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What is creative writing?

Creative writing goblin

Narrative or creative writing will be developed throughout a child's time at primary school. This table gives a rough idea of how story structure, sentence structure, description and punctuation are developed through story-writing lessons at school. (Please note: expectations will vary from school to school. This table is intended as an approximate guide.)

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Creative writing in primary school

Story structure Events in a story in an order that makes sense. 

Sentence structure Joining two clauses in a sentence with the word 'and.'

Description Simple  adjectives  to describe people and places. 

Punctuation Use of capitals, full stops, exclamation marks and question marks.

Year 2 Story structure Stories sequenced with time-related words such as: then, later, afterwards, next.

Sentence structure Starting to use sentences with two  clauses  connected by 'and,' 'but,' 'so,' 'when,' 'if' and 'then.' Keeping the tense of the writing consistent.

Description Using a broader range of adjectives. 

Punctuation Using capital letters, full stops , question marks , exclamation marks , commas for lists and apostrophes for contracted forms (e.g. they're) and the possessive (e.g. 'Sarah's pen').

Year 3 Story structure Stories structured with a clear beginning, middle and end. Starting to write in paragraphs.

Sentence structure Continuing to use sentences with two parts, linked with  connectives  such as 'because', 'but' and 'so'.

Description Broad range of adjectives plus some  powerful verbs . 

Punctuation Using all of the punctuation above. Starting to use some speech punctuation .

Story structure Gaining confidence with structuring a story and with organising  paragraphs .

Sentence structure Using sentences connected with more sophisticated connectives such as because,' 'however,' 'meanwhile' and 'although.' 

Description Using a range of adjectives, powerful verbs and adverbs. Some use of  similes . Using fronted adverbials (placing the adverb at the start of the sentence, e.g. 'Quickly, the children stood up'). 

Punctuation Increasingly accurate use of speech punctuation. Using commas after fronted adverbials .

Story structure Good structure of description of settings , characters and atmosphere. Integrating dialogue to advance the action. Using time connectives to help the piece of writing to come together. 

Sentence structure Using a range of connectives to connect parts of sentences.  

Description Using adjectives, powerful verbs and adverbs. Possibly some use of figurative language such as  metaphors , similes and personification . 

Punctuation Using brackets , dashes or commas to indicate parenthesis .

Story structure Continuing to structure stories confidently. Using adverbials such as: in contrast, on the other hand, as a consequence.

Sentence structure Using more sophisticated connectives like 'although,' 'meanwhile' and 'therefore.' Using the  passive form. Using the subjunctive . 

Description Continuing to use a range of descriptive language (see above) confidently. 

Punctuation Using all of the previously mentioned punctuation correctly. Using semi-colons , colons and dashes to mark the boundary between clauses.

How creative writing is taught in primary schools

When teachers teach creative writing, they usually follow the units suggested by the literacy framework,  including the following:

Teachers will start with a text that they are confident will engage the interest of the class. It is often a good idea to find a well-illustrated text to bring the story alive further. They will spend a week or two 'loitering on the text', which will involve tasks where characters and scenarios from the text are explored in-depth. These tasks may include:

Once teachers feel that the text has been thoroughly explored, they will guide the children in writing their own version of the story . This involves planning the story, brainstorming characters and setting and then writing a draft of the story. Children will then be encouraged to edit and re-write their draft.  Teachers may mark the draft and write their own suggestions on it, or they may ask children to swap their writing with their partner and encourage them to make suggestions on each other's work. Throughout this process, teachers are aiming to encourage children to develop skills in the above four sections of the table: story structure, sentence structure, description and punctuation.

Finally, children will write up a 'neat' finished version of their writing. Teachers often give children a format for doing this, such as bordered paper on which they can add illustrations, or a booklet for which they can design a front cover.

what is creative writing ks2

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what is creative writing ks2

Creative writing KS2 – using the dramatic imagination

what is creative writing ks2

Harness the artists' 'secret code' to help pupils develop a gripping narrative…

Tim Taylor

How can we support students to write creatively? It is a great teaching conundrum.

We have all been there: spending hours setting up a stimulating scenario – a story-starter, an intriguing image, a dramatic moment – in the hope of grabbing the children’s imagination and inspiring them to write a gripping narrative.

Only to sit down later and read something truly depressing like, I walked to the door, I was scared. Then I opened the door and a monster attacked me. I died. Aagh!

It is easy to get frustrated (I know I have) but there is a solution: it is called the dramatic imagination.

The dramatic imagination is the secret code of artists. It is used in literature, film, theatre, art, and music. It is the vocabulary of mood and atmosphere, the language of setting and environment, the magic key to ‘show, not tell’. And we can teach it to children.

