A writing workshop for children

Sue Whiting


Ten (or two)-minute writing: Provide a picture stimulus for each child. Ask them to write about the picture — anything that comes into their head.


  • must not stop
  • must not cross out
  • must not go back and read what you have written
  • don’t worry about what you are writing — just write whatever pops into your head.

Write what you know

  • Ask children to think about a place they love, a place they know really well. Imagine themselves all alone in that place. What can they see? Smell? Hear? Feel?
  • Ask children to write about that place. (2–3 minutes)
  • Tell children that someone is coming towards them. Who is it? Is it someone they know? Why is he/she there? Now, write about it. (2–3 minutes)
  • Uh, oh. Something’s wrong. What is it? What has happened? Write about it.(2–3 minutes)
  • Share work and discuss examples from own work that demonstrate that writers often start with ‘what they know’ and then play ‘what if’.

Writing great characters

  • Discuss the importance of writing well-drawn characters. Give examples.
  • Have children select a character picture and think about that character.
  • Lead children through the development of a mind map about their character. Identifying the following: name, appearance, likes/dislikes, interests, background, personality (good points and not-so-good), deep dark secrets, etc.
  • Tell children that something is troubling their character. What is it?
  • How well do you know your character? Ask children what their character would take with him/her if there were a fire.
  • Ask children to write an email/journal entry as if they were their character, discussing what is troubling them.

Sizzling starts

  • Discuss the importance of the first sentences of a story.
  • Read examples of great starts, and identify what makes them work. Humour? Shock? Action? Intrigue? Mystery?
  • Give examples of some not-so-good starts.
  • Identify problems. Dull? Too much detailed description? Not starting with the action of the story?
  • Ask children to write a sizzling start to a story involving their character and their character’s story problem.
  • Share and discuss.
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Sue Whiting

Australian children’s and young adult author and editor Sue Whiting

Ideas can develop from something very ordinary and everyday and familiar.


  • Discuss how stories are about characters solving problems.
  • Discuss how ideas can develop from something very ordinary and everyday and familiar, by asking the question ‘what if?’
  • Point out that they have, in the space of an hour or so, nutted out the beginnings of three great stories! Congratulations — what wonderful writers!