I love maps. My own Kendra Kandlestar books certainly feature a few of them (you can check them out at kendrakandlestar.com). There are also plenty of maps that I do in my sketchbooks just to help me plot out critical scenes or sections of my books. It’s an approach to writing that I try to bring into my author visits to schools—like today.
I spent the day at John G. Diefenbaker Elementary school as part of an outreach literacy program sponsored by the Richmond Children’s Arts Festival. While I did my monster design for the youngest group (the kindergarteners to Grade 2s) I decided to do the mapping activity for the rest of the student body.
It’s a fun activity, to be sure, but what I especially love about it is that it combines so many different aspects of writing, such as brainstorming, plotting, character development, and setting design.
It works like this . . .
I’m at the front of the class with an easel, where I design an adventure with ideas from the students in the audience. But the great part of this situation is that the students are also armed with paper and pencils so that they can design their own individual adventures, putting in their own unique ideas.
We start by drawing a stick-figure version of a main character in the bottom lefthand corner. Then, in the top righthand corner (so as far away as possible from the character), we draw an object that was stolen from that character. Then, it’s just a matter of getting the character to the object—but not without making said character deal with a whole slew of obstacles first!
I led two different sessions of this map making activity at Diefenbaker Elementary. During these two sessions, we certainly came up with some intriguing problems—and solutions. Not only did we have the ever-popular exploding volcanoes, deadly deserts, and spooky forests, but also giant sand worms, a trick trap door, and a school of chicken piranhas (don’t ask).
By the end of each sessions, the students ended up with basic plots that they could then transform into words or, as I like to call them, instant stories!
Below is a smattering of the maps that the students created. I know many of them are going to take their raw brainstorming and redraft them into more polished maps, but I love the energy of their initial output!