There are many great web spaces where kids can publish their own writing. Among others, I've described Cartoonist, PhotoPeach, Glogster, Notaland, Myths and Legends and Make Beliefs Comix. These sites are intrinsically motivating for kids who want to use words and images, (plus sound and video in some cases), to express themselves.
But what can you do when a child says, "I dunno what to write about."? Maybe he enjoys the web spaces, loves the tools, but is stumped when it comes to getting started with ideas for a story.
Brainstormer is an online interactive spinner that gives a young writer a random combination of a conflict, a setting, and what type of characters the story might be about. Just press the button in the middle to get a new combination. My story suggestion was about Amish characters who had to become fortunate in an art gallery. The level of vocabulary means this would be best for upper primary onwards. (My thanks to Keith Schoch for mentioning this one.)
You can find three other writing prompt generators at The Writing for Children Resource Site. Generator 1 asks you to click to get an adjective, a noun and a verb or phrase. I was invited to write a story about "The nuclear-powered chocolate bar that went mountain climbing." Generator 2 gives you three random objects and asks you to write a story about them, including why they are important. Mine were a tulip, a video game, and five poison berries. Generator 3 gives you your main character, his goal, the person or thing that gets between him and his goal, the setting, an event that's the turning point in the story, and a crucial object. My plot became: a third grade kid in a deep, dark jungle wants to get back home, but an earthquake is preventing him. Learning to meditate and a lucky sock lead to a happy homecoming. (Is the world of publishing ready for this?)
Ambleside Primary School has a simple and silly storymaker that asks kids to input words, then push a button to get a crazy story. I got:
One day while I was running in the kitchen a red toadstool fell through the roof. It immediately jumped on the bed and knocked over the bucket. Then it ran out the door into the bathroom and kicked a pig off the bench. It then knocked a glass of glue off the coffee table. After one thousand minutes of chasing the toadstool through the house I finally caught it and put it outside. It quickly climbed the nearest politician.
Alas, my generated story above is not great writing, but it might be a springboard to something else. Prompts are just a way to get started. What writers do once the ideas start to flow is up to them.
Photo courtesy PhotoXpress.com