Fifth-Grade Ideas for Short Stories

Creating short stories teaches fifth graders to enjoy writing.
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Writing short stories gives your fifth graders a chance for creative self-expression and hands-on experience with plot development, description and characterization. Like any project, though, a story begins with brainstorming, making idea generation activities critical for new fiction writers. Personal experiences, favorite works of fiction and interesting pictures can all provide material for your students' original short stories.

1 Picture This

Often, an interesting character can provide a story idea. To help students create characters, search the Internet, magazines and catalogs for pictures of different people engaged in activities, wearing interesting clothing or representing different occupations. Then, cut out the images and have students select one at random. Instruct them to create characters based on the images and write short stories based around them. Children's creative writing instructor Bruce Hale also suggests letting students with artistic skill design their own character instead of choosing a picture, letting them bring their talents into the writing process.

2 Active Animals

Personification is a figurative language device that gives human characteristics to nonhuman things. With many children's movies, books and cartoons featuring animals as central characters, it's also a concept students may already have exposure to. Students can write short stories that feature animals as the main characters. For example, they might write about the class pet or the family dog, or use another favorite animal to create a character. To practice personification, they can also brainstorm ways their animals might express emotion. A dog's hair might stand on end when he's scared, or an owl might ruffle his feathers when he's frustrated.

3 Influential Inspiration

Authors often find ideas for their own work in stories they admire. You can ask students to think of what their favorite books are and reasons why. These reasons might include action, suspense and vivid detail. Using these ideas, they can then write their own stories that incorporate the same elements they admire. For example, a student might appreciate Harry Potter's fantasy world and how he relates to the other characters. This student could then write his own fantasy story starring young central characters, creating an original storyline that puts his own spin on these elements.

4 Based on a True Story

Personal anecdotes are a source of inspiration for young writers. You can have students free write about significant experiences in their lives, such as embarrassing moments, conflicts with friends and times they worked to reach an important goal. They can then apply the experience to the traditional plot structure of a story, determining what parts represent the rising action, climax and falling action. "Scholastic Teachers" suggests emphasizing they don't have to stay true to what really happened; students should feel free to invent new characters and change the setting or even the outcome.

Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.