Creative Writing: The Really Long List

The REALLY Long List is a fantastic creative writing idea for the classroom. I provide several ideas for how you can use this list and what its theme can be. Your students will love the REALLY long list and will sure want it as a keepsake!

Remember this book? It first came out in 1990 and inspired countless teachers to have their students make their own Really Long Lists of things to be happy about. That is a great idea for several reasons:

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14,000 Things to Be Happy about

  • Keeping a Really Long List over time will result in many different entries – ones that would not have come up if the list was shorter.
  • Kids love keeping lists. It is a great way to get them to think and to write. Even reluctant writers seem to be drawn to this project.
  • The Really Long List can be a source of writing ideas or journal prompts.
  • Focusing on the positive aspects of life often results in happier, more productive students. Studies have shown that people who keep gratitude lists are happier.
  • The Really Long List may well become a keepsake – a snapshot of what made a child happy/grateful at this time in his or her life – or he or she may decide to continue the journal even after it is taken home, perhaps for a lifetime.
  • It is a terrific creative thinking exercise in fluency.

If you aren’t keen on starting a “Things to be Happy about” list, then consider “Things to be Grateful for.” With Thanksgiving at the end of the month, this is a great time to start this list. Here are some ideas for working with the Really Long List:

  • Use a journal format. A composition book works well, or you could do a book-binding project and make your own covers.
  • Consider putting the title in the first person, “Things I’m happy about” or “Things I’m Grateful for.”
  • Make sure kids number their entries!
  • Sharing entries is a good way to get ideas. One child’s entry will cue an idea for another.
  • Consider using the Really Long List as part of your cursive writing instruction.
  • You could also make a class Really Long List. For younger students, you could brainstorm entries a few times a week in circles. For older students, you could leave the journal out for students to add entries as they think of them throughout the year.
  • Make sure kids keep their journals handy so they can add to them whenever they think of something.

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