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Want to get your pupils excited about writing? Find out about BBC Radio 2's 500 Words and spark their interest with lesson plans, activity sheets, and much more.

What is 500 Words?
What teaching resources are available?
How do I submit my pupils' stories?
Creative writing books
More useful links

What is 500 Words?

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the 500 Words story-writing competition, the largest of its kind in the world for children. It has one aim: to encourage children to realise that, no matter what their background or education, their imagination matters. Last year, the competition received almost 113,000 entries, and the winners and runners-up had their stories read to millions of people on the BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show, hosted by Zoe Ball. The winning pupils won a Chris-Evans-sized (1.88m) stack of books, in addition to 500 books for their schools.

500 Words opens on Thursday 16th January 2020, and will close at 8pm on Thursday 27th February. The competition is open to all UK-based children aged 5–13. Children must write a story of no more than 500 words on any topic. To find out more about the competition, visit the 500 Words website.

What teaching resources are available?

The BBC and Oxford University Press have worked in collaboration to create a huge number of teaching resources to support pupils' creative writing. From exciting live lessons to activity sheets, you can find everything you need to help your pupils write amazing stories right here.

1. Free live lesson

On Thursday 16th January at 11am, the BBC will be hosting a live, interactive lesson to inspire pupils to come up with their own 500 Words story ideas. Tailored especially for schools, the programme includes a downloadable lesson plan and accompanying resources for ages 5–7 and for ages 7+.

The lesson will be hosted by BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show host Zoe Ball, CBBC’s Rhys Stephenson and Hacker T Dog. They’ll be joined by 500 Words judges and authors Charlie Higson, Francesca Simon and Frank Cottrell-Boyce who will be providing budding writers with their top tips and advice on how to start their own 500 Words stories. You can watch the lesson with your class at 500 Words 2020 – Live Lesson.

2. Free lesson plans and activity sheets

Get creative in the classroom with fun lesson plans and easy-to-photocopy activity sheets including story inspiration, word fun, and editing support, all created by Oxford University Press. Download the 500 Words Learning Resource Pack.

There are also lots more resources available from the BBC, including word clouds, author tips, Bitesize lessons for several age groups, and 500 Words posters to stick up around school. Take a look at the BBC's Collection of learning materials for use at home or in the classroom.

3. Creative writing tips from Oxford Owl

For more ideas on inspiring your pupils to write, take a look at our free articles and videos:

4. Become a judge!

If you're interested in becoming more involved in 500 Words, the competition is looking for volunteer teachers and librarians to judge the first round of stories. Each judge could expect to mark around 30 stories, and you would be helping 500 Words to grow and flourish! To find out more, visit Become a 500 Words Judge.

How do I submit my pupils' stories?

500 Words opens on 16th January 2020, and will close at 8pm on Thursday 27th February. As a teacher, you can upload all your class's stories in one go. Visit Submit your 500 Words story and set up an account to submit your class's stories.

Creative writing books
More useful links

This pack includes writing advice and activities specifically aimed to help your pupils improve on the areas their stories will be judged on: originality, plot, characterisation, language, and enjoyment.
Download the guide

Our creative writing videos are brimming with advice from amazing authors like Ali Sparkes and Malorie Blackman.
Watch the playlist

Read and listen to the shortlisted stories from previous years of the competition.
Visit the website

Share these top tips from famous authors, including 500 Words judges, with your class.
Visit the website