What is the dramatic imagination?

There are six dimensions to the dramatic imagination: sound/silence; movement/stillness; darkness/light. You might like to try them yourself.

Imagine standing in a room in an old house. It is night-time, on one side of the room is a paned window, on the other, a single door. Now describe where the light comes from and where it falls in the room. Is it from the moon outside, casting a silver light on the floor? Or a flicking candle on a table near the door?

Describe what sounds you can hear: the wind outside; the creak of the floorboards; the sound of your heart beating? Now take a step towards the door, describe your movement.

Describe the stillness in the room; the darkness; the silence. Now reach out to take hold of the door handle, describe the response from your body, the blood rushing through your veins, the slow movement of your arm, the stiffness of your hand…

How much did you write? If you are like me (and the students who learn how to do this) it will have been a lot. The story hasn’t progressed far, but there is a sense of atmosphere, of suspense, of fear.

You can imagine it as a film: the music slowly building, the screech of violins, the close-up of the actor’s hand. This is the power of imagination.

We can start using the dramatic imagination as soon as children come to school. In fact, it is one of the great features of the six dimensions that we already use them as a natural part of our teaching whenever we read a book to a class or share a picture.

They are all around us, all the time, the trick is to point them out, and later to teach them explicitly.

How to use it in the classroom

I first did this successfully with a Year 2 class using Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man. I started by writing the six dimensions on a large sheet of paper and asking the students to point them out as we read through the story (projecting the text onto the whiteboard):

The wind sang [sound] through his iron fingers [movement]. His great iron head, shaped like a dustbin but as big as a bedroom, slowly turned to the right [movement] , slowly turned to the left [movement]. His iron ears turned, this way, that way [movement]. He was hearing the sea [sound]. His eyes, like headlamps [light], glowed white, then red, then infrared [light] , searching the sea. Never before had the Iron Man seen the sea.

I then supported the students to use the dimensions in their own writing, first while doing guided writing, and then in independent writing. Giving them feedback such as: “You’ve got a sense of movement and sound here, but where is the stillness and silence?”, it was surprising how quickly the children picked them up and how effectively using them improved their writing.

Later, when I taught Year 6 the effect was quicker still and even more effective.

The dimensions are, in my experience, something children understand intuitively and begin to apply almost as soon as they become competent writers.

They often find joy in using a ‘secret code’ used by expert writers, artists, and filmmakers, and the six dimensions can transform children’s writing, giving them a strategy to move beyond ‘then/and’ stories, as well as providing a vocabulary for teachers to provide practical feedback which the children can use to develop their story-telling skills.

It is exciting to use too, and you’ll have fun incorporating it into your own teaching – teaching as storytelling:

The old house stood alone at the top of the hill, no one had been inside for years. Nothing moved except for the dark figures of animals scurrying across its rotten floorboards, nothing lived in the rooms but shadows filling every corner and every space. The wind and the sun and the rain had not been kind to the house’s paintwork which had once been bright and beautiful, but now lay still on the ground like a pale snow. “Why,” I asked myself, “had I promised to spend a night here, alone?”

Tim Taylor is a freelance teacher, and author of A Beginner’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert . Follow Tim on Twitter @imagineinquiry . Read more about building suspense in writing in KS2 .

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what is creative writing ks2

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Creative writing

16 learner guides

How to plan your story

Find out some useful tips to help you plan your story.

How is a story structured?

Find out why most stories consist of a beginning, a middle and an end.

What is a setting?

Find out what a setting is and how you can use them in your stories.

How to invent a new character

Find out about some of the different questions authors think about when they are inventing new characters.

How to think about your purpose for writing

Find out how your writing can have different purposes depending on the subject you're writing about or what you want to communicate.

How to write for different audiences

Find out how you should think about the language you use when writing for different audiences.

Identifying errors

Find out why it's important to check your work for errors.

Context for writing

Find out how changing the context can affect your stories.

Types of story

This English article shows how to identify the features of different types of story, also called genres.

Different types of story

An English article on how to identify the features of different types of story, such as science fiction, fairy stories, scary stories and mysteries.

Fiction and non-fiction

In this English article, learn about the difference between fiction and non-fiction writing.

Reading for pleasure

In this English article, learn about what an author does and review your favourite book.

Understanding recounts

An English article on what a recount is and how to write one of your own.

Identifying themes

In this English article, learn how to identify themes in a wide range of stories.

Recognising genre

An English article to help identify different genres of writing and choose the most appropriate genre for texts.

How to recognise genres

In this English article, learn how to identify different genres used in writing and choose the most appropriate genre for texts.

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