with Bruce Van Patter
2007-2008 School Visits

My visit to Bloomer Elementary!

This was my first trip to the Midwest, and what a great time I had! Guess what -- kids are creative everywhere and the students at Bloomer were full of great ideas. Check out the stories we invented!

The assembly stories

The four ingredients: a horse on a mountain who wants a pet up against a monkey

The story: Let me start by saying that horses are not things I draw well. I didn't think of much of a story to go along with this picture. Mostly I imagined a horse going up to befriend a monkey who sits and thinks on top of a mountain. Now the horse is falling! Will the monkey save her? I don't know!


The four ingredients: a baby in a corn field who wants a raccoon and has a hamster as a silly sidekick

The story: our baby hero is trying to find out who is stealing all the corn from the field. He wants to catch the rascal, but can't crawl fast enough. So he and his hamster take the mini-tractor and zoom in just in time to catch the raccoon. Will the raccoon be able to fight him off with just corn? Tell me what you think... I'm all ears.

Two days in a great school!

Bloomer Elementary had me visit for two days with an evening show in between. As you can see, I was drawing a lot over the two days. It always amazes me how there can be so many unique stories just waiting in the minds of kids!

This cute little fellow came out of brainstorming we did in the evening show with parents. What a fun time!

Workshop fun!

Check out these stories which all came from our grade-level workshops:

A teenage girl doesn't like to tests. So instead of studying harder, she trains a fly to distract her teacher so that the teacher never gets around to giving tests! Wow -- what a strange and funny idea! But the girl didn't count on a fly swatter getting involved!

This story reminded me of the time I nearly got caught making a little plastic helicopter-thing hover right over my 5th grade teacher's head! Whew! That was too close!

An alligator goes to rescue a little baby alligator (his little brother, maybe?) from an alligator farm. He's not ver brave, but he does have one talent -- he can sing!

Imagine the farmer's surprise when he hears a song coming out of the bushes on his swampy farm! I asked the kids what the alligator would be singing, and one boy suggested the song I've written. I loved that idea and decided that it was the farmer's birthday and the mean guy became nice just having someone sing to him on his birthday!

Here's another rescue story. This dog is going to bring a baby cat back from the dark woods, but the kitty is always scared. It's a scaredy-cat, of course. The dog has quite a hard time trying to get the frighened cat home safely, especially when they run into a bear.

The bear actually isn't trying to hurt them. He's trying to keep them from falling over a small cliff into a stream. If only they knew that sooner!

Sometimes something strange in our beginning doodle can guide our story. Do you see the notch in the shell of the turtle? We decided that this turtle can take off his fancy, shiny shell and put it back together like a puzzle. And in our mystery story, someone has taken a piece.

Set in the mountains of China, our turtle spies the glint of his shell high up on one of the spires of mountains. Hiding in his shell, he waits for the bird to swoop down and carry him up to her nest.

One students called the bird a Chinese Pigeon. That's a great name for our shell-thief bird!

Surrounded by all the dairy farms of Wisconsin, I was wondering how long it would take to get a cow into a story. Well, here she is. This cow has been cownapped by a cat who wanted the milk for her litter of baby kittens. Our dog is trying to get the cow back.

The setting in this story is also a good one. It's an old, abandoned farm set in dark woods. Here, I tried to draw the dog about to fall through rotten boards in the floor. Poor pooch! Poor Bessie! Who will save them now?

Our beginning doodles give us the direction we need for our stories. So in this doodle, we enjoyed the outstretched arms and legs of our cat hero.

Unlike all the other stories, this one was set in another time -- the time of fairy tales.

Our cat is out to find the hen that a king has taken. He wants the golden eggs she lays, but is having a hard time getting the hen to co-operate. The cat, is overjoyed to see his feathered friend again.

I tried to draw the king in a different way than I usually do. Instead of a big, flowing white beard, I gave him more of a dark, pointy one. I think it makes him look a little meaner and scarier.

This story was all about sound. And shopping. This girl has a nightmare where she hears footsteps coming. The sound fills her with fear. The dream always ends before she sees who it is.

Now she's in a mall and hears the steps again.

So she goes into a mattress store and tries to sleep so she can have the dream and figue out who the menacing footsteps belong to. This story's use of sound was a wonderful change from the sight-oriented usual tales.

I try to steer kids away from plots and characters that are much like recent movies. I hadn't thought about how a mouse chef was like a recent movie until we were into the brainstorming process using this doodle. So we did have some trouble avoiding being like the recent Pixar movie.

Our mouse hero wants to find an ancient cookbook, buried somewhere under the restaurant.

He wants to cook something to impress a girl mouse. But someone else is after the book, too. Here we can see the book tearing into two pieces as the two characters try to get the book. What our mouse hero doesn't know is that the other searcher is the girl he wants to impress!

Don't you love surprise endings?

The last workshop of the two days had to do with aliens. I was so happy because I had new alien music to try out as I drew.

In this story, a boy goes up on the roof of his city apartment despite his parents telling him not to. He finds a young alien there who has come to earth against his parents' wishes!

Here come the alien parents. Will they catch the two new friends? And how does an angry alien parent punish -- "Go to your planet right now, young alien!"

Kindergarten Stories!

Here we have a giraffe who is going camping but thinks he can bring all his electrical things with him. He doesn't know how to have fun outside! A squirrel comes and shows him how. It was fun thinking of things for the giraffe to be carrying in the first picture.

This girl triceratops is going to school and is excited but a little scared about not being able to make friends. A boy dino takes a spider out of his spider sandwich and scares her, but she doesn't get revenge. She decides to overcome evil with good and shares her grass sandwich with him! And so the meat-eaters and the plant-eaters finally get along!

Yes, I did a lot of drawing. But my visit to Bloomer wasn't really about how I can draw. It was about the wonderful ideas of the students. Some of those ideas came out as drawings of their own, but most of them were story ideas that were shared in our workshops.

Now that you Bloomer kids know the parts to a story, put your ideas down on paper. Use the T.A.L.E. idea I gave you. Brainstorm with a friend. My website also has fun ways to get started.

The most important thing is to keep using your imaginations. That way, you'll never lose them!

And while you're here, check out the fun stuff on my site!

Want to keep your kids' imaginations growing?

Check out the fun stuff on my site. And see below for my online creative writing books for teachers and parents!

In addition to all the free material on this site, I have downloadable books that are perfect for keeping kids writing in school or at home!

(click on books to see)

The Adventures of Pirate Dog
Picture prompts are a great way to inspire kids to write! Here are 26 of my best drawings with fun, pre-writing worksheets

Write Your Own
Cartoons!
Kids can add the
dialogue and their special touches to my funny comic strips filled with wacky characters!

Sparks: Year One
Here’s a fantastic resource for teachers: a whole year of weekly creative writing lessons built around wacky holidays!

More to come!

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