“My child has lots of creative story ideas but struggles with putting them in a logical order.” I’ve heard this many times from parents, and it’s a common challenge for writers of all ages! But during the third week of my Pirate Adventure workshop, something happened that blew my mind.
Even though I had provided kids with a graphic organizer to plan the beginning, middle, and end of their story, we discovered an even better way to outline it!
Students had drawn treasure maps as a way to brainstorm settings for their pirate adventure stories. But the maps turned out to be powerful outlining tools. What does a real map or navigation system do? It helps us know where to go. And treasure maps can guide the way for stories, too!
We talked about how their stories could start at the beginning of the treasure map route. Then, the pirates could travel to the next spot on the map. After that, they continue to the next location. Next, the pirates head off to…and so on. (I say could because the map is a guide, not a contract. 😅) (This exercise provides a nice opportunity to introduce Sequence Words, too.)
One kid had drawn 29 spots on his map (no joke!) and he was in a panic! “You mean I have to write about all 29 spots!!??” (Cue the dramatic music as kids frantically grab their erasers haha.) Students with 3-5 places on their maps remained calm.
Nope! Just like real maps, we bypass lots of places along the way to our destination. “Same for your story,” I said. We talked about choosing a couple favorite spots to write about. You don’t want to write about the Lawless Lagoon? No problem. Focus on Piggy Pond.
Treasure maps are especially beneficial because students are independently creating the graphic organizers! And lots of pre-writing and brainstorming about what could happen at each location is occurring along the way.
Did every student use the map in this way? No. Some students wrote stories in which the entire adventure took place out at sea. And that’s totally fine! The treasure map is just one tool to help kids work out a chronological order of events. It can be easy to get lost in The Forgetful Forest!