Friday, November 12, 2010

Creative Prompt: Start a Story with a Wacky Online Tool

Even though experts tell us it's best to start with the words, not focus on the technology when we're teaching kids, technology can be just the motivation kids need to create something. I believe the fun of using a tool can be reason enough for kids to devise writing to present with it. Unless kids don't care about the product they create? I have rarely found that to be true, especially with multimedia.

As for me, I love visiting online editors and tools, just to play and try them out. Not all my initial efforts are crowned with success, but occasionally I find I have created something that is worth keeping. Or that prompts something else.

So here are some wacky online tools that might nudge you and your kids toward creativity. Many of them WILL involve writing, many of them MAY involve writing, but ALL could provide the spark you need to create something else. That something could take the form of a picture, a song, a letter to Grandma or whatever your imagination dictates.
At, you can choose a squirrel, flower, tomato and others to make an animation that delivers what you type into the screen. This is very simple but might work well for younger kids.
Create your own Animation

Talking Pets
At Talking Pets, kids can choose a pet and have it speak the message they've written. This would be perfect if a child wants to write a story about an animal. Having the animal speak might help them get into its character and look at the world through its eyes.

Fiddle a Friend
Get a fiddling beaver to deliver a message for you. At Fiddle a Friend, after you choose a music style, you write some lyrics for the song you want Beaver to "sing". You can upload a pic to go with it, then email the result to a friend. Here's one I made.

Go to Grabbabeast and build your own beast. Once kids have done this, ask some questions: Tell us about your beast. What's its name? What does it like to do? Where does it live? What are its weaknesses and strengths? Has anything scary/lovely/funny ever happened to your beast? What?

The Underland Chronicles Creature Creator
Go to the Creature Creator and design your own creature. Once done, use the creature to answer the questions in Grabababeast, above, or generate a bio by answering the prompts on the site.

I think Blabberize is a good place to start when kids have a picture/photo of their characters. You can use the Blabberize editor to make a mouth on your photo, and your character looks as if it's speaking. You can record your own audio via your computer's microphone.

Once you've made a start by choosing an online character, the rest is up to you. What is the story behind your character? What's his problem? What does he want more than anything else in the world, and what's stopping him getting it?

What I did:

I decided to use Balbberize, to see if it could help me start a story. As you can see above, I made a photo speak via Blabberize. Basically I hooked up my microphone, opened my mouth and let the character speak through me. Channelling banksia men is a little-known chookish talent! What emerged was that there was a whole lot of mischief about and Grumpy the banksia man was going to find out about it.

So I had my start! Now it was time to answer questions.

What is the story behind your character?
Grumpy is one of several banksia men who live on their tree in a clearing in the bush near Mount Scumble. Mount Scumble is also home to the Scumble sprites, a merry, prank-loving crew who love to spend their time singing and joking and sliding in the mud near the banksia tree.

What's his problem?
Grumpy is a cranky banksia man who always looks on the dull side of life. No banksia man is jolly, but Grumpy has elevated pessimism to an art form. He actively looks for problems and so he constantly finds them.

What does he want more than anything else in the world, and what's stopping him getting it? 
Grumpy wants the sprites to leave him alone. He wants them to stop singing, joking and looking happy. He wants peace to return to the clearing. But the sprites like it there and are thinking of making it their summer home.

Those answers have given me some background for a narrative, and a direction to go in with my writing. Next it's time to do some more world building, flesh out individual characters, and create a plot outline.

What wacky online tool do you like? And what direction will your creativity take?

{My article today is the tenth in a series of prompts that I hope might spark some creative expression in your kids, and maybe you too. Our first prompt was a general one, where we looked for something else to innovate on; our second took a poem as a model; the third used video as a prompt; the fourth started with something we liked; the fifth started with what if; the sixth looked to nature. In the seventh, we started with some story elements, in the eighth we started with one word and in the ninth, we started with geometric shapes. I hope you and your kids will join me today so we can all challenge ourselves to be more creative. You can link to all of the Creative Prompt posts by scrolling down to Update on this page. 

If you and/or your kids respond to this prompt and you'd like me to showcase it on my blog, I would be thrilled to do that. If you post it on your own blog, please let me know (in comments or email, via the Contact Me tab), and I'll add your link to the relevant post.}


  1. These look like lots of fun. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You're spot on, Ruth - lots of fun and an easy way to get kids talking and writing!

  3. My students love these kind of tools, another favorite is Fotobabble!

  4. Thanks for mentioning it Kelly - I'll check it out for sure!


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