Friday, November 16, 2018

Writing Tips for Kids 4 - Writing Funny Stories

by Susan Stephenson,

This is the fourth in my new series of writing tips for kids. Over coming weeks you’ll see new short articles, each of them addressing young writers and dealing with a topic helpful to them. I’ve created a new List for these articles and will add to it over time. The List is embedded below.

How to Write Funny Stories

What IS funny?

Surprises make us laugh. A surprise can come in a plot idea - perhaps Mayor Fuddle is showing off his new robes when he splashes face-down into a puddle. A surprise might come in a character's name, or because he is not what we expect—e.g. a robot dog called K9, who is very grumpy and bosses everyone about!

Funny words make us laugh. Jot some down in your writer's notebook. Three words I like are: rhubarb, razzamatazz, and galumph. In The BFG, Roald Dahl invented great words like whizpop and snozzcumber. What words can you create to make others smile?

Sometimes a combination of words is funny. Have you thought of writing a story about a pickle of doom, a singing sausage, or a mad meatball? Look for double meanings to make us laugh. (Your story might have a duck asking the waiter to put something on its bill.)

Sounds can be funny. Writers, especially poets, love to use alliteration (when words start with the same letters). They might choose character names like Prunella P. Pirate. And don’t forget onomatopoeia (when a word represents a sound). You could add clangs, gongs and splatters to your story to make us smile.

Understatement is funny. When his science experiment has blown off the school's roof and sent the principal into orbit, your schoolboy character might say, "Perhaps I used a little too much baking soda."

Comedy writers often use the rule of threes. They set up a pattern with two things, then break the pattern with a third, giving us a surprise. Maybe you’ve seen that in a three-frame comic strip? For example, a superhero character leaves a message on his answering machine: "I'm sorry I can’t take your call just now. I'm either defeating evil villains, saving the planet, or taking a nap."

Study writers you think are funny. Don't forget poets and TV scriptwriters. Think about what makes you laugh. How does the writer do that? Stay alert to humour, record it in your writer's notebook and work out why it’s funny. As the Cat in the Hat said, “It’s fun to have fun but you have to know how.”

You might also like to read Writing Tips for Kids - How to Start, Writing Tips for Kids 2 - Write What You Know and Writing Tips for Kids 3 - Developing Characters.

Clipart Credit: Phillip Martin

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Children’s Picture Books about Cats

by Susan Stephenson,

Most kids really enjoy picture books about animals. Last week I suggested some excellent children's picture books about dogs. I’ve also started a list of children's picture books about cats I can recommend, and am sharing it with you today. It is embedded below.

If you’d like to check out all my picture book collections, see this list of lists.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Children’s iPad App, Caterpillar Creative Play

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Caterpillar Creative Play is an app available in iOS and Android. The developer is StoryToys which have a range of book and story-related apps.

From the developers:

• Over 40 unique textures and papers based on Eric Carle’s beautiful hand-painted collage illustrations
• A range of templates from Eric Carle’s best-selling books - The Very Hungry Caterpillar™, Brown Bear, The Mixed Up Chameleon, Mister Seahorse, The Very Quiet Cricket and many more
• Blank canvases - let your imagination run wild!
• Experiment with layering: group or ungroup objects or rearrange layers with simple touch gestures
• Save and view your masterpieces in your very own gallery
• Seasonal surprises throughout the year
• Featuring full support for Force Touch on relevant devices
• Compatible with the Apple Pencil on iPad Pro

What I liked:

I really liked the way the app is faithful to The Hungry Caterpillar books’ illustrations. There are colourful digital prints to choose from, and kids can fill sections of a range of templates with each one if they want. They could also fill with plain colour via a digital paintbrush or pencil. There’s even more room for creativity if children ignore the templates and just choose a print and “cut out” any shapes by drawing with a finger. I had lots of fun doing this and it’s satisfying to play with the colours and patterns.

There’s an educational side too. Kids will practise their hand-eye co-ordination by tracing the dotted lines of the templates. Older kids could use a stylus for even more accuracy of tracing. But most of all I loved how creative this app is. It would go perfectly with any Eric Carle read-aloud or be a great choice for Very Hungry Caterpillar Day. It’s one of those apps that will suit a range of ages, and grow with children.

