In the past six months, I have been lucky enough to share a unique experience with students in North Bennington, VT, and in Franconia, NH. I attended the first CLiF presentations given by new CliF presenters Liza Woodruff and Gina Perry. Both of these dynamic women write and illustrate picture books. Both of their presentations included the most fun drawing game – they solicited from the audience (both preschool and school age) examples of different animal body parts. Then they combined them together into one new, amazing creature with a name and a personality. Above Liza Woodruff shows her creation on the left and Gina Perry on the right.
Most of us would struggle to make a giraffe head or body look good by itself, let alone meshed with an elephant or a dog, but it reminded me of how fun it can be to tell stories with pictures or even from fragments of information. Here is what that looks like in my family:
My niece, turning three in January, loves to hear bedtime stories imagined by my brother. She will offer three or four components – a witch, my dog, and a donut for example – and he will weave a story around them. We hope he is recording them or writing them down!
My family also plays two versions of Exquisite Corpse. When my daughter was younger, we played as the Surrealists did where you fold a paper into three with a segment for the head, the body, and legs. You pass the paper around so everyone ends up drawing a portion without any insight into the other parts. The resulting characters can be really funny, gross, nonsensical, and great fodder for more stories.
As she has gotten older and able to read and write, we play a version that combines words and pictures. Each player starts with a written phrase, line of poetry, song title, idiom, etc, and then the papers are passed around the table with players alternating between expressing the words in pictures and decoding the pictures into words. Once everyone has had each paper, you compare the starting and ending phrases.
We see this connection to drawings emerging in an increasing attention and appreciation for graphic novels. When my brother and I were young, we used to make up Garfield cartoon books. While not award winning, we did have a lot of fun, we did learn to appreciate stories, and we did cultivate some skills at parlor games.
Thank you to all of CLiF’s presenters who teach kids to test their limits and their imaginations!