Life List Writing Exercise


Labels can be a tricky endeavor.

Bucket Lists, Life Lists, Things to do Before you Die list – they are all synonyms for the same type of list. I finally landed on the LIFE LIST label because it seemed the most positive especially when using the writing exercise with younger children.

The students make a list of 10 things they would like to do in their lifetime. I tell them the list can contain big life changing items or small things that are important to them. To help them generate ideas I also use verbal prompts. Examples are:

Where is a place you would like to travel? 

What is something you would like to learn?

Who is someone you would like to meet? Famous or not?

What is a job you would like to have?

What type of family, if any, would you like to have?

Once they make a list of things they would like to do, see, learn, and become then a favorite is chosen. I usually tell the students to put a star next to their favorite entry on the list.

Now they have to write an activity or something they can do right now to get a little closer to their goal. What does that look like?

For example, I had a 5th grader that he wanted to be a professional artist. His list of NOW actions and micromovements were:

  1. Draw everyday
  2. Enroll in an art class
  3. Pay more attention in art special at school
  4. Check out drawing and other art books from the library

We also had a conversation about him playing with different mediums to find out which one he really liked. He had a specific interest in drawing but after more conversation starting talking about chalk, charcoal, and paints.

After this class time, he realized there were a lot of opportunities for him to work towards something he thought he had to wait to be an adult to accomplish. He realized he could have some impact on a really big life goal that he thought was much farther down the road.

Another example:

A student that has LEARN A LANGUAGE on his/her list is a possibility. Actions that can be taken now are:

  1. Learn 10 words in that language
  2. Download the Duolingo app onto their phone and use it 10 minutes a day
  3. Use Google translate to hear some phrases

My own LIFE LIST has morphed over the years but here are some of my own adventures and goals:

  • Meet Neil Gaiman
  • Become an active member of a writing group
  • See the sun come up from my cabin in Minnesota
  • Go on a Road Trip with no Predetermined Destination
  • Learn how to speak conversational German
  • Go to the counter at the airport and buy a ticket to the next available flight
  • Attend Oktoberfest in Germany
  • Write a book
  • Try a new food every time I travel
  • Learn how to box
  • Be invited to do a TED talk


If you would like to check out some other lists to use as mentor text examples here are some links:


What would be on your life list? Please share in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Life List Writing Exercise

  1. This is such a fantastic idea! I work as a nanny and I can’t wait to use this exercise with one of my kids. What a wonderful idea to help kids make realistic NOW goals and teaching them how to actually accomplish their dreams rather than just dismissing them because they seem too big or it seems too early for them to start. Such a beautiful post, thanks for sharing. Xx


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