Friday, November 24, 2017

Nine Nifty Writing Prompts for Kids

by Susan Stephenson,

Some of us know how to write, but getting started can be tricky. We’re the ones found chewing a pencil while gazing out the window. Having a prompt to nudge us in a certain direction often helps. Try these with your kids:

* The day you wake up with super powers should be the happiest day of your life so far. What goes wrong?

* You desperately want to write a letter to send a friend an invitation …or a warning. You have no pens or pencils, no electronic devices. What can you use to convey your message? What does the message say?

* You open an old bottle you find on the shore, and a genie comes out. What happens next?

* Write a story about somebody who has a goldfish bowl stuck on their head.

* Create the most convincing argument you can think of to persuade your principal to cancel school for a week.

* A grasshopper, and a pig in a hat meet in the middle of a bridge. Write out the conversation they have.

* Describe the ugliest monster you can imagine.

* Your friend invents a machine that can provide a never-ending supply of treats. What treats does it give? There’s only one problem …what is it, and how do you discover that problem? Draw and label the machine and write the story.

* Invent a comic strip about any characters you can draw or create in digital format. Write a summary of the plot.

You might also like to read Ten Writing Challenges for Kids, Ten Fun Word Challenges for Kids or check out some more of my articles on teaching kids to write.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Children’s Book Review, The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse is a children’s picture book by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen and published by Walker Books (2017.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB. I have previously reviewed Barnett and Klassen’s Triangle, and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.

From the publisher:

When a woeful mouse is swallowed up by a wolf, he quickly learns he is not alone: a duck has already set up digs and, boy, has that duck got it figured out! Turns out it’s pretty nice inside the belly of the beast – there's delicious food, elegant table settings and, best of all, dancing. And there’s something more: no more fear of being eaten by a wolf! Life's not so bad, considering the alternatives.

This children’s picture book reminded me so much of a folk tale. You know the kind, where we suspend disbelief and imagine creatures able to live inside a beast’s belly? When Mouse, full of woe, arrives chez Wolf Belly, Duck is already ensconced and doing very nicely, thank you, with jam, a tablecloth and no fear of being eaten by wolves. (Because he is already inside a wolf!) Kids will adore the dead-pan humour and the fact that the heroes get the better of the “villain”. Those special folk who read aloud to kids will enjoy every bit of a great story, well-told.

Klassen’s illustrations use muted colours and are simply gorgeous. There’ are lots of details to explore both inside and outside of the wolf, and they add to the humour of the story, especially the characters’ eyes. The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse is a lovely physical product with a hard cover inside a quality paper dust jacket. I think it makes a stunning choice for any home or library that wants kids to enjoy reading, and the fun that stories bring.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Children’s iPad App, At the Zoo with Grandma and Grandpa

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

At the Zoo with Grandma and Grandpa is a children’s iPad app by Fairlady Media. I have previously reviewed Grandpa’s Workshop by the same developer.

From the developer:

Do you know what a Malayan tapir is? Let’s go to the zoo to find out! Fix the animal signs, color a zebra, add up the visitors, solve puzzles, feed the penguins, put on a seal show, dig for fossils, and more in this amazing 10th app in the popular Grandma and Grandpa collection! Ages 6-8.

Enjoy beautiful photos, illustrations, videos, and amazing sound effects of over 50 exotic wild animals.

Kids love At the Zoo with Grandma and Grandpa because they get to play animal games, solve puzzles, and creatively color the animals. Parents and teachers love it because it teaches kids about wildlife, habitats, animal vocabulary, animal behavior, conservation, reading, math, and science.

What I liked:

I liked the range of activities in this app. There’s a nice balance of fun and educational. Kids are involved in problem-solving, literacy, creating, maths and science, visual discrimination, solving puzzles and learning about animals. It's great that Grandma and Grandpa are the characters that show kids around and cheer them on as they interact with the app. The bright colours, sounds and navigation are kid-friendly. The activities are short, making them ideal for children with a shorter  attention span, or of the target age: 6-8. I really liked the sense of fun evident throughout the app.

Where do I get it?

Check out my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page. I’ll be adding this app to my List of iPad Puzzle Apps for Kids.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

List: Children’s Picture Books about Books

by Susan Stephenson,

Australian author, Sandy Fussell, suggested I create a list of children’s picture books about books, and even helped me compile my list! Embedded below you will find a list of children’s picture books that are about books, reading and how they impact our lives. I’ll be adding to this list over time, and welcome your suggestions.

You might also be interested in reading Hilarious Interactive Picture Books for Kids and Reviews: (Seriously) Fun Picture Books for Kids.

Find lots more themed lists of children's picture books, as well as educational articles, via my Listly pages. Or browse via the buttons top right.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Review: iPad App, Assembly

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Assembly is an iPad/iPhone app that we can use to create an image. I think it’s a great app to use in an educational context because it means kids are making their own images rather than navigating the minefield of finding an image online, and ensuring they have permission to use it.

From the developer:

Assembly free features include:

- Over 180 basic shapes
- Over 250 fully finished stickers that can be customized, reused and remixed
- Smart snapping for easy shape placement
- Create and save your own custom stickers
- Share stickers in iMessage
- Multi-select and nested grouping
- Copy, flip and rotate shapes and groups
- Save groups and projects to the custom shape pack
- Fill, stroke, and shadow options
- 35 pre-made color palettes
- Eyedropper color sampling tool
- Optional use of color or photo backgrounds
- JPEG and PNG output up to 4096x4096 pixels
- Save as transparent PNG
- Assembly project file output
- Sync projects across devices with iCloud
- Continuously updated Inspirations section

Assembly Pro

Assembly Pro is an auto-renewing subscription service that gives you professional features that will take your work to the next level. These include:

- 21 themed shape packs with over 1,000 shapes
- Complete text engine with 25 versatile, hand-selected fonts
- Combine, cut-out and intersect shapes
- Import and export vector images in SVG
- Create and save your own custom color palettes

You can try Assembly Pro for free for 7-days with a free trial. After the free trial you will be automatically renewed to the weekly subscription which you can cancel at any time. The paid subscription costs $2.99 USD per week, $4.99 per month or $29.99 USD per year.

What I liked:

I LOVE Assembly. It offers a vast number of editable shapes that we can build into an image. You can choose the colour of the shapes, group and ungroup them, duplicate them, rotate them, change size, send them backwards and forwards and add shadows and outlines. They can be saved to your library and/or exported as transparent png, jpg and svg files.

Assembly took me some time to work out. I am not a digital native so it seems that everything takes me some time to work out! But because I can’t draw, I have found it immensely satisfying to create images with this app. For example I used it for my main Book Week images, and for my free poster, What to Read Next, that you can read about here. I started with the free version of Assembly, but liked it so much, I paid for the full version.

I think Assembly makes an excellent choice for anyone who wants to create their own clipart, logo, icon, sticker or other graphic. Be sure to check out how Cathy Hunt's Grade 3 and 4 kids used Assembly to create their own emoji. You can get more of an idea of the app in developer, Pixite’s, own video below.

Where do I get it?

Check out my other iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page. I'll be adding this review to my list of Ways Kids Can Create an Image on an iPad.

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