Friday, October 26, 2012

Start Kids Writing with Fun Image Editors

Start Kids Writing with Fun Image Editors
by Susan Stephenson,

By playing with words and images, our kids have opportunities to be creative, solve problems, make decisions, make inferences, and develop literacy and computer skills. They will practise creating characters, plot and settings, and getting those elements into the right sequence to tell stories. The most wonderful part is that they'll have fun, and learn to associate fun with the act of creating and communicating. (Has to be better than staring blank-eyed at the TV!)

I've riffed on this theme before - in Fast and Fun Writing with Kids, Quick Writing Online, and Fun and Easy Ways to Make Digital Art with Kids to name a few. Today I'd like to suggest two more enjoyable image editors that you could use with kids as a start for some kind of creative activity. And then let's look at some educational activities we can do with kids that involve an image editor.

At Funtastic Face, you can make all sorts of changes to an image. The image can be uploaded from your computer, taken from your webcam, or found in other online places. Changes available include adding speech bubbles and text, adding physical features like eyes, hair, mouths etc, and adding costumes and bruises. When finished, you can download the result to your computer as a jpg image.

Kids are going to have a ball with this one! Hilarity will ensue and they will no doubt only want to play with this tool at first. But it will also be a place for them to develop an image to use with their writing, or perhaps to give Dad a surprise with on their next Father's Day card! You can see my inner animal emerging in the image below. I so badly want to write a Kafka-esque metamorphosis story now!

At Clay Yourself, kids can choose head shapes, skin tone and features to reinvent themselves or some other character in clay. There's a helpful squirrel who gives hints along the way, but the process is fairly simple. Scroll through menus to see features then choose the ones you want. When finished, kids can again download to their computers.

This is a great place for kids to design an avatar. The developed (top half of a ) clay person could also be the start of a wanted poster, or character description activity. In the image below, I put two clay characters together in a collage made at Ribbet (Picnik reincarnated - YAY!) Kids could develop a relationship between two characters this way, list their viewpoints and opinions, or go ahead and develop a story about them.

There are lots of other image editors online that enable making changes to images. Among others, I mentioned Pizap in Play with Words and Images at Pizap. I also talked about Big Huge Labs (which has a great range of image manipulators) in Book Chook Favourites - Playing with Words and Pictures and Tuxpi in Tuxpi - 42 Photo Effects and Picture Frames. In my (nine trillion) bookmarks are Photofunia, FunPhotoBox, and LunaPix. As always with any websites, supervise children with these activities.

Here are some possible learning activities based on image editors:

Have kids work out captions to go with images they find, or draw themselves. I have some ideas that expand on this in Writing Fun for Kids - Create a Caption.

Tell a story in five frames. Read a full explanation and see an example in Visual Story Telling.

Use the LEGO Minimizer to help tell a digital story in comic or cartoon format. Or print out kids' creations and make a class book. I discussed this in LEGO and Literacy (2).

Mash two characters together. This makes a great physical art activity you can do with kids by folding paper in half, marking where the first person must stop their drawing of the top half, then give the next person the other half of the sheet and have them draw the bottom half, starting from the same place. You can see a digital example of this at the Awesome-o-tron. I haven't tried it, but I'm sure it would be possible to use an image editor to come up with something similar digitally.

Help preschool kids or students learning English increase their vocabulary or reading by annotating images. Use software or online editors with a text function to add words to pictures. One software program I like for this is Skitch (see image example below), but lots of online image editors like Ribbet will allow you to do this. Kids especially love it when the images in reading material are about people and things from their own lives.

Make a simple book from photos you set up or have taken in the past. Use an image editor to add simple captions kids create to go with each image. Print out and make into a physical book (adding each page to one of those binders with clear plastic inserts is simple) or use your computer to keep it as a digital book. If you have an iPad and Pages or another app, you can even make a digital book, export it as an ePub document and add it to iBooks.

By utilising an image editor, add a digital component to this travel poster described in Visual Literacy in Action: Travel Posters.

Get kids to create or find a picture online as a prompt for some writing. Swap with a friend. Write a response to the image you get.

I mentioned PIC-LITS, another image editor, in Creative Writing with PIC-LITS. Go to PIC-LITS and try using both images and words there to start a story.

Create a caption or a poem to suit an image you find at PIC-LITS. Use the freestyle tab to add your own words, and use space bar to place the words where you want them. There's a sample I made below. Kids could illustrate class rules this way, or make posters with positive and useful messages.

Kids can add speech bubbles to chosen images, and add text to those speech bubbles. This is an interesting way to think themselves into a character, or practise using dialogue. There's an example below I made for an earlier post. Parents and teachers can make great writing prompts with empty speech bubbles too.

Find a quote and represent it visually. Read more about this in Use Images to Start Kids Thinking.

Use an avatar maker to build characters. I discuss this in Writing with Avatars (1).

Encourage kids to make inferences about images. Ask questions like: what's happening here? what might have just happened? what might happen next? how does the boy feel? Use those questions to spark the telling of a story or discussion leading to writing.

There are more ideas in Visual Literacy Activities with Online Resources. And why not check out even more articles about children's writing by clicking the Writing button in The Book Chook blog's right sidebar.

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