Near the beginning of my year five’s fiction class writing project (The Writing For Pleasure Centre 2022), I taught a lesson which aimed to help children find their own writing idea for a story project – and get excited about their writing. We’ve tried several idea generation lessons (Young et al. 2021) in the past and the children have loved exploring and sharing their ideas, adding to them at the planning stage and revising their drafted texts to create richer narratives.
Today we tried out a new technique together – Idea Webs, which we took from the Writing For Pleasure Centre’s Big Book of Mini Lessons. This technique involves children in a simple process of looking at two of their favourite books and writing down on post-it notes one character, one setting and one problem from each book. They are then invited to create a new story, inspired by their notes. I tried it out for myself, and, as I found my own story ideas, I realised that the technique was both straightforward and fun.
Here we see writer-teacher Ateqa’s Idea Web which is displayed as a model. What’s wonderful about this poster is how Ateqa has made publicly available children’s Idea Webs for others to read and feel inspired by.
As I introduced the Idea Web techniques and created a shared class version with the children, it was obvious that they were excited to contribute their ideas. We didn’t record them all, but the children knew they would be making their own web soon enough. After I finished modelling the mini-lesson (12 minutes), the children immediately set to work, loving the idea of using their favourite books and characters to generate new ideas. They worked in pairs (brilliant for each choosing their own book) using an A3 sheet and some sticky notes. We were so excited at all the amazing buzz we had created around idea generation. The children took their characters, settings and problems and created rich outlines for whole new stories. These included hilariously mixed-up characters such as wimpy wizards and genius witches, and all kinds of bizarre settings and problems. I genuinely felt that professional writers would have given a fortune to be a fly on the classroom wall that day as the amazing ideas and story outlines milled about.
At the end of the session, the children started to firm up their ideas ready for me to take the Writing Register in the following lesson. A Writing Register is a place where I record every child’s name and a working title for their chosen story idea (Young & Kettle 2022). Once we had created the register and started the planning process, I felt like I couldn’t part with these amazing ideas, so I gathered them up and stuck them under my model ready for children in need of inspiration for their Personal Writing Projects throughout the year (Young & Ferguson 2021).
This lesson was not at all what I expected; it created magic in my classroom and excitement around writing. I will definitely be using these Idea Webs in my future fiction projects.
By Ateqa Ali