Creative Writing with Word Baskets

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Yesterday, our Creative Writing for Beginning Readers Workshop was inspired by the picture book Little Red Writing, written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. In the story, Little Red (a pencil in pencil school) goes on a journey to find words that she can put in her word basket and create her story for Mrs. 2’s class. On her travels she encounters a “deep, dark, descriptive forest” of leafy adjectives, a bottle of “conjunction glue,” a “verb gym,” and other parts of speech until she ultimately runs into the Wolf 3000 pencil sharpener posing as Principal Granny. Little Red has to be brave and save the real Principal Granny, and finish her story.

We used this story as a starting point for a fun word searching activity. Kids were given “word baskets” made out of paper plates and paper bowls stapled together and cut out. They rushed through the library to fill up their baskets with words. Throughout the shelves and carpet of the nonfiction section of the children’s room, I had sprinkled paper cutouts of animals, leaves and fruits with words and phrases written on them. The leaves had adjectives like “jubilant” and “clever” and the fruits had random nouns like “magic carpet” or “rubber ducky.” The animals had character ideas like “a very old man” or “a child lost in the woods,” and the bats had problem ideas like “Someone is being bullied.”

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The kids returned to the Story Room and were given little books to write stories. They were invited to, but not required to, use words from their word baskets.

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Then–and this is very important–when time was almost up, we had a “storytime.” I invited the children to each take a turn sharing their stories in the same storyteller’s chair that I used when I read Little Red Writing. This practice shows children that their stories are important, just as important as the books that adults read to them.

Here are their stories!

The kids wrote whatever they wanted to write, and a few of the kids weren’t interested in using the word basket very much–which was okay! Many kids did like having a prompt or a starting point for generating ideas. Some kids focused on drawing pictures and I encourage this as each child has his or her own routes or vehicles for generating story ideas. Some children were not ready to put down words yet but they were getting creative and using their imagination and since that’s where they are in their process right now, I think that’s great. Most children didn’t finish their stories but were encouraged to take them home and continue them. We don’t do very much editing or revising (because I only see the kids once in a while) but the kids were encouraged to do this at home with their parents.

Our next creative writing workshop for this age group will be Tuesday, March 7 at 4:30 pm. Email anhurtado [at] cityofpasadena [dot] net if you’d like to find out more.

AnnMarie Kolakowski

I'm a youth services librarian currently working at the Lamanda Park Branch Library while Central Library is closed for seismic repairs. I purchase juvenile fiction for grades 2-8, and some foreign languages. I do a lot of programs with school-age kids, including 3 regular book clubs (Windows and Mirrors, Read Around the World, and Lucha Libros), as well as writing workshops and STEAM/science programs. I also Infant/Toddler Storytimes and Preschool Storytimes, and outreach to local area preschools. I love what I do, working with kids of all ages to inspire them to learn and use their curiosity and imaginations. Outside of my work at the library, I am also the author of a book on creative writing activities for kids.

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