Once Upon a Time… 8 Top Tips for Planning a Great Story
Stories - long, short, educational, entertaining, funny or serious, are something we can all remember hearing or reading plenty of when we were younger.
Used by teachers the world over, storytelling is recognized as being a fundamental teaching tool that can be adapted according to age group and learning requirements. At worst, stories grab students’ attention in the here and now. At best, they stay ingrained within students’ memories forever.
In our experience, planning is key to creating the best stories. Not only does it provide clarity, it enables students to produce powerful narratives that really capture the imagination. With that in mind, here are eight ways teachers can help their students create a solid plan for their next story:
Tip #1: Decide on the theme
Relationships, emotions, behavior, life changes, the theme essentially forms the backbone of the story. It may be something you’ve already focused on in quite a bit of detail in class or it could be completely brand new. (Tip: Produce an overall master list of themes and share it with your students to help them start thinking).
At the same time, encourage your students to think about the main message, or messages, they want to get across. It’ll naturally help them whittle down their ideas until they’re left with just one main theme to work with.
Tip #2: Mind map interests
What are your students’ main interests right now? It could be superheroes, sport, animals, travel; what sparks their imagination? What makes them laugh or ask lots of questions?
Encourage your students to tap into their interests through a mind map and use this insight to identify the main topics they want to cover in their story. Mind mapping is great when they are trying to find connections between different ideas and will give your students a sense of structure for their story.
Tip #3: Drill down that bit further
Deciding on the theme and topic(s) provides the foundation for stories. Now your students need to build on that foundation by drilling down that bit further and focusing on the who, what, where, how and why.
Get them to list the five headings out on a piece of paper and then, with or without your help, ask them to populate them with as much information as they can, section by section.
Tip #4: Profile the characters
Probably one of the most exciting parts of storytelling, characters are where stories really start to come to life. Start off by sharing some examples of characters, people and animals, with your students and then encourage them to think about:
What do your characters look like?
What are their main traits?
Do they have any hobbies?
What are their names?
How old are they?
Where do they live?
Tip #5: Consider the language
While developing their characters, your students should naturally start to think about the way these figures will speak and the words they will use.
They may have just one character or several, either way, these figures will have different personalities that can be brought to life by using character keys (certain words for certain characters) and plenty of adjectives.
Tip #6: Get storyboarding
All stories follow some sort of structure, which is usually mapped out behind-the-scenes using a storyboard.
Give your students a large piece of paper or card each, or per group, and ask them to start plotting their story. (Tip: Get them to split the paper/card into three columns – for the start, middle and end of their story, which will help break the task down into bite-sized chunks).
Tip #7: Focus on the settings
If your students haven’t already started to think about this, encourage them to start deciding the backdrop for their story. For instance, are the characters going to be based in just one or multiple settings? If so, where are they going to be and why are they there?
You may find your students have already started to automatically fill in the settings gaps while thinking about the who, what, where, how and why we mentioned in Tip #3.
Tip #8: Use our award-winning app
is a writing platform designed to encourage students to discover and unleash their creative-writing talent. Simple and easy to use, the app invites teachers to choose their first chapter, which has been pre-written by a celeb writer. Alternatively, you can create your own starting chapter.
Students then go on to plan and write the next chapter of the story. Once complete, it’s anonymized, and students are asked to vote for their favorite via BoomWriter. The process continues until the book is full of ‘winning’ chapters and the story has been completed. Throughout it all, teachers can log into the app and provide real-time feedback and support.
Now that you’re here, take a look at this case study for details of how one elementary school teacher used BoomWriter to enable her students to collaboratively create an original story in class. In doing so, it provided her with valuable insight about her lower students’ literacy abilities.