Dreamtime writing workshop for primary schools

Aboriginal Kangaroo dot painting in rich earth tones

I remember my grade six teacher, Mr C, telling us that he learnt something from us kids every day. We were all amazed – what, our teacher was learning from us?

But now that I am a parent, and after running a couple of writing workshops for kids, I understand the wisdom behind his words.

Miss 9’s teachers asked me to run a writing workshop for their Dreamtime stories. The grade four kids and I started off with a discussion about the oral traditions of Aboriginal stories, and how they were often used to explain why an animal looked or moved in a certain way or how a landform occurred.

Then we moved into a warm-up game. I did warn them that this was a fire-up-your-imagination game, that their stories might not make sense, that they might even be a little crazy. The kids assured me that they were fine with crazy! And I told them that we would be sensible in the next workshop when it came to editing their work. I think they preferred the crazy to the sensible …

In groups of three, they each received a card with a character, a symbol and a purpose on it. The cards were completely random and were not designed to be a perfectly structured Dreamtime narrative but some of the groups made up beautifully constructed stories. Definitely credit to their parents and teachers for a solid few years of reading good books!

We talked about using strong nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs to create our stories, and we talked about the importance of collaboration, as the students were writing stories in groups of three.

Once they were in their groups of three, they chose their character, symbol and purpose from a list and began to shape their story. They each filled out a worksheet to help them work out their ideas, then made a plan together.

The students are going to write their stories over the next week, then I’ll read them before going in to do another workshop on adding depth to their stories with alliteration, metaphors, similes and personification.

I was so impressed by the kids’ engagement and enthusiasm, as well as their imaginative use of the basic ideas they were given. Can’t wait to read these stories about greedy Aboriginal girls who turned into witchetty grubs or kangaroos who teach us about the importance of fire!

If there are any teachers reading this post who would like more details, please let me know – I’m happy to provide more resources like the worksheet I created or the lists of characters, symbols and purposes.


  1. Sounds like a great workshop, Karen!These kids are so fortunate to have you teach them about writing. Have flicked your post on to one of my primary teaching friends. She is a lover of language, writing (and all things crafty!). Thought she might be interested.

  2. We are just about to start a unit of work where our students will be writing their own dream time stories. I’d love any ideas you have used successfully. I am always trying to improve the writing experiences for my grade three kids.

  3. Dear Karen,
    I would love to teach this to my students! Could I please request for the resources!
    Many Thanks

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