As we all scramble to grapple with the new normal of our kids home from school, I’m thankful for the teachers in my life who have been doing this job for years. I can always count on them for great ideas, like these 10 writing exercises, from a friend and former English teacher who has had plenty of experience getting kids to write. (Middle and high school kids, even!).

Whether your kids have a distance or e-learning program in place and you’re trying to keep them a little busy, or if you’ve been left to your own homeschooling devices, these exercises are easy and fun, and might even get the whole family writing more.

Related: The best homeschooling resources for newbies 

1. Family memories: Have everyone remember something about a past vacation or trip, and put together a story or even just a word collage. Or have them write about the dishes that dad cooks! What did you do on all your birthdays? What did we wear on Halloween? We often don’t stop and remember those things, let alone write them down.

2. Cut-up: Take magazine, newspapers, or old books (shhhh), cut out words, and make sentences. Then, arrange them into a story.

3. Start a story: Grab a book from the bookshelf, read one sentence out loud, and that’s the beginning of the story that everyone has to write.

4. Continue the story: Start with a sentence on a piece of paper, then each person has to add a sentence. You can do this out loud too. Hopefully you don’t have the Debbie Downer who always says “And then it died” but that just means more zombie apocalypse action!

5. Exquisite corpse: Here’s how this uniquely-named exercise works. Have the first person write a sentence on a piece of paper, then fold it so it’s covered. Pass it to the next person, where they get to write a sentence, then fold the paper. Continue with however people you have (or just go back and forth if it’s two people). Then read it out loud! It’s sort of like MadLibs, but with sentences.

Related: A homeschooling mom’s tips on homeschooling through school closures 

10 writing exercises for kids: Acrostic poetry

Related: 8 fantastic online resources for learning at home 

6. Acrostic poetry: My 11-year old did this one today. First up: Corona Virus. (above)

7. Family photos: Throw the photo on the middle of the table (or a phone with a photo on it) and everyone writes what’s happening and what they’re feeling. You can also do this with magazine pictures.

8. State of the union: This one is interesting! Write down different roles and have people write what’s going on with them with each role. For instance, if you write “Mother” “Daughter” “Sister” “Friend” “Sports Player” “Gamer” (etc), your kids will probably fall under a bunch of those, but they’ll have different experiences or feelings with each.

9. Famous people: Have to describe someone’s face without using adjectives or modifiers.

10. 5 senses: Describe a place everyone has been using all five sense.