It’s Teacher Tuesday. Previous Teacher Tuesday posts have been quite long, offering whole units of work around one my books. But this week, to mix things up a bit, I am going to try a shorter post with just one activity. But it’s one of my all-time favourite creative writing activities, and it works well as an introduction to reading Looking Up as a class novel.
So, here’s what you do. Before you read the novel, buy or make a set of birthday cards (I buy mine cheaply from discount stores), one for each member of the class, and write one for each student. You could write their name inside (ie Dear Tommy,….) OR, do what I have done in the past, and start each with Dear You, which means they can then be given out randomly. Also add a short message. When I have done this activity, I have used the same message that is used in Looking Up:
May all your dreams come true.
However, if you are feeling really creative, you might decide to write a different message in each card.
The fun bit is deciding who each card is from. The idea is that it is going to be a card from a complete stranger – someone the student has never met. They might be silly, fantastical, or completely random. Ideally, every student will get a card from someone different. Here are some ideas, which I have used:
The Monster Under Your Bed
Alan the Alien
Your New Next Door Neighbour
Your Great Great Great Uncle Albert
Mrs Madge Longbottom
The Pot Plant Fairy
The Spider in Your Mailbox
So, a completed card might read:
May all your dreams come true.
Your Worst Nightmare
(Yes, I have used this one – the girl who got it had a lot of fun writing back.)
Now, for the activity.
- Explain to the students that they are going to receive a birthday card, imagining that their birthday is coming up. Discuss: who generally sends birthday cards; what kinds of messages might they contain?
- Give each student their sealed card. Make them wait to open it.
- Before opening it, let them guess who it might be from.
- Tell them they can open the envelope and remove the card, but not read it yet. Look at the outside of the card. Is it the sort of card they expected? Does it match their interests? Who might send them a card with a bunch of flowers/a race car/ etc on it?
- Lastly, let them read the card, and share with neighbours.
- As a class, have some students share their cards. Ask: Why would this person be writing to you? What would you do about it? Would you write back? Get help from a parent? Ignore the card?
- Creative Writing. Either: Write a letter back to the sender, thanking them for the card and asking them about themselves. OR Write a scene where you meet the sender of the card.
After this activity, read the first two chapters of Looking Up. Make predictions about who ‘Grandad’ might be. Do students think he is really Pete’s Grandad or is it some kind of trick? What should Pete do about it? Why would his mum lie about Grandad being dead?
This activity can be adapted for students from year two through to year six. If you try it, I would love to hear how it goes.
Format, Paperback 72 pages, RRP $14.99