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Useful Websites related to this page

Places to find more story starters:

Eight Great Ways to Kick Off a Story
Sample sentences to get started. (Scholastic Magazine online)

Leon'sRandom Generators

Stuck on a name for a character, or a title for your story?

10 Ways to Jump-Start Your Plot
Stuck on how to move the plot forward?

100 Story Starters
Starter sentences for kids.

100 Short Story (or Novel) Writing Prompts for upper level or more advanced students.

Sites with tools for digital storytelling:

What is a storyboard and how to make one.
StoryTools: The Fifty Tools
50+ web tools you can use to create your own web-based story (choose one or two to explore).

Multimedia Search
How to find images, audio, and video on the Web.

11 Good Digital Storytelling Resources
by Richard Byrne.

Resources for  Very Young Learners:

Storybird: Collaborative Storytelling - short stories that the students make collaboratively by selecting pictures and themes. To read online or print as a book. Stories may be kept private or shared with a URL. Includes a catalog of recent stories as examples.

TeacherTube -
A free community for sharing instructional videos and content for teachers and students. "We are an education focused, safe venue for teachers, schools, and home learners."

With thanks to the Diigo archive of Images4Education, an Electronic Village Online resource. Join and contribute!

See the EVO Video Archive: Slideshows and Digital Images page for more resources. (Registration required.)

Quicksteps to Writing a Short Story

The 5-Way Story Starter

Students love to write fiction, and the short story is a good way to get them going. This page outlines a quickie lesson plan for writing a short story using the 5-way story starter, which plunges the reader (and the writer) into the action quickly.

Target audience: 
low intermediate-advanced ESOL learners

What you need:  Pen and paper

What to do:

Place your students in groups of 5. Give each student in the group one of the 5 major starting points to write individually:

1. a character (give him/her a name)
2. an action
3. a place or location
4. a time of day or night (and the weather)
5. a descriptive word describing a person (a character)

Now have the group work together to combine the list into one sentence. They must also include one or more adjectives and one or more adverbs. They may change any of the 5 elements to fit a good storyline, but they can't eliminate any.

Students then write a short (3 pp.) story explaining how the character got into the situation and how it was resolved.


Write each starter on a separate slip of paper so that students can't see each other's target word until they start to write the starter sentence together.

Ways to develop the story:

On a long piece of paper, the first student writes a follow-up sentence to the story, then passes the paper on to the next student.

Students may also each write a sentence to follow-up to the starter, and then choose the best one. They then continue writing 5 more sentences, etc.

Have students read 10 Ways to Jump-Start Your Plot.  Each group decides which type of continuation will best fit their starter.


  • Bring in a collection of short stories and have students identify the 5 main points that start each one--usually they will be found in the first sentence or two.
  • Have students create digital illustrations for their story and make a slideshow or video at one of the many digital storytelling sites (good speaking/listening practice, too).
  • Interview a character in the story to find out his/her real motives. Record it on a podcast site, like PodOmatic.
  • Act out the story for the rest of the class, videotaping it and mounting it on the school website or at TeacherTube

More ideas:

  • Create a collection of pictures of landscapes cut from magazines or newspapers as prompts for settings for your students' stories. These might also be used for descriptive free-writing.
  • Create another collection of interesting faces cut from magazines or the newspapers. These might become the basis for characters in your students' stories. Ask students first to describe the people in these pictures. (Avoid stars or well-known faces.)
  • Create a collection of abstract art pictures cut from magazines or newspapers. Ask students to describe the mood or emotions the pictures evoke. Learners often state that English can't express emotion, but this may be because they have been given no opportunity to learn this kind of vocabulary.

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Last updated 3 May 2017; copyright Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, Computers for Education

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