Riddle Writing Instructions

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Writing riddles provides a chance to practice several different things at once. The riddle writer has to think about the qualities of an object and how they can describe that object in vague terms. With each clue, the writer has to imagine how others might understand the clue. Writing clues which could be understood in multiple ways helps prevent the clue from being to easy.

Sometimes it helps to start by picking a theme for riddle-writing. Riddles can be used to review science terms or to encourage one to think about a historic setting. A reluctant writer might enjoy writing riddles about things from his or her favourite movie or computer game.

Riddles let kids practice making comparisons between things. Answering the riddles – with clues read one at a time – encourages them to avoid jumping to conclusions.

Riddles also tie in wonderfully with unit studies on Anglo-Saxon England, as the Anglo-Saxons loved riddles.

The riddle-writing instructions:

  1. Choose the answer of your riddle.
  2. Brainstorm characteristics of your answer.
  3. Choose a handful of the characteristics to make into a riddle. Think of ways to explain those details differently, out of context, or figuratively.
  4. Write the riddle out nicely and pass it to a friend to enjoy, or read it to your friend slowly, one clue at a time. How many clues should it take?

Remember, the goal is to keep the object a secret for a while, but still to allow the answer to be known. Too much or too little information and the riddle isn’t a riddle. Make the riddle interesting by describing things differently, painting little word pictures and encouraging your audience to see things differently.

Sample riddles:

2) I fall, run, wave, and carry loads but never walk.
I’m part of you.
I have whole ecosystems inside me.
If you’re lacking me you crave me, but too much in the wrong way and you can die.
What am I?

3) I’m bigger than big but still growing
At my start I was smaller than small.
The biggest things look small inside of me.
When I say everything is in me, I mean everything,
From the tiniest neutrino to the filaments of…. oops, can’t say what!
Most of my mass is invisible.
What am I?

(This post was originally written in February 2014 but has been updated in May 2020.)

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