The End

the endSpoiler-heavy free write anyone? All you need are old photos, pen, paper, and a moment to ponder how to tell a story – by only writing its ending! This exercise premiered at Cotsen Critix, our literary society for kids ages 9-12.

At the program, we scattered a bunch of old newspaper and magazine photos on the tables (thanks library recycling program!) and instructed the kids to select an image, Then, they wrote the final paragraph of a story, with the selected image serving as the very last scene.

I also ask them to think about a few things before they got started: Who are your characters? What happened in the story? What’s the resolution of the story? How can you conclude the story without summarizing it? How does everything come down to this image?

It was a challenging prompt, but check out some of these seriously cool endings…


whale photo

Kate and Tristan turned around when they heard the huge SPLASH! Winston dove out of the water, splashing happily. Kate smiled “He looks happy here.” Tristan nodded and called out to Winston.

“Goodbye Winston! We’ll miss you!”

Winston dove down and disappeared into a patch of soft sea foam, creating another splash. Katie turned to Tristan “Well, he’s finally safe from Envetson and his henchmen now, all thanks to us.”

 


man and elephant photo

As I turned, Hannibal tooted as if to say I’ve been with you these last 50 years. I’ve been with you when you were at death’s door. I’m not going anywhere. “I’m going to miss you old friend.” I choked out. The great beast threw this head back and trumpeted so loudly, so deafeningly, I almost thought he was laughing. He then lifted me up on his back. I laughed. “Well then, one last ride.”

 


panda bear photoThe very last thing I could remember seeing was… a panda eating bamboo. And then my eyes refused to cooperate any longer. Blackness. I can only remember the crunch and the green. That’s it. Memories are weird like that, you can always remember the most bizarre parts. Even with my eyes closed, I can taste the dew on the nearby grass. I still feel the presence of a fluffy being right beside me, chomping away. Crackle. Snap. That’s all…

 

 


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Magic Magnetic Castle

magic magentic castle

Use your magic wand to reveal the secrets of this enchanted castle – raise the drawbridge, hoist the flag, open windows, discover buried treasure, and more! All it takes is a magnet and a few well-placed paper clips!

We read I Wished for a Unicorn, written by Robert Heidbreder, and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (Kids Can Press, 2000). A little girl wishes for a unicorn, and wow… one appears! Granted, it looks and acts suspiciously like her pet dog, but that doesn’t stop the two from having amazing adventures in a magic woods and enchanted castle.

You’ll need:

  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (we used a 10″ diameter cake circle)
  • 1 small box (ours was 4″ x 4″ x 4″ – a small tissue box works too)
  • 2 paper towel tubes
  • 2 paper cone water cups
  • Construction paper
  • 1 magnet castle template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 brass fastener
  • 1 pair of unused, intact chopsticks
  • 1 button magnet
  • 6-7 small paper clips
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue

magnet castle finished

As far as construction, this castle is very basic. We used a 4″ x 4″ x 4″ craft box with the lid cut off, and hot glued it to a corrugated cardboard base. Add 2 shortened paper towel tube towers, 2 cone drinking cup roofs, and some (optional) green tissue paper shrubs . The drawbridge is a hinged piece of cardboard (we used the scrap from our box lid). The moat is construction paper. Wrap the castle with construction paper if you like, then decorate with metallic markers and perhaps a jewel or two. You’re done!

Infusing your castle with magical powers is also easy, thanks to this “magic wand.” It’s a pair of intact chopsticks decorated with markers or patterned tape. Hot glue a button magnet to the wider end:

castle magnet wandNext, tape paperclips to various castle elements. Here’s what we did, using our castle template. The drawbridge lowers to reveal a wizard:

magnet drawbridgeThe moat rises to reveal a water dragon:

magnet water dragonThe castle towers each have a window that hinges upward to reveal something inside. Below you see a cat…the other window has a friendly flower in a pot:

magnet castle tower windowAbove the drawbridge, you can also raise a flag! Use a hole punch to create a hole in the pole of the template flag, and in the wall of the castle. Thread a brass tack through the holes, tape a paperclip to the back of the flag, and fly it high!

magnet castle flagAround the back of the castle is an (optional) fountain. We wrapped a packing tape core with tin foil, then taped a 3″ x 6.5″ rectangle of blue cellophane inside. Use a paper clip and the wand to make the fountain water rise!

magnet castle fountainIn the garden next to the fountain was a buried treasure trap door:

magnet buried treaure And on the other side of the fountain is an apple tree with flying bird. We tethered the bird to the tree with clear elastic beading cord, but any string will do:

magnet bird flying over treeAt this point, you might be wondering…where is the UNICORN? The book is all about an adventure with a unicorn! Well fear not. We scored these awesome unicorn Valentines by Peaceable Kingdom (a set of 28 cards cost $13-15). Each card comes with a little rainbow charm:

unicorn valentines by peaceable kingdomWhen kids were finished with their castles, DR. MAGICAL PURPLE UNICORN bestowed cards and rainbow charms!

dr dana is a magical unicornAnd yes, that unicorn onesie does feel just as comfortable as it looks.

Delicious Dim Sum

delicious dim sumHungry? We invite you to peruse the contents of this adorable dim sum cart. In addition to being stocked with deliciously delectable dishes, the cart is a bilingual matching game with an additional story time social twist!

dim sum cartWe read Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001). Follow a family as they sample the many little dishes served at a dim sum restaurant. Pork buns, fried shrimp, egg tarts…the carts have something for everyone! The book concludes with an excellent essay about dim sum – it’s history, traditions, and social aspects. Fantastic book!

You’ll need:

First, the cart! Use a box cutter to create a square in one of the short sides of a  box (leave the other short side intact). Next, cut hinged rectangular flaps in the long sides of the box. Fold the flaps down to create the lower “shelf” of the cart. Secure the flaps in place with tape or hot glue.

dim sum cart box cutAdd a wheel assembly to the bottom of the box (you’ll find instructions and alternative wheel suggestions here). Use leftover box cardboard to make a cart handle. We also added gold mirror board and patterned tape to make the cart extra fancy.

dim sum cartTime for the food! Color and cut the dim sum dishes from the template, then glue them on top of construction paper (or patterned paper) circles. Thanks to Lin’s awesome illustrations on the front and end papers of the book, the dishes are labeled with their English and Chinese names.

top of dim sum cartWould you also like to serve tea? The tea cups are leftover bits of card stock circled into miniature cylinders. To make the teapot, circle and tape the rectangular part of the template to create the teapot’s body. Then add a handle, spout, and bead knob on top! The circular part of the template becomes the teapot’s hinged lid:

paper teapot

The book mentions that an open teapot means you are requesting a fresh pot – something we really wanted to replicate for this project. When the carts were finished, it was time for the matching game. Each cart came with a menu (the template is here):

dim sum menu

To play the game, kids rolled the carts up to their customers. The customers would point to a menu item, and the kids had to locate it on their carts! Oh, and we also included a cute place setting for your customers (template here).

dim sum restaurant tableThe book mentions how social dim sum dining is, so we made a couple tables (i.e. brown poster board circles) and asked the story time grown ups to sit around them. Kids traveled to ALL the tables, playing the matching game with everyone’s grown up! If you decided to add this social aspect to your story time, just make sure the kids write their names on the backs of each of their dishes so they can be returned to the proper cart.

dim sum restaurantThe final touch on this awesome project? Our colleague, Dr. Minjie Chen, stopped by to write the kids’ names on their menus in Chinese characters. The absolutely loved it. Thanks Minjie!

minjie at story time