Last week we talked about one way that students can get ideas for stories is to write about something that really happened to them—a school day, a visit to their grandparents, a birthday party. They are experts on what happened to them because they lived it, they experienced it, they have first-hand knowledge.

But . . . writing about what really happens can also be routine, expected, boring. Even the best birthday party might not make a very interesting story—there’s the customary presents, candles, cake. EVERYONE’S birthday has those same components. It might be fun to be at a birthday party, but not to read about a birthday party. So how can students make their birthday party stories less ho-hum?

They can add MAKE BELIEVE to what really happened at the birthday party. What if one of the presents started to jiggle and wiggle all on its own? Maybe the Birthday Party Bandit could come to steal the party—catch that bandit! Perhaps the birthday party kid had the same birthday as a famous prince or princess and somehow there was a mix-up and the “royal” presents were sent to the kid’s house by mistake. Get the idea? Make believe allows students to sprinkle imagination onto real-life events, and in the end, to go beyond routine, everyday stories.

In the video above, you’ll learn how author Lynn Plourde added make-believe to create her Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud and A Mountain of Mittens stories. Plus she shares a reference on how E.B. White added a spider (aka Charlotte) to his North Brooklin, Maine farm experiences to create his classic story Charlotte’s Web.

To help students add make-believe to their stories, have a make-believe container in your classroom (see how Lynn uses hers in the video). Whenever students’ stories seem less than spectacular, you or other students could pass them your class make-believe container and encourage them to sprinkle some “make believe” onto their stories (their papers) to make them more interesting. Obviously the container is symbolic, but kids will get the idea. Plus it’s much nicer to offer a make-believe container than to tell someone his or her story is boring—no one wants to hear that!

You’re invited to create a make-believe container for your classroom—let your students do the creating! Then photograph your container, and post the photo in the comments section of this blog, along with your e-mail address. Lynn will choose the most creative make-believe container from all the entries and the winner will receive an autographed copy of Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud (that’s why your e-mail is necessary so Lynn can let you know if you win and then get your mailing address). The deadline is March 31, 2012. Good luck!

Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud by Lynn Plourde
A Mountain of Mittens by Lynn Plourde
The story of the spider behind Charlotte’s Web
The Story of Charlotte’s Web by Michael Sims

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