Instill a Passion for Writing Short Stories

Quick writing tips and tricks to guide and polish learners' narrative writing.

By Ann Whittemore


Short story on a typewriter

When I was little, there was nothing I loved more that writing a short story. Short stories are fun, and they engage the imagination in a unique way. Writing a short story is an attainable challenge for young writers. It provides an opportunity for students to find their voice, and it may reveal a talent they didn't know they had. 

A Good Writer is a Good Reader

One of the keys to being a good writer is to be a good reader. It is important for writers to read a variety of authors and genres. To that end, before embarking on any story writing unit, I ask my class to read variety of short stories. I select several grade-appropriate short stories which exemplify the genre or style in which we are writing. We read some of the selected stories aloud as a class. Prior to reading, we go over the elements of a story: plot, setting, antagonist, protagonist, mood, and dialogue. I post a list of these elements where everyone can see it. As we read the story together, learners raise their hands when they hear each of the story elements. At the end of the narrative, the kids recall examples from the story for each of the story elements listed on the board. I recommend repeating this process with three short stories. Next, divide the class into groups, hand out a worksheet with a list of the story elements, provide a fourth short story, and ask each group to work together to read the story and identify the story elements. These exercises will provide a strong foundation for writing a short story.

A Good Writer Understands the Writing Process

Aside from reading great stories, there are a few things I like to do to make the writing process easy for my class. For younger kids, I usually color code each step we will undertake as we write our short stories. I label the steps: brainstorm, first draft, edit, revise, and final draft. Then each step is assigned a color. Using the appropriate colored tag board, I list the steps a writer must complete in each phase, and hang these lists on the wall to help my writers visualize where they are in the writing process. Next, I get five large envelopes marked with correlating colors for each child and staple them together so they can hang down under the child’s name on the class writing board. The kids label their envelopes with the step that belongs with that color. They write the word brainstorming in blue on the first envelope, drafting in red on the second, editing in yellow on the third, revising in purple on the fourth, and final in green on the fifth.

The great thing about this system is that it can be used for any writing project the class undertakes. Whether we are writing historical narratives, or compare/contrast essays, this folder system is an efficient, visual tool to aid our writing efforts. In addition, the folder system is beneficial for me, the teacher. I can see where each student is in the process; who is falling behind, and who is rushing ahead. This means I can provide immediate feedback to nudge my writers to work more carefully, quickly, or efficiently.  

A Good Writer Takes Advantage of Practice Opportunities

Modeling is one of the best ways to teach kids how to write. Consequently, I like to have my pupils work together as a class to write a story. Personal narratives seem to be the simplest genre for the first class story. Modeling means that I use myself as the example, so I offer three ideas for my personal narrative. As a class, we work together to choose which one would be the best choice to write about and why. Then we go through our color-coded writing steps as I expound upon the event that is the focus of my personal narrative. Tip: Unbeknownst to my pupils, I usually have a narrative written out ahead of time, that way the steps of the process flow more quickly, and I can manipulate the overall outcome of our “class” story.

Now that your budding authors have read short stories, followed a process to write a short story, and worked collaboratively to write a personal narrative, they are equipped and inspired to write whatever their hearts desire. Whether they prefer to write personal narratives, ghost stories, historical fiction, or prose, your students can confidently put their thoughts into words.