This is one of my favorite writing activities, especially for very young children or children who do not like to write. Pairs or small groups will create pictures and then original writing by trading around and working on each other’s piece. A parent can do this with one or more of their children; a teacher can divide the class into groups of 4 or 5 children.
The theme is sea creatures, but almost any kind of people, animals, plants, vehicles, etc. could be used instead. Going with this theme, I develop the lesson thusly:
Prime the mind. Read a fiction or non-fiction book that features different kinds of sea creatures. I use Swimmy by Leo Lionni for grades 1-3. Have children notice the variety of sea creatures mentioned and act them out: small fish, tuna fish, eel, jellyfish, anemone, lobster, etc.
Prepare to draw. Give each child a plain piece of paper and one marker. They should write their name or initials in one corner.
At the same time, everyone will begin drawing a new species of sea creature, unlike any seen before.
They will only have 5 seconds to draw when they have to stop and pass their paper to their partner or clockwise in their group. Students can slowly count together as they draw: “1—2—3—4—5!”
This continues for at least 5 rounds.
Then their drawing should come back to them and they can take about 5 minutes to complete the drawing, add more colors and designs, etc. They should also name their creature and write the name above or below the drawing. These pictures will look nothing like what they intended!
Everyone turns their paper over and begins to write a story about their creature. It can be an adventure story or an explanation of how the creature came to look like it does.
Instead of 5 seconds, the writer simply writes one sentence and then passes it to their partner or to the next person in the group.
After 5 or so rounds, they can write 2 or 3 more sentences to complete their stories.
Read these to one another.
More. If you want to go even further, you can do an activity like “Fashion a Fish” in the Project Wild curriculum. http://www.projectwild.org/aquatic/resources/fashion_a_fish.htm
In this case, you create a giant version of the new creature and cut out two of its shape. Decorate one side, staple the edges and stuff it with re-cycled paper. Use the creature to create new dramas and stories or hang it up in the classroom for inspiration. (The drawings were by children. The photos and creatures shown at the end were made by Latin-American teachers with whom I worked.)