Stones in the River – A Perfect Back to School Writing Activity
If you have students who say, “I don’t have anything to write about” then this writing activity could definitely work for you. It lends itself to pretty much any grade level. I was actually introduced to it as part of a writing workshop for adults. Stones in the river is a perfect writing activity for the beginning of the year because it’s all about brainstorming ideas, even though the kids don’t know that yet. It’s also a use all year resource that students should come back to over and over again, when they are stuck for writing ideas, or to add to as they think of more. If you ever hear “I don’t have anything to write about.”, your automatic response can be:
“Go to your river.”
“Have you gone to your river?”
“Why don’t you add some stones to your river?”
Stones in the River is just a great writing activity for any time during the year when you start to hear the “no ideas for writing” sentiments above. All you need is paper!!! Easy peasy!
During the first week of school I like to do this activity step-by-step with the kids. It’s easy, it’s engaging, and it’s related to academics! (win, win, win!)
I like to start by showing the kids rivers I’ve created in the past and letting them know that if they are dying to put color on their river (because you know more than one will already have their brand new scented markers out and ready), they can when we finish making as many stones as possible.
Stones in the River Step by Step:
1. Get a long piece of art paper
2. Draw your river with 2 lines (straight, curvy, jagged, whatever) as far apart on the paper as possible.
3. Think of any people that you know who are important to you. Every one of these people will be a stone in your river. For every person you can think of write their name and then draw a circle or oval around it. These are now the first stones in your river.
4. Think of any places where you’ve spent a lot of time, places you have visited or want to visit. Every place you can think of will be a stone in your river. These don’t have to be theme parks or vacation destinations; they can be your bedroom or the playground. You definitely spend a lot of time there! Write the place and put any kind of circle around it you want. These are now stones in your river.
5. Think of any things or events that are important to you. Things can be animals, foods, or even colors. Events can be holidays, special occasions, or memories. These are now stones in your river too! Look how crazy full your river is getting!
6. Write your name on your river! That way when we find it on the floor, we can bring it right back to you. We wouldn’t want you to lose something so special. 🙂
Students can color their rivers or continue adding to them. Always remind them to keep extra space in their river because they will definitely want to add people, places, things, and events as your year together continues.
They fold these up, put them in their writer’s notebook, and use them whenever they’re stuck for ideas.
Follow-up mini lessons you can use with rivers include:
How you can use your river to spark an idea for writing
Genre switch – using a river idea to write pieces in multiple genres (a poem AND a narrative about your cat)
Adding on to your river when you think of new ideas
I love this idea. I always have those students who say they don't have anything to write about. I think sometimes kids don't realize that any little idea they have can be turned into a writing piece, it doesn't always have to be a super spectacular event. Thanks for sharing, I am definitely going to use this idea this year.
Learning by the Seashore
I was in an graduate level writing course on memoir and my prof did something similar. This is a great way to draw out ideas no matter what age.
This a great creative way that the whole class can be involved along with the catchphrase of “have you checked your river”, or “let’s add that to your river” when kiddos come to school with news that they like to share about what they have done over the weekend or will be doing and so on. Thanks for sharing.
So happy you can use it Leanne! Thanks so much for your comment!
This is an amazing idea. Thank you so much for sharing it with the rest of us Leanne.