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Fiction Writing Prompts for 4th and 5th Graders

by Miriam Downey 29. April 2014 10:36

Author David Baldacci was asked to describe what a kid who wants to be a writer should do to prepare. He suggested that what future writers should do is to read a lot of non-fiction. Certainly, I didn't choose non-fiction books at the library when I was a kid, but we had lots of magazines in our house, and I read National Geographic every month among other magazines. So, I actually did get a lot of non-fiction reading done.

Most fiction doesn't just come come out of an author's head. That is what Baldacci is trying to tell potential authors. Most authors do an extensive amount of research to make sure that they get the setting right and the historical aspects right as well. Even science fiction authors have to know that the science behind their fiction is correct to give authenticity to their writing.

One good tool for encouraging writing skills is to have a child read a book of non-fiction and then make up a short story using the information or those facts as part of the story. For instance, Africa might become the setting for a story after the child has read a book about the lions of Africa. Or the book Orphan Train Rider might inspire a child to imagine that he/she was a rider on the orphan trains of the 1800s. Here is a list of non-fiction books that could easily serve as inspiration for fiction writing. As you can tell from this list, almost any good non-fiction book can serve as a starting place for writing and for further research. I have included a writing prompt at the end of each title. The books will be available at your local library or bookstore, and they are appropriate for third, fourth, and fifth graders.

Orphan Train Rider: One Boy's True Story by Andrea Warren. Facts about the children sent West on orphan trains are interspersed with the story of one 9-year-old boy who was sent to Texas on an orphan train in 1926. What would it be like to have no parents and be sent far away on a train to an unknown future?

Blizzard: The Storm that Changed America by Jim Murphy. This is the harrowing story of the blizzard of 1888. How did people get around in New York City during such a blizzard?

Buried Alive! How 33 Miners Survived 69 Days Deep under the Chilean Desert by Elaine Scott. What did the miners feel, trapped in the steam darkness so far underground?

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge. The chaotic, passionate, and deadly three months of protests that led to the Selma March in 1965. Would I have marched in Selma in 1965?

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson. The real stories and voices of survivors and witnesses. What would my life have been like if I survived the Titanic?

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca. A story of adventure and discovery during the summer of 1969. How would I have responded if it had been my father on Apollo 11?


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