Writerly Play Kit 016

Books to Encourage Creative Thinking

Writerly Play for Educators

Books to Encourage Creative Thinking

Writerly Play helps learners understand different kinds of thinking, and makes that thinking visible. One of those kinds of thinking is “apprenticeship.” We ask writers to imagine a giant library full of materials–books, artwork, creative expressions of every kind–and invite them to use these masterworks as models to push their own thinking forward.

Sometimes, these masterworks are mentor texts. This month, however, we wanted to share a few books that apprentice learners in the art of stretching their thinking in new directions. We love each of these books ourselves, and also as tools to use with our students, and it’s our delight to share these titles with you. Happy reading and creating!

In this WP Kit, we’re featuring creativity books to inspire you and your students as you stretch your thinking in new directions. 

The Creativity Project

In The Creativity Project, Colby Sharp masterminded an idea swap between beloved kidlit authors and illustrators.

First, each participant created a story prompt. The prompts range from sketched images, to photographs, to words of all kinds–poems, instructions, story starters, and more.

After each participant submitted their prompt, they received one in return. And then, the story creation commenced!

What we love about this book is the way writers model the “Yes, and…” approach to the creative process. Their prompts and responses are all daring acts of ideas out there and following inspiration where it leads.

How might this book inspire creativity in your classroom? You could of course use any of the prompts as story starters for your writers, but what about setting up an idea swap of your own? Maybe your students could swap ideas with classmates, or what about trading with another classroom in the school, or even across town?

After all, there’s something highly exciting about receiving a secret mission by actual mail.

Start with a Word

Start with a Word is deceptively simple. Author, Peter Reynolds, encourages writers to start with one of the most familiar words they know, their name. Then, he leads writers through a word-collection adventure as they turn the pages of the book.

Writers of all ages (even adults) will find themselves encountering aha! moments about themselves in unexpected ways. You might learn something new about yourself, for instance, when you name your fears. (Peter Reynolds points out that, “A name is a container. See if it contains your fear. The next time that feeling creeps up, you can say, ‘Oh, it’s Ollie again.'”)

If you have the budget to buy a copy of this journal for every writer in your classroom, you would not regret it. If not, consider buying it and using the ideas the journal contains for a class project. It would make a fantastic guide for a small group of creative writers, like a writing club, or for a high-achieving writer who has some time for independent writing in addition to regular assignments.

How to tell a story

How to Tell a Story, by Daniel Nayeri, may look like a toy, but that’s the joy of it. This book makes the work of creative writing into play.

Even if you don’t teach in an elementary classroom, you’ll find that the experience of working through the activity book, along with the opportunities provided by rolling various dice, will stretch writers and thinkers at all levels.

One of the most important first steps in building a Writerly Play mindset is for writers to let go of viewing writing as hard work. Once they can see writing for what it is–creative, experimental, an opportunity to shape their thinking, to learn, and to express themselves–much of their writing resistance goes away.

How to Tell a Story creates an experience that turns writing into a game, teaching that mindset shift effortlessly. In our view, effortless mindset shifts are the very best kind!

“Teachers are about the brighest stars in our constellation.”

-Peter H. Reynolds, author of Start with a Word

What’s Up At SYI this Month?


Out of Place

Create something that includes a tree somewhere out of place.
Tell us about it! Draw a picture to help you visualize your tree. What it looks like, and where it is? Why is it out of place? What’s happening in this place?

Aim for between 350 and 1000 words. Have your students submit a response here and they might be published on our website!


Colby Sharp

This month, we talk to author Colby Sharp about his book, The Creativity Project. This interview is a little special because it’s a video interview! Click below to watch.



Join us for our upcoming educator masterclass!

Join us on January 16 at 4:00 pm PT for Supporting Strong Writers – Writerly Play in the Classroom. Tuition is $25.