In February, our district will host a Family Literacy Night. Each English teacher has been charged with designing with an original activity that kids and parents can participate in together. There will be two sessions of twenty-five minutes each.
The buzz around this on the middle school level is all about finding ways to make this evening both attractive and relevant to our “tweens” who outwardly disdain structured evenings they perceive as forced family fun, but who none the less relish non-threatening competitive situations.
To this end, I channeled my inner game show host and came up an activity that is part Mad-Libs, part Wipe-Out, part America’s Got Talent.
At first, the thought was just an amorphous blob that entered my idle brain on the bike path my husband and I walk every day. I could set up stations and have kids and families work through a series of activities centered on middle school level literacy. OK, but then what?
Somewhere between Mile One and Mile Two, the idea became a vision and Mrs. Di’s Literacy Challenge was born.
Here’s what I came up with:
- The Scene: Kids and parents will enter the classroom and find five stations, each centered on a specific writing task: Characterization, Setting, Conflict, Writing From a Visual Prompt, Poetry. At each station, there will be an easel where teams will see a starter sentence. Also at each station will be a Cheat Sheet where teams find reminders about literacy terms (figurative language, antonyms, synonyms, parts of speech). Kids and parents will be divided into random teams. Here, too, teams will find Challenge Cards that will direct them to complete a literacy task by adding onto the existing text on the easel.
- The Object: By working as a team, to create a group text that satisfies the demands of the assigned challenges and by the end of the session, we have five “texts” to read aloud and laugh about
Literacy Challenge Ground Rules
Each team will be assigned a color and their additions to the stories or poems will be written in that color. Assign one team member with legible handwriting to be the recorder.
There are five different stations, each with a title, each with story starter already written.
Teams will work from station to station to add on to what is already started on the easel. To do this, teams must work together and listen to one another. This is a collaborative effort.
Upon arriving at each station, teams will take a Challenge card, read it and decide how best to complete the given challenge. Then the team will add their work to the existing text. Time at the stations is limited to five minutes. When the timer sounds, the teams must move onto the next station.
When every team has visited each station and is back where they began, we will read aloud the stories and poems.
There is a “cheat sheet” at each station to help teams with the challenges by defining terms used on the cards.
I used card stock paper and created a template of four cards, each with the same title and nothing on the back. I then made twenty-five copies this template, again on card stock paper, giving me a total of 100 cards.
I cut out the cards and started coming up with literacy tasks for each station. The toughest part of this has been coming up with enough accessible and relevant tasks for each station.
If it seems like a ton of work, it is. But the great thing about the Challenge is that it can be adapted and used as a classroom activity, too.