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Workshop outlining exercises that equip English teachers with tools to help students write more creatively for exams. Also useful for creative writing tutors of people of all ages


Making English Come Alive

Making English Come Alive

Creative Writing Exercises for Junior Cycle EnglishDerbhile Dromey

Benefits of Creative Writing Personal Writing

Take Advantage of Generous Marking Scheme

Ability to Write Creatively Significantly Improves Grade

Create Memorable Exam Essays

Benefits of Teaching Creative Writing - General

Gives Structure to Their Thoughts

Helps Them Engage with Set Texts

Insights Into Techniques Used by Writers

Quick Fix for Fridays

Outline of Presentation

Overview of ExercisesAim, Method, Relevance to PaperTiming and Visual Aids

Sample the Merchandise Practise of Exercises

Discussion: Value of Teaching Creative Writing

Personal Writing Exercises

These exercises will show students how to

Get Material for Stories from their Own Lives

Hold the Interest of Readers

Character Sketch

AimTo show how authors create characters

Timing : 15-20 Minutes

Visual Aids: Photographs in Newspapers

Relevance: Questions about people of significance in students lives, eg. Grandparents, inspiring people

Character Sketch

MethodCut photograph out of paper and use asbasis to create character.

Create profile in 3 sectionsBasic details name, age, appearancePersonal details family, hobbiesSecrets a secret from their past no-one knows

Selling a Destination

AimTo make stories more atmosphericTo identify ingredients that make places unique Visual Aids: List of placenames or map of local areaTiming: 10-15 Minutes

Relevance: Questions about their local area or holidays

Selling a Destination

MethodGive Your students a choice of two placenames tochoose from, familiar or foreignWrite a paragraph about one of the places in the style of a travel brochureDescribe scenery, local customs, people and activitiesRun X-Factor style competition to vote for most popular holiday destination

Napoleons Bedroom

AimHelps Students Be Inspired by the OrdinaryShow Effect of Time Period on Descriptions of Place

Timing: 10-15 minutes

Relevance: Questions about favourite rooms, or asking them to imagine the lives of celebrities

Napoleons Bedroom

MethodImagine the bedroom of a historical figure or celebrityDescribe bedroom in 3 sectionsPhysical Details, what it looks likeSensory Details, sounds, smells, feelEmotional Details, feelings about room, atmosphere

Alternative: Describe Their Own Bedroom and Views of It

The 24 Sheep

AimShow students how to use both action and atmosphere to create a compelling story

Timing: 20 minutes

Relevance: Questions asking students to describe an event or continue a story

The 24 Sheep

MethodWrite two-paragraph story based on following scenario: They are in their garden sunbathing when 24sheep burst in and start eating washing off the line

Par 1. Atmospheric, describe garden, weatherPar 2. Action, what happens when sheep get in and how they resolve problem

Functional Writing Exercises

Goal of Exercises

Give Students Practise in Structuring Pieces

Apply Imagination to Formal Structure Formats

Behind the Headlines

AimGive practise in writing in a journalistic styleIdentify ingredients that make story newsworthy

Timing: 10-15 minutesVisual Aids: Headlines from Newspapers

Relevance: Insight into skills used by journalists for media sections

Behind the Headlines

MethodGive Each Student a HeadlineThey Write Story Behind HeadlineStories Cover 5 Ws of NewsWhat WhoWhen WhereWhy

100-Word Diary

AimPick Out Most Important Elements of StoryHow to Use Everyday Activities as Material for Stories

Timing: 15 Minutes

Relevance: Practise in Diary StructureUseful for both Personal and Functional Writing Section

100-Word Diary

MethodWrite a Diary of Your Day in 100 Words

Greetings, Dates and Sign-Offs Not Included

Make Notes First About What to Include

Write Out Entry Summarising Events

Alternative: Write Diary Entry for Character in Text Theyre Studying

Book Review

AimGives Insight into How Fiction WorksShows books have life beyond classroom

Timing: 20-30 Minutes

Relevance: If they know how fiction works, theyll write more compelling reviews

Book Review

MethodImagine Youre a Bookseller Write a Pitch Selling Your Current Book to TeacherTitle and PlotGenre Who Would Read it Why You Should Buy It

Alternative: Write a review of the worst book you have ever read.

Adams Excuse Note

AimTo encourage students to take a more creativeapproach to letter writing.

