• Megan Mariano

Fantasy Writing and the Importance of Imagination in Middle School

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

Students in middle school need to trigger their imaginations more than ever!


Do fantasy writing as narrative writing...

We all have narrative writing requirements. What do you end up doing? Personal narrative, right? Middle schoolers have been overexposed to this. Year after year, they write "all about me" stories. I am not opposed to these stories, but I feel by middle school, it's time to elevate that. Consider eliminating the personal narrative and encouraging a unit on imaginative story-telling.


The importance of imagination...


I read the book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in our All-About-Me World by Dr. Michele Borba, and this was a big topic of discussion. Imagination is one of the key aspects of having empathy. A child puts him or herself in another character's "shoes" when they imagine. When toddlers are pretending to be their favorite superhero, for example, they are beginning to show empathy. They key into character reactions to certain stimuli. They pretend to be bad guys and have the good guys conquer them. These are all the building blocks to empathy and understanding others! When we don't allow little ones this opportunity to pretend play, it squanders their learning of caring. This is why screen time under 6 REALLY needs to be limited...it takes away from these teachable moments.



Why imagination is so important in middle school...

Once kiddos get to middle school, they've been screened in. I LOVE technology, but what tends to happen by this age is a lot of middle schoolers have been oversaturated by screens (mindless games and social media...I am NOT talking about quality television programming, because good TV shows can foster imagination)...perhaps since they were babies. Without proper guidance, these kids have lost the ability to "pretend". When they are bored, they go on YouTube. I am not against it, just the overuse of it.


As a result, in my experience, they are so eager to be older than they are, when, mentally, they are still kids. Playing is not "cool" anymore. (I was certainly still playing when I was in middle school). These kids still need to trigger their imaginations, and fantasy writing is a way to do it.


Why fantasy writing is so great...


It really allows tweens to tap into ideas they may have never developed. It also allows them to think back to when they were "kids". By creating different characters, it provides them with an opportunity to think from different perspectives. Plus, it's fun to create new worlds!


What I do...

I spend an entire unit on fantasy graphic novels first. This helps them envision fantasy worlds and gets them super hooked.


Then we dive into A Hero's Journey and plan our stories, focusing on characters then setting. I also like to show Spirited Away to kick off their imaginations.

Bottom line...

Consider changing up personal narrative to fictional narrative to get students to be more empathetic!


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