Story bags ready for a Write Now after-school group.

Each Story Bag is filled with a variety of items designed to inspire the children and to help them to structure their story.

Items include:

A part sentence which they can use as the opening line to their story
A photograph of an interesting character and an unusual setting. Images can easily be sourced from magazines such as Sunday supplements. The websites Shutterstock and Image Shack are also good resources for interesting images.
A mysterious object:

Mysterious Objects

These include items such as a head-massage tool, a snow globe, a skull, a rubber rat, a sparkly necklace. The children really enjoy transforming these objects into something unusual, for example, a bangle became a time transportation device! This also works as a stand-alone activity.
A random word which they are tasked to include in the story somewhere!
A sentence as a prompt for a setting, for example, ‘you have just landed on an alien planet, you open the hatch of your spaceship, what can you see?’
or a simple statement such as ‘a beach on a stormy winter’s day’.

The bags are tied up so the contents can’t be seen, and the children each choose their own bag. It helps to provide more bags than children so they have a good range to choose from! Having said that, my experience has been that the children are excellent negotiators and their innate sense of ‘fair play’ ensures they all end up with a Story Bag they’re happy with!

Only when they all have a bag are they allowed to look inside! By this point they’re all dying to see what the contents are and it’s a highlight of the session to see them delving inside and discussing what they find. Let them take a little while to talk and discuss. They have a handout with information about what the purpose of the activity is and we take turns to read out the information allowing time for questions and answers and a chat about what they’re going to do. They can decide for themselves which items from the bag they’re going to use. By this point, they should have a good idea of what their story will be. They can decide whether to use one of the story planners provided or whether to develop a character as a way into the story, or whether to immediately write in to the story.

Story bag handout for the group:
Story bags

This activity is ideal for well-established groups who have a good grasp of short story writing as it draws in all the skills and techniques they have worked on, such as how to write a good opening line, how to structure a short story, how to develop character, awareness of beginning, middle and end. It also works well with reluctant writers as it’s hard to resist the lure of a story in a bag! It creates enthusiasm and interest and I’d recommend it as a great way to harness the children’s natural curiosity.

If you do use a Story Bag in a teaching session, I’d love to hear how it works for you! Feel free to add a comment!