The Magic of Making Stories:

Activity Two: Wacky Headlines

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Wacky Headlines

This is a great way to generate a story to discuss or help your child write. It has the essential element of randomness, which I think is a key to helping kids write "outside the box."

Materials needed: small slips of paper, pencils, paper bags or baskets

How to play:

Bag #1 On a piece of paper, each family member writes an adjective. These words should be good describers – “enormous,” “slippery,” or “bright blue” are more useful than “neat,” “nice,” or “good.” Those slips go into paper bag or basket #1.

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Bag #2 Then write a kind of person or animal, the quirkier the better. “Alligator,” “superhero,” or “princess” are good examples. These go in bag #2.

Bag #3 gets action words (present tense works best). “Jumps,” “howls,” or “grabs” would work.

Bag #4 gets nouns. Singular or plural. For example, “flowers,” “sheep,” or “police cars.”

Now, without looking, pull one slip of paper out of each bag, and put them in a line, 1-4. Here was our first try:

You now have your wacky headline. You’ll brainstorm from those four words. In our case, I’m thinking there’s a dog thief who wants a pet hippo, and speeds into the zoo at night and takes one. I’m betting he’s not quite so fast on the way out!

If you don’t like that one, or you’ve gone as far as you can, pick another one. We did, and this came out:

You may need to add a word to help it make sense. We changed “shrieked” to “shrieked at.” So why would a furry monster shriek at a baker? Maybe the name was not spelled right on the monster’s birthday cake!

For fun, here are our other combinations:

All of them have potential, except perhaps the last one. As big a fan as I am for classic westerns, I’m not seeing a whole plot around flipping sunglasses.

That’s how you do it. You can just make up a spoken tale, or take the time to write it down. Maybe your child will want to draw a picture once you’re done inventing your wacky story! (See an example of how this worked when I did it with a two classes with kids!)

I know some of you won't want to take the time to cut all these pieces of paper. You don't need to! I've added a Wacky Headline Maker to my site. It will create over 100 million (I'm not kidding) possible headlines -- any of them will make interesting stories for you to imagine. Try it! It's great fun, and good for lots of laughs. I will warn you, once you see a few headlines, it's hard to stop! Enjoy!

all material ©2003-2009 Bruce Van Patter