompting creative (and funny) student responses. During online teaching, I found that the response rate to my posts was higher when I used gifs to prompt students, especially my middle school–aged students.

For this activity, I typically choose a sentence structure or grammar point as a target, such as simple past and past continuous, but you can skip this step if you are just aiming for creativity. Then find a gif of something silly happening, like this one, and share an example sentence like, “While I was doing my English homework, my silly little cat sat on the keyboard.” Then ask students to find and post some gifs with some sentences using the given sentence structure. If you are teaching in person, you can ask students in class to write their sentences down; with online teaching, you can have students post in a forum.

You can stop at sentence-level creative writing or you can offer an extension where your students choose their best sentence and write a story that incorporates the sentence.

3. Connect the Pictures

Before you say anything about the task, ask students to find and post three random photos to your class chat. If you have groups set up in your online classroom, ask students to post in their small groups.

After they have posted photos, tell them to write a story that incorporates at least three of their classmates’ photos. Emphasize to students that stories must be logical with a beginning, middle, and end. At the end, if you are teaching online, you can ask students to make a dramatic audio recording of their story and post it. The students can then spend time listening to each other’s stories. If you are teaching in person, students can read their stories aloud to the class.

4. Round Robin Stories

You need one copy of a simple template, like this, per student, or you can just use blank paper. For online teaching, you need each student to download their own copy of the template using a platform like Google Docs. Ask each student to think of a setting and a main character and write it as the first sentence in a story. For example, “Once upon a time, in Beijing, there was a strict and terrible English teacher named Mrs. Ascher.”

Ask students to pass the paper one person to the right. Set a time limit, such as 3 minutes, and ask students to write a few sentences to continue the story on this paper. After the 3 minutes is over, ask the students to fold back the first part of the story so that they can only see their own writing. Virtually, ask students to change the color of the first writer’s font to white.

Continue passing and folding several times. Before the last round, announce that they will get 1 extra minute, and this time, they need to write an ending to the story. After the stories are finished, they can enjoy reading the whole story. To extend this task, you can take volunteers to read stories to the class.

For online learning, it is easier if you create a folder that contains one clearly numbered Google Doc for each student. Then, they know that if they are working on Story 3, they should work on Story 4 next.


What fun creative writing activities do you use in your classroom? Please share in the comment box below!

About Hetal Ascher

Hetal Ascher
Hetal Ascher is currently Head of EAL Programs at Dulwich College Beijing. She serves on the steering committee of the TESOL Reading and Vocabulary Interest Section and on the Professional Development Professional Council. She is passionate about literacy for English learners, multilingualism, and anti-racist pedagogy.
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One Response to
4 Low-Prep Creative Writing Ideas

  1. These are great activities, Hetal! I have been experimenting with using Padlet for writing Round-Robin stories in a virtual context. Using the column layout, I put a story-starter sentence at the top of six columns and then asked my students to add one sentence below each starter to continue the story (or below the last line, if others had already added to it). It seems to work best if it’s done asynchronously rather than having all the students trying to write at the same time.

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