Strategies and Tools For Topic Generation in Writing

Writing is a tricky area because there are so many components that affect an individual’s success as a writer. To name a few: topic generation, planning, spelling, organization, sentence structure, capitalization, grammar, punctuation, mechanics, grip…and the list goes on! To help our writers grow, it is important to understand who our students are as writers so that we can identify where they need support. For example, a student with poor planning skills needs support specifically in that area to make them grow! This particular post is for the child who struggles with topic generation. As always, more to come in following posts about other kinds of learners so stay tuned…and if you have a specific question, submit it at the Parent-Teacher Conference to receive a prompt response!

What does it mean to struggle with topic generation?

When a teacher gives a writing prompt, there are many possible student responses. Some learners sit down and immediately have ideas. Other learners have so many ideas that they become overwhelmed and shut down. Finally, there are the learners who sit down and just “can’t think of an idea.” These are the students who are struggling to generate a topic to write about.

How to know if your child is struggling with topic generation. Well, for starters, you are probably hearing words like these:

  • “I don’t have any ideas.”
  • “But I didn’t do anything in school today!”
  • “Nothing interesting ever happens to me.”
  • “I just don’t know what to write about.”
  • “I don’t feel like writing right now.”

If you are hearing your child say any of the above, chances are they are struggling with topic generation. Often times, the thing that makes the chid most frustrated is when the parent tries to choose a topic for them! I know it seems odd, since the parent is just trying to help but children want to feel pride for their own work. Here are some ways to maximize independence with topic generation for students who just “don’t have any ideas!”

Story starters are interesting sentences that elicit ideas for writing stories.

They can be very helpful…try these!

1. Scholastic Storystarters is a website that makes topic generation a game that looks like a slot machine. For some reason, kids (especially boys) seem to love this!

2. The Story Starter Jr. is a great website that randomly generates sentence starters for kids. They even have a section where they share stories that have been started using their story starters…which can be inspiring for children.

3. Here is another website with Creative Writing Prompts but this one is more appropriate for older students!

4. For younger children, or children with limited language, you may want to try this website, which has Illustrated Story Starters. With illustrated story starters, a child looks at a picture and uses his/her imagination to create a story based on what they see.

5. Check out these super cool photograph cards for story starters. The come in a deck of cards that you can use at home and there is an App if you have an Ipad!

6. Finally, if you want to truly think like a teacher, get a good old fashioned book or box of writing prompts to use at home! Teachers use these all the time to create topics or writing prompts for children:

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Super Challenge! The first thing you learn as a writing teacher is that you are a better teacher when you actually write alongside your students. I always made sure to publish a book each time my students did because it helped me understand their challenges and excitement! If you want to understand what your child is going through, get this book and try it out! It’s really a fantastic exercise.

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