Back to School Writing Activity - Stones in the River

Stones in the River writing activity - perfect for the first week of school in the elementary classroom!  This post explains how to create "Rivers" with your students where they can keep their ideas for writing throughout the year!
Writing!  I love it so.
This activity is called Stones in the River.  It's perfect for the beginning of the year because it's all about brainstorming ideas, even though the kids don't know that yet.  It's a resource we come back to over and over again when we're stuck for writing ideas, or to add to as we think of more.  If I ever hear "I don't have anything to write about.", my automatic response is "Go to your river.", and then "Have you gone to your river?", and then "Why don't you add some things to your river?"  

During the first week of school I do this activity step-by-step with the kids.  I show them rivers I've created in the past and let them know that if they are dying to put color on their river, they can when we finish making as many stones as possible.
Stones in the River writing activity - perfect for the first week of school in the elementary classroom!  This post explains how to create "Rivers" with your students where they can keep their ideas for writing throughout the year!
Stones in the River Step by Step:
1. Get a long piece of art paper
2. Draw your river with 2 lines (straight, curvy, jagged, whatever) as far apart on the paper as possible.
3. Think of any people that you know who are important to you.  Every one of these people will be a stone in your river.  For every person you can think of write their name and then draw a circle or oval around it. These are now the first stones in your river.
Stones in the River writing activity - perfect for the first week of school in the elementary classroom!  This post explains how to create "Rivers" with your students where they can keep their ideas for writing throughout the year!
4. Think of any places where you've spent a lot of time, places you have visited or want to visit.  Every place you can think of will be a stone in your river.  These don't have to be theme parks or vacation destinations; they can be your bedroom or the playground.  You definitely spend a lot of time there! Write the place and put any kind of circle around it you want.  These are now stones in your river.
Stones in the River writing activity - perfect for the first week of school in the elementary classroom!  This post explains how to create "Rivers" with your students where they can keep their ideas for writing throughout the year!
5. Think of any things or events that are important to you.  Things can be animals, foods, or even colors.  Events can be holidays, special occasions, or memories.  These are now stones in your river too!  Look how crazy full your river is getting!
Stones in the River writing activity - perfect for the first week of school in the elementary classroom!  This post explains how to create "Rivers" with your students where they can keep their ideas for writing throughout the year!
6. Write your name on your river!  That way when we find it on the floor, we can bring it right back to you. We wouldn't want you to lose something so special.  :)

Students can color their rivers or continue adding to them.  I always remind them to keep extra space in their river because they will definitely want to add people, places, things, and events as our year together continues.  They fold these up, put them in their writer's notebook, and use them whenever they're stuck for ideas.

Follow-up mini lessons with our rivers include:
How you can use your river to spark an idea for writing
Genre switch - using a river idea to write pieces in multiple genres (a poem AND a narrative about your cat)
Adding on to your river when you think of new ideas

Happy back to school!  Enjoy the rest of August!
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2 comments

  1. I love this idea. I always have those students who say they don't have anything to write about. I think sometimes kids don't realize that any little idea they have can be turned into a writing piece, it doesn't always have to be a super spectacular event. Thanks for sharing, I am definitely going to use this idea this year.
    Lori
    Learning by the Seashore

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  2. I was in an graduate level writing course on memoir and my prof did something similar. This is a great way to draw out ideas no matter what age.

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