Cool creative writing activities—pirate style

Cool creative writing activities—pirate style

Last week author and colleague Kallie George and I finished up a two week creative writing camp for kids aged 9-12 through CWC. The theme was one of our faves: pirates!

Kallie and I have taught many camps before, but we wanted to try and do something a little different this time. Even though the goal of the camp was to just immerse kids in creative writing, we decided we needed to give them a goal.

So, we decided to have them produce handmade pirate “journals” that would chronicle the adventure of a character who ends up sailing the seas.

Once we had that decided, it was just a matter of developing and fine-tuning some topics . . .

Day 1: Introduction – What kind of pirate are you?

For the first day, we just warmed up the kids by introducing them to our theme, having them take a fun quiz (What kind of pirate are you?), and doing some writing warm-ups.

Day 2: Plot me a treasure!

We introduced our overall goal, to make a pirate log book and began the project by drawing treasure maps. One of my goals in all of my writing classes is to have the kids work hard on developing better ideas. To this end, I had them complete a brainstorming sheet before they began drawing.

The brainstorming sheet outlined various features they might include on their map and come up with inventive names for them. I find that many young writers will just pick the first name that pops into their head and not give it a second thought. The brainstorming sheet helped them come up with a much more imaginative and evocative world for their journal.


This was also the day the students began handwriting their journals. Many of them chose to do rough copies that they could then copy into their final booklets (after a quick edit, of course).

Day 3: Pirate Particulars

Pirates love clothes, so on Day 3 we had the students approach character design through a strong visual approach. The kids designed a complete pirate wardrobe for a character, including clothes, tools, tattoos, and the ultimate fashion accessory—a pirate pet.


Day 4: ARG! Pirate Lingo

One of the most fun things about pirates is the way they talk, so we led an activity to help students practice pirate lingo.

Day 5: Settings that Sail

This day was all about the ship and the flag. We showed the students diagrams of famous ships from film and literature (my personal favorite being The Dawn Treader), and went over the flags used by real-life pirates.

Afterwards, the students brainstormed and designed their own pirate flags. Once again, I had the students do a few thumbnail designs before committing to a final since this does always seem to turn up the best ideas.


I ended up designing my own pirate flag, too . . . one to go with a book I’m currently writing.


Day 6: Treasure Ahoy!

We had started the camp giving the kids miniature treasure chests loaded with gold, rubies, and pears. On this day, I brought in other pieces of treasure—mirrors, kaleidoscopes, ancients coins, pots, and so forth. Each student picked an object (and many of them were actual antiques) and were asked to describe it using the five senses.

Once we shared our descriptions, the next task was to invent one magical or unusual thing about the object. So, for example, one student decided that a kaleidoscope showed the true path to the pirate treasure and the other decided that the mirror had captured the soul of a wayward sailor.


Afterwards, we did a visualization activity in which the students all shut their eyes and we played the sounds of a ship at sea during a storm. Afterwards, the students wrote about the experience, concentrating on the five senses.

The purpose of this day was to just make sure the students understood the concept of show-don’t-tell and to help them invest more description into their stories.

Day 7: Sea Shanties

This was one of the most fun days in the camp, as we had the students listen to a cargo of sea shanties then craft their own. Some were ballads, some were call-and-response songs, and others were more free form. Also, most of them were about how to drop me, “Cap’n Wiz.”


Day 8: Legends & Lore

This was a day to bring on the sea serpents! We explored real legends and myths of sea creatures and then asked the students to think about their own monsters by drawing and sculpting them out of clay. Of course, afterwards, they could incorporate these creatures into their pirate journals.


Day 9: Message in a Bottle

By now, it must be obvious that we like buidling stuff in our creative writing camps! On this day, the students wrote messages and put them in bottles, which they painted to make them look like they had been adrift for awhile. The story prompt here was that the students’ characters could be sending out a cry for help.

Day 10: Seal ‘Em Shut

This was the day the kids finished up working on their journals. We had a plan to tea-stain the journals, but then were a bit worried about some of the ink smudging. In any case, this is something the kids could do at home.

The main task we wanted to focus on was making sure the covers look interesting. We procured some brown cardstock and had the kids draw on them with metallic markers. We also got some wax to drip overtop so that they could “seal” them with an impression of a skull or some other design.


