It depends on the age of the child, but here are some ideas to consider when asking children to get writing! Arguably, we want to keep things generally positive, and not excessively complex.
Write what you know!
Ask your students to write about their day, about their car journey into class, about their birthday party! Get them writing about what they know. If they are recounting things that have really happened they may feel much more comfortable. This is a great way to get them practicing writing about characters, and describing interesting worlds!
Ask them to describe one event, or one thing, in as much detail as possible!
This narrows the focus, and should provide a little more confidence about the nature of the task! Proust, arguably the greatest prose writer of all, went into immense detail about very small things indeed. Ask them to describe football on the weekend, or baking, or mowing the lawn! And to dig right down into the detail: what sounds could they hear? What smells were in the air? What colours were present? Have fun!
Ask your class to tell us a new tale about their favourite fictional character, or real life person. Can they write a new story about Harry Potter, or their favourite sportsperson? This way much of the plot, and the characters, already exist, and all they have to focus on is making the best tale they can!
Ask for Stories that Feature Positive Outcomes!
Try asking your students to write a story about someone who achieves a long held desire, or gets something they’ve wanted very much for a very long time! This is essentially a simplified version of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ (see Joseph Campbell). They have plenty of time to plumb the depths of tragedy later in life!
Stories on Positive Themes!
Try asking for stories on trust, love, accomplishment, friendship, community, support etc. Hopefully this will stimulate some thought about how to foster good things in this crazy world!