Read to children and surround them with books. Let them see that you cherish books and think that reading is fun and important for everyone. Many of the following suggestions and activities focus on the theme of mystery and adventure. All the ideas are designed to foster skills that will help children to become good readers.
Establish a comfortable reading and writing centre where books (including paperbacks, picture books, class-made books, dictionaries, and a thesaurus), magazines, pencils, pens, and paper are available.
Create a paperback exchange using donated material or books which you have already read.
Become a ghost writer.
- Individually, in small groups or as a class (listening to a story which is being read aloud) predict the ending of the story. Write your own ending:
- after looking at the cover,
- based on the title and chapter headings,
- after reading or listening to the first chapter or first part of the book.
- Whose ending do you prefer - the author's, your own, someone else's?
- How similar is it to the author's ending?
Create a group mystery.
- Starting with a phrase, such as "It was a dark and stormy night", complete the thought. Pass the sentence to a friend who will write the second sentence and, then, pass it to another person for the third sentence and so on. The last child writes the concluding sentence.
- Fold the paper, so that only the preceding sentence is visible,
- read everything that has already been written in order to make a logical story.
- When everyone has had a turn at writing, read the story aloud.
Add a little mystery to your life.
- Write in code.
- Create a short paragraph. It can be funny, serious or mysterious. Then create a secret code and transcribe your paragraph (e.g. use a reverse alphabet - for every "a" write a "z"; for every "b" write a "y", etc.) See who can "crack" your code.
- Play Broken-Telephone.
- Whisper a secret message to the person next to you. That person must quietly repeat it to the person on the other side. The last child to hear the message repeats it aloud. How much has it changed? Follow-up with a discussion about rumours, communication skills or other related topics.
- Study the Morse Code.
- Create a new language.
- Write a secret message using lemon juice instead of ink.
- What happens when the message is left in the sunlight? When it's stored between the pages of a book?
- Hold a message up to a mirror. Copy the mirror image.
Try a word-association exercise with the words "mystery" or "adventure". Use the list as a basis for further discussion and research.
Visit the police station or courthouse to learn more about the justice system; or the airport, bus or train station to experience an atmosphere of adventure; then write a short story based on mystery or adventure.
Invite speakers (police officers, airline pilots, travel agents) to the school to talk about the mystery and/or adventure they encounter in their work.
Experiment with scientific principles used in solving crimes (fingerprint, counterfeit and currency comparisons, etc.)
- Write down as many theme-related words that begin with the letter "m" (e.g. mystery, murder, mayhem, malice, mix-up) as possible in 90 seconds.
- Students can compare their list with their friends' lists.
- Discuss their choices.
Go on a safari into the imagination! Have children create never-before-seen animals and design the type of environment these new creatures would live in. Name the animals and get the children to draw, paint or sculpt what they come up with.
Travel to far-away places and never leave home.
- Using a large map of Canada or the world,
- mark your homebase with a large X
- mark the location(s) of the stories you read, or
- chart the journeys and adventures of major characters, or
- mark the birthplaces of the authors and illustrators, or
- mark the birthplaces of your classmates.
- Study one of the cities or countries highlighted on your map. Then act as a diplomat or tour guide, reporting back to the others (about food, customs, special tourist sights, flora and fauna (be a nature detective), or population statistics, etc.).
- Use travel folders, road maps, timetables, magazines, newspapers, information from the Internet as well as reference books and non-fiction books.
- Investigate the meaning of place names.
- Which places in Canada have the longest names? How many letters are there in the longest names?
- Which places have strange sounding, funny or unusual names?
- Study wilderness survival techniques.
Create a book - manually or electronically - using a story which you have written yourself.
- Add a cover, title page, acknowledgements, table of contents, illustrations and index.
- Browse the Internet for sites where you can create interactive stories.
- Invite very young children to dictate their stories to an older child or an adult.
Have a Young Authors Day.
- Invite guests with an interest in children's literature. Divide into small groups, each with several children and one guest. Invite the guest to read a favourite story. Invite the children to read stories which they have written themselves. Distribute certificates to participants.
- Invite a storyteller. After hearing the story, ask children (and parents or other participants) to form small groups to create illustrations based on the story. Arrange the illustrations in order and retell the story using the pictures. Make a book, as a keepsake, using the pictures.
Promote good books through art.
- Draw a picture about an exciting or favourite part of a mystery or adventure story.
- Laminate the picture and cut it into puzzle pieces for younger children.
- Turn the pictures into posters with catchy titles and a few sentences or phrases to descibe recommended books. Hang the posters in a special area as suggestions to others for good books to read.
- Make bookmarks, bookplates, book friezes, postcards, or peep-shows.
Act it out.
- Dramatize a story or scene and capture the play on video cassette.
- Create hand puppets, shadow puppets, or felt boards based on a scene in a book.
- Study different aspects of theatre and drama: history, set design, sound, lighting, script-writing, etc.
Have children pretend they are a famous book critic with their own TV or radio show.
- With a "guest", discuss and rate a selection of books.
- Interview famous authors or book characters, played by other children.
- Allow for audience participation or a phone-in.
- During the "commercial breaks", children can pretend to be salespersons and use various sales techniques to "sell" a favourite book to the audience.
- Debate the relative merits of watching tv programs and reading books.
- Learn "how to talk back to the television set".
Organize a teen advisory board to help evaluate and recommend material which teens like to read.
Have children keep a portfolio of their writings. Include:
- stories and essays,
- titles of books they enjoyed,
- titles of books they want to read,
- other keepsakes.
Organize a Read-a-thon: each book read by (or to) a child is noted on a "box car" or "worm segment" and added to a paper train or bookworm which grows in length around the room as more books are read.