I believe that students should enjoy what they read and express themselves by responding to it. I even feel that they can learn and grow personally as they read about characters and what they experience. These activities may seem a little fluffy, but I do love to have fun with my students so that they are not bored in ELA class.
With that in mind, before we leave "Charles" behind, I let the students have a little fun!
The only real guideline I have in mind is that students must go beyond the story in this response to literature. In other words, I don't allow them to summarize the story or make a plot map. I want them to take the story to another level by analyzing it in some way. I love to let my students be super creative and come up with their own ideas, but I know some students need suggestions to get started. If students want to come up with their own assignments, I am open to most things. In the past, I've had students make movies with lego figures, create artwork, comic books, or even songs. Again, I just ask that they don't just regurgitate the story. They must express their ideas in a new way.
I will give them several choices including:
1. Make Laurie's report card for the first quarter of kindergarten. Include all of the categories needed for a complete report card and fill them in as if you were the teacher. Make sure to refer to the text as you write.
2. Write a script for a parent teacher conference between Laurie's parents and teacher. Make sure to reference the text as you write. Be ready to act it out with a partner!
3. Imagine that a Charles type student joins our class. Write a story describing how this same situation might occur in 6th grade.
4. What will happen now that Laurie's parents know that he made up Charles? Continue the story where it left off and tell what will happen next.
Most students will take one of these choices and run with it!
Most of my students will need around 45 minutes to complete their assignment. Some will finish early, and in that case, I'll ask them to choose another activity to work on.
For the most part, I want students to work alone on the writing options, but they are free to partner up if they are writing a script and acting it out.
As the students are working, I will monitor them to make sure they are on task, and that they are extending the story in some way.
One way that I help students monitor their own on task behavior is by using a timer. I normally use one of my smart board timers, but there are online timers as well. I might set the timer for 15 minutes, and when it goes off, I'll have students report their progress to me or another person. I like to chunk up time that way so that work time doesn't seem so long and tedious.
Once students have finished, I encourage them to share with the class. They are able to read their stories or scripts aloud using the microphone if they'd like. They can share their report card on the document camera or act out a scene in front of the class.
I really think that it is important to have fun with literature so that it doesn't become boring. The more students interact with a story and make it their own, the more they will understand and take away from it.
It always makes me smile when later in the year someone will reference "Charles" when we are are reading something else. It lets me know that the story made an impression on them, and I think that this is in part to the way we interact with it in class.
Here are some student samples.