At our most recent Writing Party for Primary Grade Kids (previously named “Creative Writing for Beginning Readers”), we made split-panel books inspired by A Cheese and Tomato Spider by Nick Sharratt. Because of the odd format, this book is not available in Pasadena’s collection–unfortunately, libraries often cannot add unusual books like this one because of considerations about binding and whether it would get torn. But it might be worth it to you to buy it for home! The pictures are also very nice for sharing with a large group like a storytime or a class. My own children are rough with this book, but they love it and return to it again and again.

First we read our inspiration book, and all the kids sat on the floor like in storytime. They listened and laughed as they saw the grandma go from being a “strawberry flavored granny” to an “exploding granny” while the pictures showed her head changing in shape from ice cream scoops to a volcano. After I shared the book for a few minutes, I invited each child to come to the “storyteller chair” one by one and share their favorite combination. They practiced reading out loud and selecting the funniest illustration to share with the group.

We then learned a short lesson on how sentences are made of two major components: subject and predicate. We came up with sample funny sentences. The kids made lots of sentences about people farting!

The reason we did subject-predicate structure was to make it easier for them to write their own split panel books. To give the kids an idea of what they would soon be doing, I shared a sample split-panel book I created. I pasted large clipart animals into the right side pages of my book, and on the left side pages I wrote a sentence with the subject at the top and the predicate at the bottom:

Then it was time for the kids to make their own! I scattered those clipart pictures all over the table along with scissors and glue sticks. Kids had the option of either gluing the pictures or drawing their own. The blank books were extremely simple, just four sheets of plain letter copy paper folded and stapled close to the fold.

One child was a little too quick to make cuts in his book–it works best if you cut the pages straight across to the fold (but not through it) after you’ve done the laying out of your illustrations. Although that child did the order a little bit upside down, he was proud of his “Joke Book” which definitely showed a lot of creativity and humor!

We had several kids who are English language learners, including one who recently moved here from China. This activity was just the right speed for them and I could tell they were having a good time too. But don’t just take my word for it–hear the kids read what they wrote!

Our next Writing Party for Primary Grade Kids will be Tuesday, August 15th from 4:30 – 5:30 pm Pasadena Central Library: 285 E. Walnut Street, Pasadena CA 91101. Kids between the ages of 5 and 8, or older kids who are learning English, are welcome to join us! To sign up please call 626-744-4066 option 4. The class is free but your RSVP is appreciated. We will be doing a fun exercise making up a new language inspired by the book Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis.