YOUNG ADULT-CHILDREN - For writers of all genre, and the readers who love them.  Find what you want to know.

Teacher to Teacher

By Mary Emma Allen

So often we or our students think of writing as composing poetry and  fiction stories. Usually we don’t consider non-fiction pieces,  interviews, reports, essays, letters, and other similar forms. When  youngsters say, “I can’t think of a story,” suggest other types of  writing which might dispel their “writer’s block.”

Journal Writing

Many teachers use journals to start children writing. Sometimes this is  a routine morning activity to quiet the students as they come into class  and to get them into the mood for learning. The younger students usually  draw pictures to accompany their daily journaling.  Sometimes the journaling is free write. Other times the teacher will  assign them a topic. Some students have no problem thinking of something  to write about whereas others draw a blank and need a prod from the  teacher.

Writing About their Pet

When children draw a blank about writing, they usually can write about  their pet(s) if they have any. They may write a description, how they  acquired it, how they care for it and play with it. (If the pet died,  you’re almost assured to get a very sad story about this.)  This topic of pets also can be turned into fiction as you encourage  youngsters to write about an adventure they could have with their pet.  Or it may be an adventure their pet encounters.  When using this lesson, I often read to them my story, “The Live  Christmas Tree Ornament,” that was published in magazines and an Animal  Tales anthology. This fiction story is based upon an incident from my  childhood. I discuss with the students how they can write a story about  an adventure with their pet.

Report of a Sports Event

This usually is an enjoyable activity for youngsters who participate or  watch sports. They can write a report about a a game they played in or  watched. Study with them newspaper stories on the sports page which  report games or give interviews of players. Then encourage them to write  their own stories.

From this they can delve into fiction, either by using the report as a  springboard for their story or coming up with something completely new.  I often use my story, “Tim’s Big Race” which appeared in Jack and Jill,  as an idea stimulator. After reading the skiing story to them, I discuss  how I came up with the idea for the story and the way I wrote it.

Report on a Family Trip

This topic may seem a variation of the old “What I Did On My Summer  Vacation.” However, study travel articles in newspapers and magazines  and see if your students can write a travel story of their own.  Since I’ve done a great deal of travel writing, I keep a file of my  stories to use with the students. If you don’t write travel articles,  clip some you enjoy from newspapers and magazines to use as models for  the youngsters. The young writers can accompany these stories with  photos or sketches.

Book Report

Book reports often seem boring to many students. However, there are  others, like my granddaughter, who enjoy writing them. Last summer, she  was reading books voraciously so her parents suggested she write a report  for each one.

My son-in-law found a format for a book report which, at first the third  graded simply filled in. Then they suggested she elaborate and write a  more descriptive report of the book. She enjoyed this and now doesn’t  mind book reports at school.

Family History

Youngsters can find fascinating people among their ancestors to write  about. They may not even have to go so far back. They can talk with  their grandparents and gather stories from them. The young writers might  be encouraged to compile a book of family stories, complete with  accompanying photos and sketches.

When they research their ancestors, they may find interesting people. I  tell them about my great great uncle Buffalo Bill Mathewson, who was a  fur trader on the Santa Fe Trail. By exploring my family history, I  found this fascinating person and others to research and write about.


Write about recipes? Yes, writing about cooking and food history may  interest some children. After all, I’ve been writing cooking columns for  30 years and still find much of interest.  Have your young writers study cooking columns in newspapers and  magazines. Look at cookbooks that contain background information about  the recipes. Compiling a book of family recipes is another form of  family history.


Letters constitute a type of writing which is becoming a lost art today. I treasure letters written by my great grandmother and other ancestors.  My mother was an avid letter writer and I’ve saved many of her letters  over the years. When I moved away from my hometown, she regaled me with  family happenings.

I read some of the humorous events to youngsters to let them know they  can write letters about funny happenings in their lives. Sometimes they  write more freely if they feel they’re telling others something through a  letter rather than an essay or report.

These also can be letters to the editor in which students write to  express opinions. Help them study these letters in various  newspapers.

Writing a Class or Neighborhood Newspaper

This can be a fun project and encompass many of the above activities as  youngsters produce the various sections of a newspaper. Frequently your  local newspaper will give students tours with reporters and editors  explaining and showing the students their jobs.

Some newspapers will even have a student department where youngsters can  furnish articles. When I worked on a weekly newspaper, we had students  write a column of school events and opinions. (Actually the students  came to us and asked if they could do this.)

Since I was a teacher as well as reporter, my editor gave me the  assignment of working with the students and editing their work. Our  statewide newspaper publishes students’ work each Monday.  These are just a few of the different types of writing students can  undertake, along with fiction writing and poetry. So when they have  “writer’s block” have some of these activities in mind for them to  try.

For more information about Mary Emma and her writing visit her web site:

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