Three Fun Creative Writing Idea Generators for Elementary Students: Dreams, Music & Clustering

Getting The Creative Juices Flowing

Creative writing teachers spend much time looking for ways to inspire their students and give them tools to come up with ideas. Music, dreams, and free association techniques such as clustering are helpful. A teacher who uses a variety of methods will reach the most students.

Dreams and Music

Listening to music can bring forth lots of creative writing ideas.

  • Bring a classical or any instrumental music CD to play in class.
  • Instruct students to relax, put down their heads and close their eyes. Tell them to let their imaginations run wild while they listen to the music.
  • Play the music for at least ten or fifteen minutes, longer if the class is mature enough to stay focused.
  • Afterward, allow volunteers to raise their hands and tell the rest of the class about the things they imagined.
  • Have students write very short stories about the things they imagined, or about the things that their classmates imagined.
  • Collect the short stories to grade as a creative writing assignment.

Dreams From Last Night

Dreams are often a good source of fiction and creative writing. Another way to utilize them is to give each student a dream notebook.

  • Make sure that they understand that you will not collect and read the notebooks.
  • Give the class about ten minutes at the beginning of each day to jot down anything they remember from their dreams.
  • Give volunteers the opportunity to tell the class about a dream.
  • As a creative writing exercise, instruct students to use what is in their journals, what they heard from their classmates, and anything else they think of to write a short story.
  • Collect the short stories, but not the journals.

Free Association

Clustering is a form of free association that helps creative writers generate new ideas. Students can use ideas from dreams or from anywhere and cluster them. It is interesting and fun to discover what people think of during free association exercises, such as clustering.

  • Instruct students to take a character from one of their dreams or a character from literature–for example, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.
  • Draw a bubble around Dorothy.
  • Around Dorothy, jot down words and phrases that come to mind when thinking about Dorothy, for example: Toto, Kansas, Homesick, Asleep in the Poppies, etc. This collection of ideas is called a "cluster."

Clusters are useful tools for creative writers. Instruct your students to make clusters before creative writing. Collect both the clusters and the stories they write.

This post is part of the series: Creative Writing Prompts

Ideas and Lesson Plans for Elementary Teachers to keep their young writers’ creative juices flowing.
  1. Creative Writing Prompts: Using Dreams, Music, and Free Association
  2. Upper Elementary Writing Lesson Plan: Writing With All Five Senses