UKYACX blog with Gabrielle Kent!

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UKYACX is coming soon to Newcastle and I can not wait!! It is going to be amazing. I am lucky enough to be involved in the blog tour! Today is my turn to introduce the amazing Gabrielle Kent! We had a discussion and decided to fuse our worlds together – mine as teacher, hers as writer and she has written a brilliant piece on how to get kids (or adults, for all you budding writers out there!) writing!

5 Ideas to Get Kids Writing Creatively

When I was at school I absolutely loved the rare opportunities we had to really get stuck into creative writing exercises. Unfortunately, today’s curriculum can suck the joy out of creative writing by pushing overly complex language in order to fit marking schemes. When Steph invited me onto her blog, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share some creative exercises and worksheets that I hope you’ll enjoy using with your children. It’s important that this doesn’t feel like homework so treat these exercises almost as games, and have fun!

So, lets get started…

What Ifs…

What Ifs are a brilliant way of encouraging kids to let their imaginations run wild. They can work well for adults too!

My Alfie Bloom series started with two What Ifs. I was visiting Castle Coch in Wales and thought, ‘What if a kid inherited a castle?’ That one thought was enough to spark a series of books, but that wasn’t the only What If  that came to mind in Castle Coch. In one of the rooms  there was a carving of The Fates above a fireplace. I thought ‘What if they came to life and told me my destiny?’ So, in the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle, The Fates come to life and speak to Alfie.

Spend a few minutes together with your wee ones discussing crazy What If’s. This can be a really fun game to play in the car. Here are some examples:

  • What if I woke up as a cat?
  • What if my teacher was an alien?
  • What if the gravity machine deep inside the planet broke down?
  • What if cats ruled the world?
  • What if Christmas was cancelled?

Then give your youngster a bunch of coloured pens and blank sheet of paper, and challenge them to fill that page with wild and wonderful What Ifs. Stick the What If’s on the wall or fridge as future inspiration, and keep on adding to them!

If you want to take this further, talk about some of the What Ifs and discuss how they would work as a story. Let your budding writer come up with answers to the following questions:

  • Who is the main character?
  • What is the big problem that needs to be solved?
  • How is the big problem revealed?
  • What other smaller problems need to be solved?
  • How does the main character solve them?
  • What help do they have?
  • What is the biggest, most dramatic part of the story?
  • Is there a twist at the end?

Once this plan is in place, hopefully they’ll feel compelled to write the story!

Crazy Sandwiches

Creative writing isn’t limited to stories and poems, what about recipes? Alfie Bloom’s dad is always forgetting to go shopping, so he often makes sandwiches from whatever leftovers he can find in the fridge. Writing recipes for crazy sandwiches can be great fun.

Encourage your child to create a weird and wonderful list of ingredients:

  • Pickled eggs
  • Sock mould
  • Tarantula eggs
  • Seaweed
  • Jam
  • Fried onions
  • Bread – although a sandwich doesn’t necessarily need to made with bread, how about a doughnut, or two giant cookies?

Describe each step involved in making the sandwich. Does the cheese need to be left in a warm cupboard for three weeks? Should the eggs be whisked with phoenix tail feathers? Use words like: slice, fry, boil, chop, crush, grind, whisk, arrange, layer, sprinkle, decorate.  

Once the recipe has been written, all that is left is to draw a picture of the final creation!

See my Crazy Sandwich worksheet for an example and a template.

In the Picture

I first realised I wanted to be a writer when I was in the last year of primary school. My teacher pinned a painting of a battle scene to the wall and asked us to write a story about it. He asked us to really imagine being there and how we would feel in that environment. I wrote from the perspective of one of the mounted soldiers towards the end of the battle and his journey home to his family. I had never put myself into a character’s head before, and it was the first time I had felt utterly proud of a piece of writing.

Find an interesting picture. For example, you could google Victorians at the seaside, the Great Fire of London, 1950s Space Art, spooky house, or just find an interesting poster or famous piece of artwork.

If there are people or animals in the picture, ask your little writer which one they would be. Ask them what their character can hear, smell, see. What is the character thinking? Where are they going? What is their relationship to anyone/thing else in the picture? What are their hopes and dreams?

If the image is of a place with no people, ask them how they would feel if they were there, and what they would do. If it’s a spooky house would they explore it, or run away? Would they be scared, curious, or both? Would something be stopping them from running away, e.g. do they need to rescue someone, or find a way out?

The next step is to write about it. This doesn’t need to be a story with a beginning, middle and end, it is an opportunity for them to enjoy imagining themselves in an unusual place, or in the head of a different person or creature. Encourage them to write as though they are there in the moment, experiencing life within that picture as though they are a part of that world.

News Articles

This is another exercise that can follow on from What Ifs. Taking on the role of a journalist following up a crazy story peppered with quotes from odd witnesses can be great fun. Ask your wee one to pick their favourite What If, then read my news article in the Read All About It! worksheet, as well as the suggested structure for an article.

Encourage them to talk about how their What If might work as news article. What would the headline be? Who would they interview? Perhaps they could get together with friends and create their own funny newspaper!

Mixed up Beasts

I’ve saved one of my favourites until last!

I came up with the name Hexbridge by mixing up the towns Hexham and Corbridge. Whenever I’m bored, I like to mix up animals too.

Ask your mini writer to think of two animals. If they take the first part of one animal’s name and the last part of another, then stick them together – they’ve got a mixed-up beast! Ask them what that animal would look like, where it lives, what it eats, and what it likes to do.

Here’s mine:

The Koaladile – also known as a Crocuala.

This beast has a cute koala head with big fluffy ears and a squat, scaly crocodile body. It has a long tail, and very sharp claws which it uses to climb trees.

Habitat and feeding habits:

The Koaladile is a good swimmer, but prefers to hang out in Eucalyptus trees. It doesn’t eat the leaves like ordinary koalas, it prefers the birds that land in its branches. It crunches them up with its sharp teeth and spits out the beaks. You know there’s a Koaladile living in a tree if you see bird beaks around its trunk.

Once the beast has been catalogued, they can write a poem about it and draw a picture.

The Koaladile has a devilish smile,

and big claws on its feet.

It lives in eucalyptus trees,

and its favourite food is meat.

See my Mixed up beasts worksheet for more details and a template.

I hope that you and your budding writers enjoy these tasks. I’d LOVE to see the results, so please tweet me them to me at https://twitter.com/GabrielleKent or send through the Alfie Bloom Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AlfieBloomBooks

HAVE FUN!

Thank you so much Gabrielle for your amazing resources and handy tips to getting children writing! I can’t wait to try them at school! I also can’t wait to read Alfie Bloom to the kids at school. I have a feeling it will be a favourite.

If you fancy coming along to UKYACX tickets are available here: (or from Seven Stories!) http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/whats-on/events/122825/ukya-extravaganza-afternoon-event-ya-panel-talks

Wanna keep up to date with all the UKYACX fun? FOllow them on Twitter @UKYACX

S x

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