Friday, March 6, 2020

Writing Rhyming Riddles like Guess Again!

Today I had a class visit from a T/K class from McKinley Elementary School. I knew it would have to be a very quick visit, because it would just be a part of their city center field trip. Fortunately, I had one of my favorite picture books on hand, Guess Again! by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex.

Each spread of the book shows a picture that appears to be an animal, and despite a lot of hints in the rhyming riddle, it turns out to be a person--usually in a very odd and funny-looking position! I love Mac Barnett's writing style. Combined with Adam Rex's masterful illustrations, the book engages kids in thinking about rhymes and piecing clues together to solve a riddle.

The kids were great about guessing each animal that they were being led to guess, following the picture cues and the rhyme cues. (I'm thinking they would do a great job with the Listener Limerick Challenge on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me!) And by the end, just when the kids are starting to get wise to the joke, the joke is once again turned around on them! To be honest, this might be a book you share with a kid who is particularly patient. There's something almost snarky about the way this book NEVER rewards you for guessing the obvious! 

After reading the book, I pulled out my big writing pad, on which I had a few prompts and blank lines written out.

I asked the kids to name an animal. The first child I called on said "Elephant" -- unfortunately, I don't know any good rhymes with "elephant" (though if you can think of any, please leave some in the comments!!!). So I had to call on someone else, and she said "Giraffe."  "Okay!" I said. "I can work with that one!"

We wrote out a few words that rhyme with giraffe (at least, the last syllable). Then we decided it would be a boy, and I asked the kids to start telling me what they know about giraffes. The first kid I called on for this section gave me a sentence about laughing, so I decided to make "Laugh" our special rhyming word. I put the word "laugh" in the box, and then wrote a draft sentence with the word "laugh" at the end.

Once we had a few other sentences about giraffes, we were ready to fill out our riddle. We decided that the end of the riddle would of course not be "Giraffe" -- like in Guess Again, we ended with a different person. Kids wanted a monkey, so we landed on Mr. Monkey, a favorite children's book character of mine.

Then I decided to cut a few extraneous words--editing is part of writing!

If you'd like to try out this activity, and use easy-to-print handouts to lead a group of kids to create a whole book full of these silly riddles, check out my book, 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing. And if you haven't already got Guess Again! by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex, buy it! It's a great one to have on hand for storytimes with kindergartners and up.