It can be used to a limited extent by any child old enough to draw and close a shape with a finger. This is so kids can fill that "closed" shape with a patterned print via the scissors icon. I read some reviews complaining that the tracing was too hard for some kids, but to me, this is where parents should be playing too, and make it free play rather than urging kids to “get it right”. Have fun together and enjoy playing with digital art!

Where to get it?

Check out all of 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 apps that kids can create with. Below is a video to show you more:

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Children’s Picture Books about Dogs

by Susan Stephenson,

Have you ever noticed how kids love animals? Capitalise on that feeling and help children connect to books about animals. Here is a list I have begun on children’s picture books about dogs that I would recommend. It is embedded below.

I also have a list of children's picture books about cats. If you’d like to check out all my picture book collections, see this list of lists.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Creative Prompt for Kids - Start with a Seed

by Susan Stephenson,

I love challenging kids to respond to prompts. I am in awe of their creativity and believe it is something to be celebrated. Today I have a new prompt. It asks kids to start with the concept of a seed, and use that as the spark for any kind of creativity. Remember, the important thing is that kids create SOMETHING, so deviating from my suggestions is wonderful! Children may need to be supervised for some of these activities.

Below all these ideas you will see the list of all my creative prompts so far.

* What IS a seed? Make a list of any seeds you know. Do some research to make sure the seeds you listed really are seeds. Draw your favourite.

* Ask an adult to help you buy some seeds so you can grow them into plants. Read the directions on the seed packet and follow them carefully.

* What would happen if an evil villain took all the world’s seeds? How could that problem be solved? Write the story.

* Use paint to dip seeds and leaves into, then print with them. What else could you add?

* Could you use seeds, or the idea of seeds, to make jewellery or a gift for someone?

* Ask an adult to go for a seed walk with you outdoors. Look for seeds in safe places and collect them.

* Go for a seed walk inside your kitchen. Ask an adult if you can have some of the seeds you find. How will you display your collection and share it with others?

* What seeds do humans like to eat? Can you design a meal that has seeds in it?

* What seeds do animals like to eat? Use play-do or clay to make an animal nibbling a seed.

* Using only seeds and glue, can you make an interesting creature? Give your creature a name and describe its habitat.

* Look for different recipes that use seeds. Choose one and ask an adult to make it with you.

* Use different seeds to make an interesting pattern. Look at pictures of mandalas online and make a mandala of your own, using only different kinds of seeds. Take some photos of your patterns and mandala.

* Find a large seed and transform it into something else. Describe your creation in writing.

* Take a photo of your large seed (above.) Develop a character for what you’ve created. Choose an audio recording tool like Blabberize and make your photo come to life.

* Think of a reasonably simple story you could tell about large seed characters. Take multiple photos of large seeds. Enhance them digitally to help tell your story. Use a slideshow or a comic template and your photos to help tell your story. Consider adding speech bubbles, text and other details. You can see an example of one I made here with banksias.

* Collect some more seeds. Paint a tree shape, with a trunk and bare branches, onto a piece of thick cardboard. Glue seeds to the branches to decorate your tree.

* Using a seed for the body, add other interesting details to make a creature. If you have time, create more creatures and an environment for them to live in.

* Find out how to grow something from a seed and record its growth.

* Trace around an interesting shape onto card. Glue seeds inside your shape. Label it and sign your name.

* Imagine a seed circus! Create some acts for your circus seeds.

* Flatten a ball of modelling clay or play-do to make a disk about 1 cm thick. Gently press different seeds into the disk to decorate it.

* Use the idea of a seed, or seeds, to create a digital picture. Lots of software has geometric shapes you can edit eg PicMonkey, Google Drawings, Pages for Mac. Add details to your shapes that make you happy. Save your picture to your computer or a thumb drive.

* Create a comic strip about a seed character. You might like to use this blank five panel comic PDF template from my website.

* What other art could you use seeds for? Stuck for ideas? There are many images online of what other kids have made. Ask an adult to help you search for “making art with seeds for kids”.

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