I decided to teach a writing workshop for 7 – 10-year olds this summer on Mad Libs.
Mad Libs Writing Workshop
First we had to figure out parts of speech because the old adage, if you don’t use it, you lose it, applies to grammar, too. Most kids couldn’t even remember hearing the word adjective before.
Noun = Don’t you hate the old “person, place, or thing” definition? The only reason I use it is that most kids do remember this definition. Even if they can’t classify a noun, they remember the definition.
(Umm, let me tell you my secret. To build rapport quickly with kids, I go straight for the cheap laughs — potty humor. It works every time and kids think I’m hilarious. More importantly, they’ll write pages and pages because they like me.)
Verb = When you’re doing something; What you’re doing.
Adjective = color words, shape words, size words, judgement words
FIRST, we did a . . .
Cut, Sort, and Paste of Nouns, Verbs, and Adjectives
Using recycled magazines, we (I modeled this and enthusiastically helped find awesome words) cut out interesting words.
Once we had some good looking piles of words, we defined noun, verb, and adjective. Kids labeled pages in their blank books accordingly and started sorting their words. Once sorted, they glued the words into their notebooks on the appropriate page.
Kids added their favorite words to a group list of words for each part of speech.
But I kept hearing, “What is a verb again?” Way too much.
I asked myself, how in the heck could I get them to remember that a verb is something you do? Eureka! We could play Simon Says. Wait . . . Why Simon? Why not Verbie? And if they could remember that whatever Verbie tells them to do, is a verb, well . . .
We must play . . .
I got to be Verbie first. After all, I did make up the game. Then, we took turns doing verbie things. Jump. Dance. Hop. Quack.
Pretty fun, huh?
Now, we were ready to do some . . .
Mad Libs Partner Writing
Have you seen the Mad Libs? I didn’t really like the stories in most of the books and didn’t think the kids could relate to them. So, I used a Mad Libs Jr. Edition which had better stories, and because it had symbols instead of parts of speech, I wrote the parts of speech by the symbols.
P.S. No one asked me what a verb was!!!
The kids got to laughing so loudly, I’m pretty sure they had lots of fun. With parts of speech.
Then, after all that building of prior knowledge, we attempted to . . .
Write Our Own Mad Lib Stories
It just so happened that one of the students had shared a very dramatic story of crashing on her bike on the way to writing workshop. I had her retell it out loud and wrote it down word for word on the white board. Then I modeled how to look for a noun, erase the noun, and Mad Lib-ize it aka. draw a line with the word noun underneath. And the same for verb and adjective. See how this could get tricky?
I asked the kids to think of a true story about an accident or sickness (preferably barfing) and write it down. Then, to go back and erase nouns, verbs, and adjectives to make their own Mad Libs.
It was a lot of steps – but very rewarding to see the results – mostly more laughter and learning.
Mad Libs is Kind of Like Kleenex
So, you can’t really call it Mad Libs – unless you’re talking about that particular brand. Like how we’re supposed to say tissues not Kleenex. But if I called it a “Fill-In” story would you understand? That’s technically the term.
So, for some fill-in books, try:
- Kidz Bop A Rockin’ Fill-In Story by Bethany Bryon - a really cool book and motivating for music-obsessed tweens.
- Camp Rock: Say What? A Jammin’ Fill-in Story by Avery Scott
- School Rules! Mad Libs Junior by Leonard Stern
- Happily Ever After Mad Libs by Roger Price and Leonard Stern