Monday, July 10, 2017

Split-Panel Books: Writing Parties for Primary Grade Kids

At tomorrow's Writing Party for Primary Grade Kids (previously named "Creative Writing for Beginning Readers"), we are going to make split-panel books that let you turn half of the page to create a funny new person or animal. Our inspiration for this workshop will be the book A Cheese and Tomato Spider by Nick Sharratt.

There are supposedly over a hundred different sentences you can make by turning the different panels--I haven't tried myself, but I believe them! And the book is great for a storytime or a large group, because the pictures are so big and bold.

Personally, I have a certain order I like to read the book in. I like to make silly things happen to the grandma. She goes from being a "strawberry flavored granny" to an "exploding granny" while the pictures show her head changing in shape from ice cream scoops to a volcano.

This book can teach kids many different English language concepts, from sentence structure to parts of speech. You can start by identifying the pattern in the book (Interjection, Article, Adjective, Noun) and asking the kids to create a few sentences as a group that would fit into Sharratt's pattern.

When making split panel books with children at the library, I have black-and-white pictures of people and animals that I've downloaded from the Internet and cropped to be just the right size to fill the right half of one letter-sized paper in landscape orientation. I try to make sure the body parts line up at least somewhat, with the feet, head and stomach more or less interchangeable. It's never as perfect as Sharratt's flawless illustrations, but it works! You could have students draw their own illustrations, but I find this method saves time for learning the writing concept.

I make copies of the pictures and cut them out, and scatter them all over the table along with scissors and glue sticks. I let kids glue the pictures into blank books I've created simply by folding several plain letter sheets and stapling them very close to the fold.

After the pictures are glued, you take a pair of scissors and cut the pages down the middle--but tell the kids to be careful not to cut clear across the fold of the book! Then I like to draw silly additions to the pictures, but that's optional. I encourage the kids to write something on the opposite side of each picture. There are different sentence formulas you could use. You could use Sharratt's Interjection-Article-Adjective-Noun formula, or you could create a different one. My preferred sentence formula for this activity is Subject-Predicate. The top half describes the animal or person and the bottom describes something the animal or person is doing.

I always make a sample book so that the kids see that indeed you CAN turn those blank pages into something funny!

If you liked this workshop idea, stay tuned for information about my book, 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing: From Aliens to Zebras, which will be published by ALA Editions this November!

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