Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Get Kids Writing with Lists

How can lists encourage kids to write? Not all writing is stories or narratives. While I've suggested ways to encourage children's story beginnings, I've also given my ideas on children writing a book review, and suggested a way for kids to write a procedure. Today I want to concentrate on something simpler, and perhaps overlooked where children's writing is concerned: lists.

Lists are one way to sneak a little writing into a child's day. I've mentioned before that I think it's just as important to have daily write o'clock as it is read o'clock. Lists needn't take long to write, and they have purpose. They are very often created to remind ourselves, or help us organise something, but they sometimes have another audience too.

Be sure to look at many different list types with your children. Point out a list of opening hours at the pool, or a menu list. Some lists have bullet points; some are numbered. Often people use brief sentences or points. Special lists have their own conventions eg a menu list will often be accompanied by the cost of each item. Make sure to share with your kids when you're writing lists yourself, and how and why you do it. Games like Categories, which I mentioned in Fun Word Games for Kids, are list-related.

Even young kids can make lists on their own or with us. Their writing may be "scribble" but that's an early writing stage that we, as parents, should honour. They may prefer to cut out items from magazines and "list" those. Their lists are rehearsal for more realistic writing later. As kids reach school age, they will invent spelling and begin to form letters we can recognise - another important stage in writing. They may also want to draw list items. Older primary/elementary age children will use lists for school, and home, and begin to notice real life uses for lists.

Here are some ideas for lists to get your kids started:

List examples for pre-school:
list for Santa
list for pretend shopping
list for taking an order in a pretend restaurant
list of family members and photos
list of favourite toys with starting letter and photo,

List examples for school-aged kids:
list of friends
list of loved books
list of favourite movies
list of ten things to hide from a gorilla
list of toys, present and future
list of possible activities to do next weekend
list of holiday destinations
list of things never to do
list of brainstormed gifts for Dad
list of football matches
list of five things you would like to change about the world
list of favourite animals
list of five things you should never say to a cranky dragon
list of top ten songs
list of top ten sporting stars
list of ten things that would make you say "Ugh!"
list of ten things that would make you say "Yes!"
list of ten grumpy words
list of ten active verbs

List examples for birthdays:
list of party guests
list of party activities
list of party food
list of ingredients needed for cooking party food
list of people to thank

List examples for kids who love to read and write:
list of loved books
list of favourite characters
list of ideas for own stories
list of character traits for a character profile
list of favourite fiction worlds

If you're interested in prompts for children's writing, you might like to read Australian author Sandy Fussell's guest post, Becoming a Story Detective, link to my series of Creative Prompts, or read Fast and Fun Writing with KidsQuick Writing Online, Nurturing Readers and Writers, How to Encourage Kids to Write, Writing Fun for Kids - Create a Caption, or simply click Writing in the right sidebar.  If you have more ideas on getting kids writing with lists, please let us know in comments.


  1. Love this list idea. Try lists that don't have set answers and thus encourage creativity and thinking outside the box. For example,list of FLEXIBLE things might include a pipe cleaner, gymnast, schedule, easy-going dad, etc. Or a list of HIDDEN things might include a treasure, the hider in hide-n-seek, the truth, your unremoved appendix, etc.

  2. Lots of great ideas as always, and a terrific way to get them writing without them feeling like it is too much like 'work'!

  3. Anonymous07 June, 2012

    This is a great idea and an activity my daughter loves to do. In fact, I don't know any kid who doesn't want to make a list of what they want for Christmas and their birthday. I'm definitely sharing this article on my blog.

  4. @busydayblog Glad to see I'm not the only list enthusiast! Thanks!

  5. @Lynn Plourde Thanks for these wonderful ideas. I love your blog and what you do to help young writers!

  6. Gee you're good. I was just thinking about how I could introduce more lists to Miss Possum's learning! You always seem to write a post related to me!

  7. @PennyPart chicken, part wizard .... What can I say?

  8. These are all great ideas! Thanks!


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