People Interested in Zippy and ZAny Zcribbling

PIZZAZ has been an Online Resource since 1995 from Leslie Opp-Beckman
For Scribblers and Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)


Description for Basket Stories: Don't let creative writing activities make a "basket case" out of you--try this one for fun!

ESOL student level:
These activities scale well to beginner through advanced level proficiency and can be used with all ages.

For more activities:
Return to PIZZAZ!


  • One basket for every group of 3-4 students.
  • Three kinds of objects from nature (flat leaves, sticks, stones...) or 3 colors of paper, cut up into small squares.
  • Permanent marking pens.

Warm-Up Activities

Post examples of connectors and sequencing words (e.g. first, then, next, finally, etc.) on the board or wall for language support. You amy also want to post and review common story endings and beginnings (e.g. once upon a time, once long ago, in a land far from here....lived happily ever after, was never seen again, still lives there today, etc.).


  1. Students work in small groups of 3 or 4. Each group gets a basket. The teacher gives each student in every group a set of 3 different objects from nature (or 3 kinds of small pieces of colored paper) to write on with some permanent pens.

  2. Students all write the name of an interesting place on object #1, and then place them in their group's basket. It is important that everyone use the same object for places (e.g. all sticks = places, in all baskets).

    Object #1 (e.g. stick or piece of blue paper) = a person or thing
    • a 3-eyed monster
    • my sister
    • the old man next door
    • a pair of shiny red shoes
    • a drum
    • sunglasses with one cracked lens
    Object #2 (e.g. leaf or piece of green paper) = a place
    • on the top of the school
    • Seoul, Korea
    • Moon Valley, a deep secret city under the sea
    Object #3 (e.g. flat stone or piece of white paper) = actions or events (verbs) with a specified tense
    Examples, simple past tense:
    • flew high in the air
    • ran into a cave
    • ate everything in sight
    Examples, present tense (every day):
    • flies high in the air
    • runs into a cave
    • eats everything in sight
  3. The teacher should first model this process for the class and then let students do it:
  • To begin a story, the story-teller reaches into the basket and pulls out the object which represents a person or thing (in the examples above, all sticks or pieces of blue paper in all baskets are people or things). This then becomes the main character in the story. Other students in the group must ask questions about the character (make sure everyone takes a turn doing this) so that the storyteller can add lots of details and embellish.
  • Next, pull out a "place" (in the examples above, all leaves or pieces of green paper in all baskets are places). This place, too, becomes part of the story.
  • Next, pull out an "action" (in the examples above, all stones or pieces of white paper in all baskets are actions/verbs).
  • Whenever the storyteller gets stuck, s/he pulls out a new object from the basket.
  • Continue pulling and creating until at least 4 different objects or pieces of paper have been taken out from the basket. A storyteller can take more objects/papers, but all items taken from the basket must somehow be used in the story.
  • When the first storyteller is done, all the prompts (the pieces of paper or things from nature) go back into the basket, and the next storyteller begins.
  • After everyone has told stories in each group, students write their own stories individually on a piece of paper. It can be the stories they just told, or they can draw out new items and create a brand new one.


  • Add more sets of objects (e.g. object #4 = adjectives; object #5 = exclamations).
  • Short cut: bring the baskets already all made up. Use vocabulary from previous class lessons.
  • Groups exchange items from each other's baskets.
  • Groups trade baskets entirely.
  • Have students leave large margins on all four sides of the paper when they write. Then they can go back and put small, border illustrations around the outside edges of the story.
  • Students illustrate the story on separate pieces of paper, or "book-style" with the writing on one half and the illustrations on the other.

Follow-Up Activities

  1. Students' work can be compiled into a class anthology or wall display.
  2. Students can illustrate stories with hand-drawn or computer-generated images.

© 2010, Leslie Opp-Beckman, Ph.D., Distance Education Coordinator and ESOL Instructor
Email: leslieob@uoregon.edu
URL: http://www.uoregon.edu/~leslieob/
5212 University of Oregon, Linguistics Department, American English Institute Eugene, Oregon 97403-5212 USA
Permission to copy and distribute for educational, non-profit use only.
This page last updated: 25 March 2010
University of Oregon