Recently I had fun using Cliffhanger Writing Prompts with a class of 5th graders I got to sub. We had a lot of fun. Teresa Klepinger’s book is subtitled 30 One-Page Story Starters That Fire Up Kids’ Imaginations and Help Them Develop Strong Narrative Writing Skills and is geared for grades 3-6. The heart of the book is these great story scenarios that give kids a great jumping-off point to continue their own story. It’s similar to The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg but this one is perfect for classroom writing. Klepinger’s book has a playful picture for each story that shows you just enough, but leaves things open-ended for all kinds of ingenious endings. You can’t wait to see where the story goes.
I could hardly wait to grab a story and listen to the musical sounds of students’ pencils scratching the pages. But since this was their first try with this format, I followed the suggestions in the first section of the book to get us ready. We did two rounds of oral storytelling and got our creative engines revving. By the time I handed out “Free! Inside!” students were ready to work on their own, and they worked in silence: no talking so everyone could chase their own ideas.
Writing can be so laborious. This is great fun, writing up a storm for the pure joy and excitement of seeing where a story goes. Still, the standards are always bearing down on us. So Klepinger gives some good tools to use including an editing and revision checklist, peer review sheet, and a list of transition words and phrases. (The Graders are so into these, and these cliffhangers are ideal for practicing them.) Watch those skills rise.
After some quiet writing time, kids couldn’t wait to hear each others’ stories. Great timing for a reading of what we had so far. When I left that day, kids were excited about their stories in progress and the regular teacher was excited to use more prompts.
Cliffhanger Writing Prompts is a winner. Teachers, once you start using it, students will make sure you continue. It’s geared for grades 3-6.