I’m pretty impressed with the final products and, considering this was the first time we did this project, it turned out rather smoothly.

Well, now it’s time for me to switch gears and turn my attention to my next summer creative writing workshop series: Galaxy Camp!



Shiver me timbers! Pirate flags from the creative writing camp!

I’m still in the midst of teaching a creative writing camp on the theme of pirates in Korea. This theme is so rich with fuel, and we’ve been having  a wonderful time inspiring the students for their stories. One of my favourite activities is designing flags. After leading the students through the history of pirate flags, we had each of them design one for the ships in their stories.

Here’s just a few of the designs they came up with . . .

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Ahoy! Pirate camp has begun!

I’ve just kicked off a creative writing camp for children based on the theme of pirates in Yangpyeong, Korea. There’s SO much creative fuel to be fished from the world of pirates—treasure maps, sea monsters, sailor lore, villains, heroes, and sea shanties. We’re even planning a class on pirate fashion!

We decided to kick off camp with a fun activity: a treasure hunt. I mapped out the grounds of the residence where we’re staying and then “pirate-ized” it:


What this means is that I basically imagined what all the current, modern ,spots would be in a classical pirate world. All the locations on the above map correspond to a real place on the grounds!

We took the map, made copies, then cut it into fours. Each team was given the first quadrant and had to locate the first X, where they would discover the next part of the map . . . which led them to the next part, and so on, until they finally arrived at the treasure—a stash of gold coins and rubies.

This was such a successful activity because it helped the students get to know each other as they worked together in teams to decipher the map pieces. Also, they experienced all the things that real treasure hunters go through—ups and downs, trials and frustrations, and—for one team—joy when they discovered the booty. The students will all be writing pirate stories involving treasure maps, and now have the first-hand emotional experience to draw upon.

Here are some of the spots that were featured on the map I drew . . .

The Devil’s Fang:


The torture racks:


The six-headed fountain:


The iron rings:


The Lost Lagoon:


The Marooner’s Maze:


The Mermaid Falls:


The Pirate’s Trail:


Place where ye rest:


The Skipping Stone Bridge:


The Slippery Slope:


The Stone Witch with Three Children (you can only see two of the children in the photo):


Of course, the other benefit of this activity, is that it got our writing students out and running about!

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Here’s the winning team, holding their loot!


Shiver me timbers! This is how we prepare for pirate camp . . .


In just a few days, I’m headed to Korea to teach two creative writing camps. The first one will be a writing intensive for young, but experienced creative writers. The second is for a more general range of students and will celebrate the theme of pirates!

Imagine my delight when I discovered that there’s an interactive pirate adventure right in my own back . . . er, sea, here in Vancouver. Marcie and I decided to give Pirate Adventures, based on Granville Island,  a spin last week—not only to help me prepare for pirate camp, but to coincide with our five-year-old niece’s visit. (You know, the proverbial two parrots with one stone.)

I was impressed by the adventure—they went the full nine leagues. The actors stayed in character, used their pirate lingo, and all the visitors were dressed and face painted to look like pirates. (Er . . . I showed up in my own pirate gear; no need to dress me!) The ship, the Black Spirit, was a wonderful, full-operational, set piece. I would have been happy to just float around on it for an hour! But there is a plot to the story, complete with hidden treasure, a message in a bottle, and an encounter with a scalawag of a villain.

Here are some of the photos from the day.






At one point, as was tried and found guilty (I can’t remember for what) and almost made to walk the plank. I was saved by a last minute intervention!

pirateadventure_plank        pirateadventure_izzy


For me, the best part was when the kids got to fire their water cannons at the villainous Pirate Pete. (But it’s okay; it looked like he could have used the bath.)



What’s a pirate adventure without a treasure map?


I have always loved pirates; they are featured in one of my books, Kendra Kandlestar and the Shard from Greeve. Of course, those pirates are Gnomes and Dwarves, but other than that, they have all the characteristics of pirates. They hunt treasure, sing sea shanties, and fend off (or TRY to fend off) a deadly sea beast. I sure wish I had gone on this adventure before writing (and illustrating) that book . . .

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