Well I know this is a bit late for Halloween, but it being the holiday season, hopefully it can come in handy for the next few months.
I find that I need something special, and a bit different, for my students to do on the mornings of holidays. We are typically having a celebration in the afternoon, and waiting for it to come along is tough on them. Having something special in the morning really helps.
One thing I have done is to have my kids work in teams to create a class book about the holiday. I begin by preparing a bucket of materials for each team (about four kids per team). Each bucket has all sorts of craft supplies – construction paper, tissue paper, craft sticks, googley eyes, glitter glue, felt, bubble wrap, raffia – anything you have on hand. I often have materials like this available to my students, so I try to add some things that are new and different.
I also prepare a set of blank white pages, with only text written on the bottom. The text can vary depending on the holiday and your students’ average reading level at the time. For the first book I tried to use some sight words that we are working on. I had each page dedicated to a selection of different Halloween things – jack-o-lanterns, bats, witches, candy, ghosts, and scarecrows. The sky is the limit here, but I like to give them things that are varied and easily illustrated.
In preparing the buckets of supplies, I do try to slant the materials according to each page’s theme. For example, the bucket that I give the “ghost” team certainly has more white items and things that I think would be useful in creating ghosts, whereas the jack-o-lantern team gets lots of orange and green.
I explain that the groups will each be “illustrating” one page of the book. They can use any of the materials in the bucket, although they do not have to (and probably should not use all of them.) They are to create illustrations that match the words on the page. I explain that they could work collaboratively to create one image that fits the words, such as a scene with jack-o-lanterns sitting on a gate, or a picture of one witch riding on a broom. Or they could each create one piece to contribute to the page. Either way is fine, as long as they are adding things that make sense. I remind them that they should not use materials or create items that do not make sense or match the words.
I divide my class into teams, tell them their topic, and give them a few minutes to talk and plan as a group. This step is very important. I know full well that many teams will not necessarily follow their plan (they get very caught up in the creative process). However, I think that it is important to teach them that thinking and planning is an important step in design, and that it is necessary when working in a group.
I then pass out the blank pages and material buckets and let them go at it. I find that my students every year could work intently for over an hour on this. They simply love the freedom, the creative process, and the materials. Of course some kids need a little assistance or encouragement, and some teams need some help in negotiating decisions. However, they really need less of this than you might think.
The first time or two that we do a book like this the pages are often a bit of a crazy mess when they are done. The kids are so into adding that they end up with a creative mess. It is important to remember that this is about process, not product. The discussions and work with materials is so much more important than the finished product. However, the books definitely get better over time, and it is great to see!
A colleague of mine did this project and added an extra level to the words. She gave the teams the words, cut apart on sentence strips. One of the teams’ jobs was to organize the words in order, which required them to read sight words, notice uppercase letters and punctuation, and organize the words from left to right. A great extension!
Have you ever had kids create collaborative books? What do you do?