Do you love Elf on the Shelf or don’t want anything to do with him? Either way, the Elf on the Shelf can make a super fun Christmas writing prompt for school throughout the month of December.
Personally, we swore we would never do the Elf on the Shelf. We have never done Santa Claus in our home. And, I am all about simple and moving an elf each night did not fit with my idea of “keeping things simple.” But, last year, I realized he would make a great writing prompt for my boys during the month of December.
So if you would like to use him to encourage your child’s writing development, just follow these easy steps!
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1) Find an Elf
In case you are not familiar with the Elf on the Shelf, he comes with a book that explains his role. He has been sent by Santa Claus to watch your children and report back each night on whether they have been naughty or nice. Each time he returns from the North Pole, he arrives in a different place in the home and usually finds himself in a mischievous situation.
You can buy the basic version or one of the versions below including a girl elf or one with a darker skin tone. There are also fun outfits you can add on! You can also choose gender and looks. Or you could use any elf you already have around the house!
We actually have never read the book and our Elf does not report back to Santa. He just gets into mischief that we write about!
2) Give the Elf a Backstory
My boys enjoyed the Elf immensely last year, but their stories needed a bit of help! This year, I have created two graphic organizers to help them with their writing. You can download these FREE printables at the bottom of this post.
The Prewriting Exercise, is to help your children think of a back story for their elf, complete with name, age, origin, hobbies, character traits and more. You can then encourage them to use this information to make their stories richer. This sheet should be completed before your Elf on the Shelf gets himself into any mischievous situations. For younger children, just ask them the questions and write the information in for them.
3) Set the Elf Up in a Mischievous Situation
Once your children complete the Prewriting Exercise, that night you can set the Elf on the Shelf up in his first situation. If you need some inspiration in this area, check out these posts:
You can also follow #elfontheshelf on Instagram for tons of ideas! We kept it pretty simple in the beginning and open to lots of interpretation. For example, one night we just rolled the toilet paper out of the bathroom, into the kitchen and the Elf sat holding the end while hiding under a kitchen chair. How and why did he do this? It allowed us to brainstorm many ideas.
4) Plan Your Story
Once your children find the Elf on the Shelf, they can use the second page of the printable, the Story Organizer. This helps them think about how and why the Elf ended up in his situation. It encourages them to think through each story element needed to tell a story and to organize their story in a sequential manner. This can be difficult for some children and is great to plan out before they start to write their story! Again, younger children can dictate this information and you can complete the organizer for them.
5) Write and Edit the Story
Now that your children have everything thought out and organized, they can sit down and write their story. Feel free to give some expectations such as they need to write a 5 sentence paragraph or a 3 paragraph story. Whatever is appropriate for their skill levels. For younger children, they can dictate their story and you can write it for them. You may write it exactly how they say it or you may help them reword and explain some things better as you write what they say.
I always encourage my kids just to get the story down and then we will go back and edit it later. It can be a not so great first draft. This usually removes their anxiety about getting all of their spelling, punctuation, etc. perfect and they can just write the story.
The next step is to have them read through the story and correct anything that needs correcting. Then, the two of you can read through the story together and make any other final changes.
6) Natural Reward for Finishing the Story
Once your children finish their story, you can set the Elf up again. How often you move the Elf depends on how eager your children are to write their stories. I found we only had to set him up about once a week because it took them this long to plan their story, write their first draft, edit, and then write a final draft if need be.
If your children need an extra push to get their writing done, you could set up a reward where they get to set the Elf up for the next story. Maybe the first child done with his story gets to set the next scene or maybe the one with the longest story becomes the scene setter. Or you could get really specific if your children are working on a particular skill. Maybe the child who uses the most descriptive words in his writing gets to set up the next scene!
We would love to hear about how the Elf on the Shelf Writing Prompt goes for you. Please leave a comment below!
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