Word Play Workshop – The Author’s Toolbox

Photo credit: Heidi Loney

Photo credit: Heidi Loney

Story Writing Workshop – Developing the Senses

Just like mechanics and carpenters, plumbers and builders, writers need a toolbox. Sure, you will find each toolbox stocked with different tools and equipment, but it is necessary to have a toolbox. Below, you will find some ideas to help your students understand just who authors and writers are and just what tools are necessary to be a great writer.

1. Authors

Brainstorm Activity: (2 mins)

Key questions: What does an author look like? What sort of people are they?

Discussion: Your students can simply tell you their answers without the need to write anything down as yet. All answers are acceptable (as long as they are within your boundaries and suitable language is being used). For the moment, your students are describing their worldview as they see it in present time.

Art Activity:  This is what an author looks like …(5-10 mins)

(materials needed include):

  • a large sheet of paper or a sketch pad,
  • drawing pencils

Encourage students to draw a self-portrait. While students do this emphasise that writers are ordinary people, just like themselves. Anyone is capable of being a writer. Ask the students to draw themselves being a writer. What do they look like? What have they surrounded themselves with?

2. The Writers Toolbox

Brainstorm Activity: (5-10 mins)

A. Consider what an author does. Is there a difference between a writer and an author? If there is a difference, try to think of things they share and have in common. Writers or authors, whatever they wish to be called carry out similar work and need similar tools of trade. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just call the toolbox, the Author’s Toolbox, which will refer to all writers.

Spend five minutes brainstorming what you think should be in an author’s tool box?

Most students will list: lead pencil, paper, pencils, computer, eraser, imagination, a brain, and so on.

All are great answers.

But …

Our senses and our experiences are equally important and are the tools that will lift good writing into great writing.

B. List the FIVE senses:

  • touch
  • sight
  • hearing
  • tasting
  • smell

Discuss: the additional senses of –

  • feelings and emotions

At this point go back and ask students to write some lists about authors from the first part of this activity.

Photo credit: rennaisancefoods.com

Photo credit: rennaisancefoods.com

3. The Mandarin/Tangerine/Orange/Chocolate Exercise (15-20 mins)

(materials needed include: mandarins, tangerines or oranges, or chocolate easter egg or regular chocolate and a paper towel)

*** Please note: magnifying glasses work well, especially in younger students. ***

A. Write a two or three sentence description of the mandarin or chocolate.

Once the students write down their sentences, encourage them to read out their descriptions. Most will describe its properties – its texture, its colour, its shape, and some will say it is squishy or describe the smell. All answers are acceptable.

B. Now look at the surface closely – describe what it looks like – what does it remind you of?

If your students are struggling, tell them what you think the mandarin looks like – an old leather boot, for example, or for the chocolate Easter egg, you might suggest it looks like the patterns on a game or tiles. There are no incorrect answers.

C. Peel the mandarin and examine the pieces of skin – what does the underside look like? What does it feel like?

If the students describe the properties, acknowledge their answers as being correct, then ask them to use their other writing tools (their senses and their life experiences) to describe the mandarin or chocolate. What’s it like? What does it remind them of? For example: what is it like? (delicate white lace like a spider’s web or the underside of a sticky sticker that needs to be scraped away).

D. What does the smell remind you of?

For example: a foreign country, the school tuck shop, or packed lunches.

E. What memory does it evoke?

Maybe picnics with the family? Pomander balls hanging in the wardrobe?

F. What about the taste?

Allow the students to taste their own segment of fruit or chocolate and note down and discuss their findings.

G. Does the mandarin, orange or Easter egg make sounds?

Be prepared with paper towel for this might just get a little sloppy.


Compare the original descriptions – round, fat, orange, hard, to the later ones in which the students used their five senses to find richer descriptions and perhaps they can go on to create some mini stories.


You could repeat this workshop anytime as a refresher, using some other treats to add to the fun factor.

If you do decide to give this a go, please drop by and leave a comment and let me know how things went. Maybe you also have an idea you’d like to share. I’d love to hear from you.

Happy writing,

Miss Debbie

Additional Resources:

‘Creative Writing Workshops for Children’ by Denise Howie

Respect for the authors:

Please respect the author of this website. The information is written and shared here in good faith. The author has paid for the resources she is using to supplement her own ideas based around her own teaching experiences and it is her intention and hope that by sharing these ideas it will help children develop and grow their creative ideas and writing.


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