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Day 44 - 5 Sentence Stories (creative ideas for home schooling)

For anyone new to this blog, the idea is simple - each day my boys (Joshua - 9 and Archie - 8) choose a stimulus that drives the learning. We hope that you enjoy the blog and can take some inspiration from what we love doing - making learning as engaging as possible!


5 Sentence Stories

Talk for Writing is rooted in great story telling. When I train teachers, I always begin with the 5 sentence story as it is what underpins early storytelling and invention.

All stories can be condensed into 5 sentences. Of course, you cannot go into all the depths and details, but a talented storyteller needs no more than 5 sentences to get something moving. In fact, you may not even need this many - Kevin Crossley-Holland is famous for his single sentence story.

Today is a delve into the playful nature of storytelling. It is something very close to my heart. We hope you enjoy!


English / Art

  • Story invention

  • Storytelling language

  • Story planning / boxing up

  • Illustrations

Being able to quickly invent stories is one of the joys of a rich English curriculum. In Talk for Writing schools, children ooze confidence as storytellers as it is what we do each and every day - we build the imagination and ensure that they have the tools to be able to manipulate ideas and make them their own.

The 5 sentence story does exactly what it says on the tin. We began by looking at how stories develop. This follows the traditional opening / build up / problem / resolution / ending but in a far more child-friendly scaffold.

Using the 'S' planner, I showed the boys how there are 5 key elements in a story. We then played lots of storytelling oral games, taking it in turn to create a story. You can have great fun with this telling it word by word or sentence by sentence. The idea is to build up confidence and fluency, as well as generating some initial ideas, whilst internalising some of the storytelling language (grammar in context).

Here is the writing scaffold I created with the boys:

Playing with the scaffold, you can quickly make a simple story. For example:

  1. Many moons ago their lived a lonely T-Rex called Reg who lived in a forest.

  2. Early one morning, he decided to go and visit his best friend Sid.

  3. Unfortunately, he did not realise that Sid was away camping.

  4. Luckily, he took a detour via the park and met a lot of his other dino chums.

  5. Finally, they all had a great play and Reg was lonely no more.

It is also really fun to try summarise a well-known story into 5 sentences. For example:

  1. Once upon a time, there lived a young boy called Harry Potter who discovered that he was really a wizard.

  2. Shortly after turning 11, his life was turned upside down as he departed for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

  3. Unfortunately, there were many demons in Harry's past that haunted him throughout his time as Hogwarts, including the most evil, notorious wizard of them all - Lord Voldermort.

  4. Luckily, Harry, with the help of his friends and teachers, rose to overcome the dark arts that threatened to destroy them all.

  5. Finally, with Voldermort defeated, Harry went on to live a life full of fun and friendship, proud of the wizard he had become.

Having played around with these rapid-fire storytelling games, we then had a go at quickly planning some stories. To add in a slight challenge, I used a random name picker that I use for story improvisation assemblies to help us choose the type of story and the genre. This is a really fun tool to play around with:

In essence, the computer then generates a story type (e.g. warning story) with a genre (e.g. crime). The challenge is then to create a 5 sentence story using this.

Here are the boys having a go at the initial planning, using the S-planners:


To model the story creation to the boys, I showed them how to create a couple of stories. They loved being able to spin the wheel and I encouraged them to pitch in with ideas.

The first story was a science fiction 'finding' story:

Zane gazed out at the barren landscape, longing for some form of life. A sudden glint in the distance caught his attention - what was it?

As he arrived at the mysterious object, he realised that this was the Orb of Zanda - the magical sphere that had brought such ruin to the lands. Raising his fire-axe above his head, Zane took a deep breath and brought the blade down with all his might. The world erupted into light as the magic was released, restoring the land to its former glory.

The second was a period drama 'rags to riches' tale:

Darcy longed for happiness but knew that Great Mama would never let him marry his one true love. As he watched Emma stoke the fire in the hearth, he felt his heart groan in pain. Plucking up courage, Darcy decided that he had to act; she had to be his. Deliberately knocking over his glass of elderflower pressé, he saw Emma turn to survey the situation. As their eyes met, they both knew that a new chapter in their lives had just begun.

Here are the boys efforts. They also designed a front cover to go with their short tale:


The Cake Thief by Archie

(an adventure 'character flaw' story)

Once upon a time there lived a greedy boy named Runny, who loved eating lots and lots of food.

At the dead of night, Runny stole a cheeky chocolate cake from the local bakery.

Unfortunately, he fell into the shop keeper's trap and was plunged into the sewers beneath the shop.

Luckily, he escaped out of his toilet and then bathed for two hours to get rid of the smell.

Finally, he decided to never be greedy again.


The Cake Thief by Joshua

(a fairy tale 'warning' story)

"Don't go into that wood!" shouted Jamie's mum.

But Jamie did not listen and skipped off into the wood to find the gingerbread house.

Suddenly, a black ghost jumped out of nowhere.

Luckily, Jamie knew the magical password.

Finally, he screamed the password and the door creaked open.


If you are enjoying this blog, please do share it and spread the word. Thank you to all of you who have got in touch and shared some of the outcomes from what you have tried - we love to hear from you.

Do tune in tomorrow where we exploring:


My thanks to Pie Corbett, Julia Strong and the Talk for Writing team for inspiring many of the ideas explored in this blog.

This blog is copyright. All materials herein, texts and supporting resources are copyright to Jamie Thomas & Talk for Writing. They may be used to support children/staff/parents in home-learning ONLY and not for commercial gain or for training or sharing widely, in their original form or any variations. They must also not be shared online or on any social media platforms without prior permission.

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