Another way to do something like this is “Story in a Bag.” Place four to eight items in a bag and write a lead sentence on the board or chart. Let everyone get started writing off that lead. Then pull out one of the items such as a flashlight. Students have to work that item into the story in a way that makes sense. Place the item on a table in plain view. Then pull out the next item after a few items. It could be a pliers, eggbeater, plate, or notebook. You can also occasionally write a word on the board or pull out a photo from the bag (such as the moon, a rainbow, a screen door). I liked to do this activity on a Friday afternoon to challenge my students to think on their feet and problem solve. Believe it or not, it helped to develop writing fluency. After three or four Fridays, I asked students to volunteer in partners to create a “Story in the Bag” and I joined the class to write.
“Book in a Bag” is a little different. Students give a book talk about a book they’ve read by finding four to five items (they can take photos or draw pictures or make sculptures out of clay as well) to tell about their book. These items are placed in a paper bag. The students must include characters, setting, problem and genre. Of course, they should not reveal how the story ends. Nonfiction books are also doable in this format.
“Under My Pillow: A Message”
Last winter when it snowed purple JELL-O
And hailstones fell as perfectly shaped diamonds,
The Easter Bunny appeared at Christmas time
And placed beautiful painted eggs
under the tree instead of presents.
Time ticked backwards and Winter became fall.
All the leaves changed blue and pink and silver.
Suddenly, Santa appeared in a sleigh
Pulled by eight plant-eating dinosaurs.
Santa handed out reindeer antler swim trunks
And free passes to Disneyland.
I closed my eyes for just one moment
And found myself falling down a long tunnel
Where I met Alice, the Dormouse, and the Mad Hatter.
They were looking for the Tooth Fairy because
Alice had lost a tooth and wasn’t at home
to place it under her pillow.
I blinked, and when I opened my eye
I was back again in my own bed
in my own bedroom….What a relief!
And then I had a strange feeling
That I should peek under my pillow
And to my surprise,
I found four quarters
and a note from the Queen of Hearts
that read, “Off with her head!”