The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas – Linus Pauling
Idea Parties are a fantastic way for all children, regardless of age (EYFS-KS2), to generate ideas together for a class project (Young et al. 2021). It works across all genres. Generating ideas is one of my favourite things about teaching young writers. Children have a wonderful ability to come up with unique and original ideas in a way that I can’t. When you give children some flipchart paper and invite them to come up with ideas for the class writing project, it’s like a creative bomb goes off. This is especially true with children who have had a long apprenticeship in the principles of a Writing For Pleasure approach (Young & Ferguson 2020, 2021). One of the best things about Idea Parties is the social way in which children work together to come up with lots of writing ideas. It’s often other people’s ideas that spark off your own ideas too.
Here is an example of an Ideas Party we had in a Year Four classroom. The children had already been introduced to their latest class writing project: Short Stories. They’ve already looked at a variety of mentor texts and they’ve decided on their product goals (success criteria) for the project. Now was the day to start thinking about what they wanted their short stories to be about.
Prior to the lesson, Ms Kettle and I put some flipchart paper out on each desk and wrote some story ‘themes’ we thought the children might enjoy thinking about. These were: superheroes, mystery, sci-fi, love and friendship, fan-fiction, and spooky. In their groups, the children spent around twenty minutes coming up with as many story ideas as they could. As teachers, we also spent time at each desk coming up with ideas with the children too. It was really fun and by the end we had hundreds of ideas. More than we could ever write about for the project.
Their teacher, Ms Kettle, was amazed by just how successful this writing strategy was. She noted how little the children needed prompting to get their ideas flowing and once they got started it was hard for her to get them to stop (no bad thing!).
Next, we asked the children to choose their absolute favourite idea. This would be the story idea they would pursue for the class writing project. For children who found it hard to choose because they had so many ideas, we simply told them to write all the other ideas they liked into the back of their personal writing project books (Young & Ferguson 2021). They could then work on these other great stories in their free time and at home.
The last thing we needed to do that day was take our Writing Register. Taking a Writing Register has lots of benefits.
- By starting with your most confident writers, you give other children time to listen to what their peers have chosen to write about.
- The writing register naturally makes children consider a working title for their piece. In the process of coming up with their title, they have to find a general focus for their idea.
- Taking a register allows you to hear what each child is going to write about and provides you with an opportunity to clarify any uncertainties or difficulties they might have with it.
- You can show the writing register to your class next year. This is another way of helping children come up with their own writing ideas.
- It creates an excitement and buzz in the classroom.
- It holds children accountable.
Ms Kettle noted how having an Ideas Party flowed so naturally into taking the Writing Register. Asking the children to give their story a working title really got them to narrow in on the focus of their narrative. Below is the final writing register for the Short Stories project. Going forward, Ms Kettle can’t imagine planning a writing project without including a little Ideas Party!
|Shazeen||The Scary Dragon|
|Aleesha||The Spooky Story|
|Aisha||The Lost Friends at the Cinema|
|M. Ameen||The Red Sky|
|Zunaira||The Day the Lightning Thief Came to Life|
|Husna||The Ghost Attack!|
|Safa||The Ghost Invasion!|
|Mahrab||The Haunted House|
|Inaaya||Horror of the Boy|
|Umar||The Day I saw a Spooky Doll|
|Prapti||The Giant Dragon Tea Party|
|Mehreen||Lizzie’s Astronaut Journey|
|Zayd||The Zombie Invasion|
|Aleeza||The Abandoned Ghost House|
|Ishika||A Mystery Inside a Spooky Tunnel|
|Morya||The Ghost City Hidden|
|Muhammad||The Day I Saw it Rain Blood|
|Jannah||The City of Power|
|Liyaana||The Vampire That Comes at Night|
|Amani||The Scary Snowman|
|Hussainali||The Mythical Dragon|
|Dhanvi||The Thief That Escaped 1954|
|Mr Young||The Abandoned Ghost Train|
|Miss Kettle||The Ghost in my Cupboard|
By Ross Young & Anna Kettle