Gives students practise in laying out letters

Timing: 10-15 minutes

Relevance: Useful for all exercises based on letters

Adams Excuse Note

Imagine you are Adam in Garden of Eden (revise story if necessary)Write an excuse note to God, apologising for eating the apple and giving reasonLetter to be laid out with address, date, greeting and sign-off

Alternative: Any situation where well-known person apologises for misdeed, eg. Politician, celebrity

Poetry Exercises

Goals of Exercises

Demonstrate how poets use imagery, language and the senses to create poemsSupporting Material for Lessons Dealing with Similes and MetaphorHelps Students to Analyse and Decipher Meaning of Set Poems

If the Hat Fits

AimGives Practise in Creating Similes and Metaphors and Avoiding ClichesSharpens Descriptive Abilities

Timing: 10-15 Minutes

Relevance: Helps students identify inventive imagery and comparison in set poems

If the Hat Fits


Bring Unusual Hat Into Class, Students Pass it Around

Examine Hat and Write Sentence About it

Sentence Begins with This Hat Is/This Hat Is Like

Add to Challenge With List of Forbidden Words

Alphabet Soup


Encourages Students to Play with Words and ReduceInhibitions Around Language

Timing: 20 Minutes

Relevance: Helps them identify wordplay and its impact in set poems

Alphabet Soup

MethodCome Up with 26 Words to Match 26 Consecutive Letters of Alphabet

Form Words Into Sentences, eg, A Black Cat DriftedCarry on Until Alphabet Finished

Alternative: Write 26 Random Words, Choose 3 and Work them into One-Paragraph Story

Guess What

AimDemonstrates show dont tell subtle descriptions have greater impactHelp Identify the Extraordinary Within the OrdinaryVisual Aids: Bring in 5-6 Interesting Objects if Classroom BareTiming: 10-15 MinutesRelevance: Ability to Decode Hidden Messages in Set Poems

Guess What

MethodPick an Object in the Classroom and Describe itWithout Saying What It isDescribe it Using Senses What it Looks, Feels, Smells, Tastes and Sounds LikeRead out Description, Other Students Guess Object

Extension: Create Life Story for Object

Emotion Poem

AimDemonstrates Power of Emotions to InspireShows How to Use Five Senses to Describe Emotions Not Just Sight

Timing: 10-15 Minutes

Relevance: Helps Students Identify Emotions in Text Poems, Discover Emotions Are Universal

Emotion Poem

MethodStudents Write a Poem Describing Emotion eg: LoveLine 1: Metaphor for EmotionLine 2: Describe What Emotion Looks LikeLine 3: Sound Emotion MakesLine 4: What Emotion Tastes LikeLine 5: What Emotion Feels Like Line 6: Smell of EmotionLine 7: Repeat of 1st Line

Fiction Exercises


Helps Students See Relevance of Set Novels

Practise Techniques Used by Author of Novel

Become More Familiar with Novels Characters, Theme, Setting and Style

20 Questions

AimGives Insight into How Authors Make their Characters Believable and Interesting

Timing: 10-15 Minutes

Relevance: Helps Students Become More Familiar with Characters

20 Questions

MethodPick Character From Novel and Write Character Sketch of themOther Students Ask Questions to Guess CharacterWhen They Have Guessed, Continue to Ask Questions to Learn More About CharacterNot Allowed to Ask Questions with Yes or No Answers

Rough Justice

AimHighlights Theme of Novel, Demonstrates that Themes are Universal

Timing: One class periodVisual Aids: To Kill a Mockingbird, Pages 21-25

Relevance: Helps them Identify Theme of Novel and Relate to Own Experience

Rough Justice


Read Passage, Identify and Discuss Theme of Fighting for JusticeTranspose to Present Day Classroom, Injustice Against Student On Racial or Class GroundsStudent Defends Other Student, Pays Price

Alternative: Version Relevant to Other Novels, Drawn from Students Life

Chinese Whispers

AimShows how to structure story and maintain momentumShows that story ends up in very different place from where it began

Timing: One class period

Relevance: Pinpoint Storytelling Techniques Use by Author in Set Text

Chinese Whispers

MethodBased on game Chinese Whispers, check familiarity with rulesGive set period of time to write first paragraph of storyPass copy to person three seats away. Student receives another copy and continues story in that copyPass on again, bring story to an end

Story Soup


Creates awareness of ingredients in story and shows how to combine them

Timing: 10-15 minutes

Relevance: Encourages students to think about how ingredients are combined in set novels

Story Soup