Getting started: Picture Book writing for Student Authors.

Dear Wonderful Teachers:

Yes–YOU.

On Monday, I talked to a class of Student Authors who are writing their own picture books, and weren’t sure how to get started. It reminded me of the Picture Book Unit that was always a hit with my students.

Have you ever tried this?

  1. Pair up Kinders or first graders with your Student Authors.
  2. Student Authors interview their buddies using a Children’s Book interview worksheet (see below) to gather ideas about their characters and story. 
  3. Student Authors write books starring their new buddies. 
  4. Meet back with the buddies for a Book Party and have Student Authors read and present their finished books.

But let’s back up here.

Some students will have ideas right away.  

Most have NO IDEA where to start. 

Here’s the interview sheet I use: 

In Section I, the Student author gathers information about the characters.

I. Main Characters

  1. Name/ Nicknames:                                                                                                                     
  2. Best Friends                                                            
  3. Who do you live with? Mom ? Dad ? Grandparents? Aunt or Uncle? Guardian
  4. Sisters & Brothers? (Older or younger? )
  5. I share a bedroom with: (This might be a great conflict!)
  6. Do you have any pets? (What kind? Names? Who is your favorite?)
  7. **What kind of pet would you LIKE to have?**What would you name it?

_________________________________________________________________________

Section II helps the Student author brainstorm about possible settings. 

  1. Where do you live? Where would you like to live?
  2. What does your dream home look like? (Color? Two-story? Ranch? Apartment?)
  3. If you could go ANYWHERE in the world, where would you go? (Be sure to ask for details.) Why? Who lives there? What would you do?

                                                                                                                                        

Section III gives the Student author ideas about the story itself. What situation will or protagonist find himself/herself in? 

  1. Favorite food:
  2. Least favorite food:
  3. Favorite book: (Be sure to ask about the main character, what happens, etc.)
  4. Favorite toy/ Least favorite toy:
  5. What would you like to be when you grow up? (What do they do?)
  6. Favorite t.v. program? (Ask for details if you aren’t familiar with it.)
  7. If you could do anything–or be anyone– in the whole world, what would you do? Who would you be?
  8. If you were a Mom or Dad, what would you tell your kids?
  9. What kind of rules do you have at home?
  10. The best thing about Kindergarten/First grade is:
  11. The worst thing about Kindergarten is:

                                                                                                                                          

Section IV provides details to help the Student author illustrate the book. 

Describe the child you are interviewing–or draw a quick sketch/stick figure. Be sure to note:

  1. Hair: ( color; style, length, curly?)
  2. Height: (Average? Tallest kid in the class? Shortest?)
  3. Personality: (Quiet? Shy? ENERGETIC ? Confident? Mischievous? )

                                                                                                                                         

Section IV E may generate other ideas for the book–plus it’s fun to ask the Kinders/first graders these questions. ; ) 

Have him/her answer these questions:

  1. I have freckles. Yes   No              
  2. I wear earrings. Yes   No              
  3. I lost a tooth. Yes                 No               *Did the Tooth Fairy come? What happened?
  4. I like to climb. Yes               No              
  5. I like to laugh. Yes                No              
  6. I like school. Yes                 No              
  7. I like recess!!!!! Yes               No              
  8. I like to dance. Yes                 No              
  9. I like to take baths. Yes               No              __________________________________________________
  1. My favorite color is: .
  2. My favorite ice cream flavor is:
  3. My favorite song is:
  4. My favorite game is:
  5. I am good at: (sport? art? activity?)
  6. My birthday is: (Date, if possible)
  7. This is what I’d like to do on my next birthday:

Added perks of this unit: 

  1. The cross-age element is just as amazing for the big kids as their buddies. 
  2. Middle grade and high school Teachers and Student Authors have an excuse to read, read, READ the amazing picture books that are out there! Bring in as many as you can. Have a read-a-thon. Have Student authors analyze their favorites and use them as mentor texts. Ready, set–GO.
  3. Your Student Authors will actually complete this assignment. WHO COULD DISAPPOINT THEIR BUDDY?  

I can’t recommend this cross-age activity enough!

If you try it, give me a tweet @ErinDealey or leave a comment below.

*If you would like a pdf of this interview worksheet, let me know. 

Go for it, my friends.

Raising writers = Raising readers.

PS If you’re using DECK THE WALLS for your annual holiday program,

HAVE FUN!

I would love to see video or photos!  

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