Snowball writing is a fun and creative activity that you can use to engage your students in collaborative writing. It is, without a doubt, one of my favorite writing activities to do with students for a few reasons.
Each student is given a sheet with a different narrative story starter. I use picture prompts, but you could also use written prompts. This means if you have 25 students, you need at least 25 different story-starting prompts.
Writer 1 starts the story by introducing the setting and at least one character and starting the plot line. I set a timer for students to write for 10 minutes, but you can choose your own timing depending on your particular students.
This is the BEST part. Tell your students to put their name beside their work, crumple up their paper into a “snowball”, and throw it to the front of the room. If you have the right class, you can also choose to have a snowball fight where students throw the snowballs everywhere. Be prepared for total confusion and chaos.
I have had some teachers modify this to keep the class from getting too wild by having students aim at a target at the front of the room. This might be a good idea if you have a particularly rowdy class that you don’t think would be able to come back together as a whole-class easily.
On your signal, students grab one of the “snowballs”, open it up, and smooth it out. If they happen to pick up their own work, they should crumple it up and grab another one.
Have students look at their new picture, and read the story so far. The second writer will be responsible for continuing the plot, developing the characters further, and developing a conflict. When the timer is up, have them sign their name beside their work.
Repeat the “snowball” throwing process one more time. Writer 3 will be responsible for looking at their new image, reading the story up to this point, attempting to resolve the conflict, and bringing the story to a close. Writer 3 then returns the story back to the original author (Writer 1).
After all three writings are complete, the rough draft of the story goes back to the first original author, and this will become their story. They are responsible for writing a good copy, and doing all of the editing, changing, revising. They may add information they feel is missing or provide more detail. They can take creative control to make adjustments to the narrative, but they must include the other two authors’ writing and credit them as co-authors.
If you would like to try this assignment in your class with my pre-made assignment sheets, you can click here.
My students love this activity so much that I have created different ways to use snowball writing to help students with poetry, descriptive writing, essay writing, and even as a back-to-school icebreaker.
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