Teachers Write 7.14.16 Thursday Quick-Write with Phil Bildner

Good morning! Today’s Quick-Write is from guest author Phil Bildner, who writes picture books like MARVELOUS CORNELIUS as well as the terrific Rip and Red series for middle grade readers. Phil’s here with a fun writing prompt about thought bubbles!

When figuring out a character’s voice, I often use thought bubbles or speech balloons. I find “seeing” the words being thought or said help me fine-tune those characters.  
As I mentioned in last year’s prompt, I enjoy people watching. I’ll observe individuals and imagine his/her thought bubble or speech balloons. I love doing this at the supermarket, at the gym, and at airports (especially airports).
Your assignment for today: Do a little people watching. Make some thought bubbles and speech balloons. Create a little story. Try to capture what this individual sounds like through the words you imagine.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing this in public (or if you don’t have time to go somewhere), I’ve included two images. Feel free to use one or both to imagine the voices of these characters.
 Girl Thought BubbleKitten Thought Bubble
Happy writing! As always, feel free to feel a snippet of what you wrote in the comments.
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  1. Martha Willey
    Posted July 14, 2016 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Greetings, what a unique way of getting to know characters. I love the picture idea and think this would be a fun exercise to do with my students.

    • Phil Bildner
      Posted July 14, 2016 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      I use this with students during my writing workshops when I visit schools. It’s amazing. So much fun!

  2. Posted July 14, 2016 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Hi Phil. The is a great way to get thinking about characters! I love dialogue and will play w/the images you gave us since I won’t be out and about people-watching today. Love how you seem to write in every genre! We NF people are in love w/ CORNELIUS.

    • Phil Bildner
      Posted July 14, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Hootie-Hoooo! So glad you liked Marvelous Cornelius. Glad you liked the quick-write, too!

  3. Posted July 14, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    What a fantastic task! I was so inspired by the creativity, I went ahead and created a lesson plan for this if anyone wants to try it with integrated technology! Here’s what I created: http://bit.ly/TWvoice16blog

    Thanks for getting my creative juices flowing! Now I hope to expand this task with some real people-watching at the pool later today!

    • Phil Bildner
      Posted July 14, 2016 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      Tamara… Thanks for the lesson plan. That’s wonderful! I’ll be sure to share it.

    • Susan MacKay-Logue
      Posted July 14, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      Tamara, l love this! I hope you are putting this out to share, because I totally want to use this with my class. It is wonderful. Thank you!

  4. Susan MacKay-Logue
    Posted July 14, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Phil, this was a great exercise. I had a lot of fun following Tamara Letter’s lesson plan to create it in Googledocs. My students will love it!
    Here is the finished product:

    • Phil Bildner
      Posted July 14, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Susan. Tamara’s lesson plan is terrific!

    • Posted July 14, 2016 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Haha! Your gator was awesome! I’m so glad you were able to follow the how-to to create your own character in Google Docs! Such a fun lesson for students – I can’t want to try it in the fall! Great job!

  5. Posted July 14, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I love this idea. I may get out later today and try this with people on the street, but for now I’m going to work with the pizza slice girl.

    “I am so glad I pretended to read those 18 books and remembered enough Specific Details to get my points this year! I love having this pizza! I mean, it’s not as good as what Dad makes at home. And when Mom brings some home from work, it’s usually pretty good. And I really would rather have the sandwich I usually have before recess. I’m worried I might throw up this greasy stuff. But if I hadn’t gotten those points, I wouldn’t be having this pizza! I’d be with the Other Kids, working on some boring worksheets right now. No. Thank you. So I’m going to enjoy this pizza. This slice. And then another. But not more than that, because I only was able to earn 2 slices with my reading points. Reading points are the best. They let me know I’m better than OK. I’m free pizza-level good.”

    • Daniela Guardiola
      Posted July 15, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      This is hilarious! I can totally “hear” my students say that in their minds…. which is kind of sad. Good job!

  6. Sharyl Renner
    Posted July 14, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Good morning Phil. I want to start by letting you know how much I enjoyed your Out of My Mind YouTube posts. I especially like the Extreme Readers episode. I hope you plan to make more.

    I like this idea about imagining speech bubbles. I’m going to try that when I go out and about later today. The pictures help also. I now have another thing to add to my summer To Do list. I want to make a set of pictures with very different types of characters with speech bubbles. Then I’ll need to laminate them so I can use them with several different classes as they come to the library. I think the kids will have fun with this.

    Here is my response to the cat picture:

    Hey! Did you notice that my food bowl is half empty? Do you want me to starve? Come fill it now!!!

    • Phil Bildner
      Posted July 14, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Hey Cheryl… I love how you had the kitten ask questions. I find I do that a lot when I use thought bubbles.

      Yes, more Out of My Mind vids are coming later this summer. Thanks for watching!

  7. Andy Starowicz
    Posted July 14, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Phil and TW campers!

    I love this lesson. Today at school, I made large speech bubbles and we are going to try it with different rooms of the building (i.e. – In the cafeteria, we will put a bubble near the lunch line with something that Ms. Mason, the head of the cafeteria, might say). We will put all of the speech bubbles together on the wall before taking them to their destination (What would the main office say? What would the nurse say? What would the librarian say?). This is a great activity to do with writing voice and it should be a blast.

    When my wife runs into Wegmans (CNY’s big grocery store) to get something quick, my kids and I sit out in the van to wait. While we wait, we watch people come out, and I make up a silly conversation that the people might be having. If someone comes out alone, I make up what they are thinking. For example, a man and woman walk out with four cases of soda. The woman says, “What a bargain on this soda, but will we be able to drink all of it?” The man replies, “I plan to drink all of it this weekend and work on my soda belly.” My kid’s ages are 12, 11, 9, and 6. The three young ones laugh hysterically. My oldest daughter doesn’t laugh, but will join in on the fun with her own conversation ideas.:)

    Thanks for this great activity that I have incorporated right away into next school year’s lesson on writing voice.
    Happy writing!

    • Posted July 14, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      I love the idea of placing these all around the school! That gets everyone thinking about character voice! Genius!

    • Phil Bildner
      Posted July 14, 2016 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      I know what Wegmans is! I actually have made up thought bubbles of the people in the supermarket, too — the dad on line with his three kids driving him nuts is one of my faves!

  8. Posted July 14, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I love people watching. I am going to use this as a prompt for my writing notebook in the classroom!

    “Man, I love pizza!! I am going to eat 5 more slices before my brother!”

    “Look at me! LOOK.. AT…ME!!!!!!!!”

  9. Mona
    Posted July 14, 2016 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Well, this was a fun exercise…picture the guy who took off the slider but had a hard time getting it back on the right track…there were lots of speech bubbles in my exercise!!! Thanks for this one, Phil Bildner.

  10. Daniela Guardiola
    Posted July 14, 2016 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Great exercise Phil! It was a bit difficult because I kept trying to write my own dialogue. I was waiting for a delayed flight while I did it and somehow all of the people I saw around me were tired and ready to go home! 🙂 I had to really try to get out of my own thoughts and think about what they were looking forward to or what they could be processing. Though it took some time, I was able to compose something that was a bit more creative. I can see myself utilizing this strategy with my students as we do character analysis with folktales. Thank you!

  11. Posted July 15, 2016 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Great post, Phil. I love people watching, and there is something about the shape of thought bubble that really lightens things up, makes the writing feel like play. Thank you!

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