Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Writing Fun for Kids - Create a Caption

Toothache at the Museum
Are you looking for a writing activity for your kids or group that's creative, fun and fast? Caption writing could be just the thing!

Captions in this context are usually a sentence or snippet of dialogue children match up with a picture. They can leaf through old magazines to find an image that sparks an idea, draw or paint one of their own, or use a digital image. That image could come from Flickr (make sure it's licensed for re-use) or Google images, or perhaps it's a holiday snap you like. Add more creativity by suggesting kids set up their own photo shoots and take a snap that matches a great caption they've invented. This might involve dressing teddy as a superhero and suspending him with fishing line from the ceiling - just think of all the organisational and thinking skills involved!

Once they have a picture or two, help them brainstorm opportunities for humour. Helpful questions could be "What is this person thinking?" "What might just have happened?" "Is this person saying something but thinking something different?" A caption might be like a title for the picture - "Super Ted Saves the Day!" or some dialogue - "Take that, Battle Barbie 2!" or just a sentence or question - "Will Grandma decide to bring her umbrella next time?"

In a classroom situation, kids can devise a picture so their partner can write a caption, and vice versa. Caption writing really lends itself to being a classroom or school contest too - have a prize for the best caption as chosen by judges, and print out the entries for a great classroom display.

There are some excellent online image editors that encourage you to add captions. I described some in Quick Writing Online, and another in Play with Words and Images at Pizap. Kids can also use a comic builder like Make Beliefs Comix to set up a three panel story for a friend. Make sure they leave the balloons blank, and then the friend must write appropriate dialogue or thought inside the printed out comic. Google Docs will enable a user to add text to images or drawings. Software like Comic Life Maqiq is wonderful for adding text to images, too.

Writing captions is great practice for doing what journalists call "writing tight". The idea is to cut to the chase, remove unnecessary words and tell a story in as few words as possible. Kids need to imagine the story behind the picture and share that vision via the caption they choose. Caption writing doesn't take long, but it helps kids add useful skills to their own writer's toolbox. If you're looking for something different for a birthday card, something creative yet fun, why not encourage your kids to add captions to images?

And if you're looking for a photo to challenge your kids with, consider this one of a horse I found at Morguefile. I've added a speech bubble. If this horse could speak, what might he be saying? If you'd like to email me your kids' ideas, I'll choose one, and add it to the speech bubble.


{Dinosaur image originally from Morguefile - caption and stamps added at Pizap.com. Three panel comic from MakeBeliefsComix. Horse image from Morguefile, speech bubble added at Picnik.}
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