For me, the brisk fall weather always brings with it a burst of creative energy. Most likely, you and your students are feeling that too. Why not use this season as an opportunity to engage your students in diving deeper into books in creative ways? As we all know, students have different styles of learning and a variety of talents. What if you could offer your students a number of fun options to explore the fictional books they’re reading and to demonstrate their knowledge? I have included several ideas below:
- Invite students to consider books as not only works of literature but also as works of art. Begin by showing students several well-known hardcover books and discussing how the text, images, and other design elements on the front and back cover, the spine, and inside flaps relate to the central themes of each book Then invite students to rewrite and redesign the front and back cover, the spine, and inside flaps of the book they’re reading. Students can select a color palette that they believe best fits the book, create new images, and re-write the front and back flap copy to highlight things that they believe would appeal to potential readers. They can put those elements together in a new book design. Ask students to also consider elements such as text, font choice and placement, and how themes and design elements from the front cover continue onto the spine, back cover and flaps. Students can even choose a new book title.
- Invite students to create a playlist including a song for each chapter with a short paragraph explaining why they selected each song and how it relates to the chapter. I recently put together a playlist for my book Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe featuring artists from Mississippi, where the book is set. Even for someone like me who is not musically inclined, putting the list together was surprisingly fun. I discovered new artists and thinking about chapter pairings gave me the opportunity to re-examine the central theme of each chapter. Limiting the playlist options to artists from Mississippi also allowed me to highlight the talented musical artists from that state. You might try a similar approach with your students. You can ask them to select songs from the historical period of the book, to feature only artists from the geographical region where the story is set, or to limit their choices to a particular genre of music.
- Invite students to create a graphic novel presentation. If the book your students are reading is not already a graphic novel, you can invite students to select what they consider to be the five most pivotal chapters and to present those chapters in graphic novel form.
- Invite students to create a poem to have a conversation with a book. Another idea is to invite students to create a poem inspired by questions that they had about a book they’ve read. First ask students to consider why the writer chose certain elements in the book. Then invite students to create a poem that explores the meaning of those elements or that asks questions about the writer’s choices. Students can use any poetry form that they wish, including free verse. Sometimes limiting options is the best way to inspire creativity. If students get stuck, they can write the letters of the book title vertically down the left side of a page. They can then use each letter as the beginning of a word in a line of their poem.
- Use art to explore and express the way the main character changed. Novels involve change and growth. One way to engage readers in exploring the changes in the main character over the course of a novel is to ask them to create an illustration of the main character at the beginning of the book (utilizing elements of composition including setting, choice of color palette, clothing and accessory choices and other items to show the main character’s traits). You can then invite students to illustrate that same character at the ending of the book, again using elements of the composition to show how the character has grown and changed.
- Turn students into book ambassadors. You can invite students to imagine that they are booksellers and ask them to create a short video sales pitch for the book. What types of readers do the students believe would be interested in the book? What elements of the book did the students find most appealing? What would they tell someone to try to persuade them to read the book?
- Challenge students to become book marketers. Once students are comfortable becoming book ambassadors, you can invite them to take the next step and become book marketers. Challenge them to create at least five new taglines for the book they’re studying. As you know, taglines are short phrases included on the front or back cover or inside flaps intended to intrigue potential readers. For example, the tagline for Refugee by Alan Gratz is “Three different kids. One mission in common: ESCAPE.” The tagline for When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller is “Some stories refuse to stay bottled up.” The tagline for All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall is “When all the pieces fit together, dreams can come true.” As you can imagine, creating a tagline takes lots of brainstorming. If students get stuck, invite them to create lists of key words that capture important elements of the story. Student then can combine the words in different order and phrasing to come up with potential taglines.
- Invite students to create a word-inspired poem. Ask students to pick a number at random that is smaller than the number of pages in the book they are reading. Then invite them to turn to that page, select at least seven words that intrigue them, and create a poem about the book that uses each of those seven words.
- Invite students to immerse themselves in the setting of the book. You can invite students to research the setting of the book. They can then create an annotated map of the place where the major story action occurred.
- Invite students to get social. You can invite students to create fictional social media posts from the point of view of the main character in the story at key action points.
Whatever activities you choose, I hope that you and your students enjoy diving even more deeply into the world of books. You can learn more about new releases at https://fromthemixedupfiles.com/mixed-up-files-book-lists/ and find a list of books by Mixed Up Files contributors at https://fromthemixedupfiles.com/about/contributor-books/. I’m wishing you and your students loads of reading and creative adventures.