Last month, I posted some ideas for projects to do with books (Working with books) because I was cleaning out my file cabinet and found this great list I used in my classroom. I love books, but I find, the problem is, we often don’t know what to do with a child once they have read the book. Of course, there are the typical “discussion questions” and “book reports”, but how much do they tell us about how well a child really KNOWS a book….like understands the meaning, the characters, the events etc? I started using projects in my classroom because I found that they could tell me a LOT more about what a child understood about a book then a 5-paragraph essay! With that in mind, here a few more (random) ideas you can use when your child finishes a book. (note: I try to use projects that appeal to different strengths, i.e. art, music etc)
1. Letters to a friend (or enemy): This project is for those who like to write creatively! What I usually do is ask the child to compose a series of letters (3-5 depending on the age of the child), where two characters in the book “write” to each other while discussing the books events. (i.e. Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz could write to the Scarecrow or the Wicked Witch). I usually ask that the letters be about 3 paragraphs each, but you could adjust the length based on your child’s age/ability. I want the kids to write as if they were the character, so they should speak in the first person, and include details about how the events in the story made them feel (i.e. “I was scared when I first saw you in the farmer’s cornfield”). The letters should be an exchange, so the second letter should answer the first letter (“I was just happy to have someone to talk to after spending so much time with all those crows!”). When evaluating this project, I look for how much the child is aware of those intangible feelings the character had when describing the events of the story, I also look for how well they are able to assume each character’s point of view (i.e. if they were the Wicked Witch, were they able to defend her actions, or provide some explanation for them?) This project requires students to stretch beyond what is obvious in the book, and infer what might motivate a character.
2. Book Map: For those art lovers, I ask students to create a “map” of the events in the book. Typically, I ask them to draw a map and label 5-10 important “places” in the book. For this project, they really have to think about what the most important events in the book were, and where they happened. After they create the map, I ask them to label each place, and write 3-5 sentences telling where the place is, what happened there, and why it is important to the story. You would be surprised how much this project really causes kids to think. So often, when you ask for a “summary” of the story, you get a complete retelling. Why? Because kids have a hard time discerning the difference between important, and secondary, details. By asking them to pick a smaller number of places, they really have to focus on the plot, and what mattered most!
3. Video of the setting: for those budding movie directors, I ask students to create a short video of “places” in the book. For this, they have to decide which places are important, and what they will use to represent them (i.e. the forest near their house could be the scary woods in the Wizard of Oz). They take a short video of each “place” while recording an audio explanation of what the place is, what happened there, and again, why it is important. It’s sort-of a video project of the map above, but appeals to a different strength for the student. I’ve had a lot of kids enjoy this project before!
That’s all I have time for now, but I still have lots of ideas and will post some more soon. I hope you can use some of these to add some fun to your homeschooling!