Tips For Responding To a Creative Writing Prompt

04 Feb

At this time of the year, I get emails and requests regarding writing tips for primary students sitting scholarship exams for independent schools. As Naplan Testing will also include a creative writing component in 2014, ( YAY!!) I thought it might be helpful to give students a general plan for responding to creative writing prompts.

Before we start….

ACER and Edutest have developed scholarship testing programs. Check which scholarship test your school is using in 2014. It’s then possible to log on to the company’s website and see the exam format. ACER allow you to download sample questions for free which is helpful.

Once you have an idea of the exam format, try responding to some timed writing prompts at home. This gives your child a feel for what is possible in the given time frame. I often use a timer at The Writer’s Club with fantastic results. It’s amazing how much writing you can do in 5 mins when you are totally focused.

Writing prompts are used in exams to spark creativity and stir one’s imagination. But let’s face it, under pressure, our creativity can sometimes be a little illusive. To combat this, try practising a variety of writing prompts at home using the POWER stystem. I love these picture writing prompts.


P : Pre writing

When you first see or read the prompt, whether it’s a picture or the first line of a story, start brainstorming. What ideas come to mind? Think about the sensory information this prompt inspires such as sounds, smells, tastes or feelings. Spend a couple of minutes jotting it all down. Have you or someone you know ever been in this situation before? What happened? This process uses the left side of your brain (logical and organised) giving your creativity a chance to stretch and breathe and come to life!


O: Organising

At it’s very core, a story has a beginning, middle and end. In narrative terms these are the:

  • orientation
  • complication
  • resolution

One quick and simple narrative planning tool that works well at The Writer’s Club is this:

Somebody ( A character): __________________________

Wanted _______________________________________

But __________________________________________

So ___________________________________________

Then _________________________________________


W: Writing

If you completed a quick brainstorm, you’ve no doubt collected some words and images to awaken the senses. Now is the perfect time to use them. The start of your story is called the hook for a very good reason. It needs to be juicy and interesting enough to hook in a reader. You can start your story by:

  • asking your reader a question.
  • describing your character
  • describing your setting
  • using a sound effect
  • using dialogue
  • start in the middle of the action
  • using a flashback

Writing a story is a little like climbing a mountain. You are taking your reader on an amazing journey. There will be a climax  (somewhere near the mountain’s peak) and a resolution as you come to the end of your journey. Think about stories you love. They will usually fit into the story mountain structure.


E: Editing

If there’s time, read through your story and do a quick edit, adding missing words or correcting spelling.


R: Rewriting

In an exam situation, you’re not (usually) going to have enough time to rewrite your story. But if time permits, just try reading through your introduction – your story hook! Is it exciting enought to keep your reader interested? Does it need an adjective? Does it make sense?


And finally…

Scholarship tests are exploring your child’s skills, learned over their lifetime, both in and out of school. Keep the atmosphere light. Pressure and anxiety can be stressful for children (adults too!) and counter productive to the goal. For your child, it’s a chance to get in there and write an great story, knowing someone will be reading and enjoying it in the weeks to come!

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Write Away With Me runs an after school writing club, aptly named, The Writer’s Club, as well as innovative holiday programs including The Writer’s Masterclass. Our term one program for The Writer’s Club starts in Parkdale and Oakleigh in the first week of March and explores ‘Writer’s Voice’. Beth can also present a writing workshop for your class. Contact Beth for more details about any of our programs.







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