Monday, March 12, 2007

Integrating Travel and Writing (for teachers and students!)

Okay, so I have hardly mentioned our trip that was now three weeks ago. Ack. I'll get to it, someday, I hope. Although I seem to remember that I didn't really ever talk about last February's trip to Prague. I hope I posted enough from Amsterdam in December. Note to self: quit being a lazy blogger! Gah.

Anyway, one of my favorite things from this London/Paris trip is Mouse Man. I only mentioned him briefly a couple weeks ago. So now I want to discuss it more.

We were at St Paul's Cathedral. It's gorgeous and beautiful and an amazing structure and I love it. Taking random pictures on the front steps, I noticed something that didn't fit. There was a mouse action figure just chilling at the base of a little lamppost.

I said, "Why hello there, new friend! You look like you want an adventure."

So I picked him up and took him exploring on a grand journey. I was inspired by the movie Amelie (for some reason, no one at my school has seen it!), wherein Amelie sends her father's garden gnome out with her flight attendant friend. Then the friend sends home photos of the gnome at famous places. Eventually Amelie's father gets the picture and takes himself on a long-deserved vacation.

I took pictures of MouseMan (I'm not terribly creative at naming, so I went with the obvious, just to make things easy) all over the place. It was great fun to involve him in Boyfriend's and my travels and even eating, drinking and checking email.

A couple days into this, we had a great idea to pass him along to continue his adventures, with other travelers, and to have them take more pictures, and have a blog to chronicle all of this. Doesn't this sound fantastic and fun? I think so.

Then I had another blast of inspiration. Since the teaching thing never really leaves your brain, even when you're busy being a non-teacher, I came up with a way to involve my students in this fun project.

After I got home and printed photos of Mouse Man all over the place, I brought him and the pics to school. There were enough pictures for each student to take one (I put them in a deck, fanned out face down). The name of the place was on the back.

You'll see them on Mouse Man's

First the students had to research their place. Then, the real project was to take that information and create a postcard that Mouse Man could send home from that place.
This means the kids:
--practiced researching
--learned about another country
--wrote facts
--wrote opinions
--remembered letter and postcard format
--wrote in the voice of Mouse Man
--practiced entertaining writing
--were supposed to use the four types of sentences (that was another challenge I added, related to our warm up practice)

Finally, each student was to read their postcard aloud to the class, and the class would vote on the most effective postcard, and that writer would win a prize. We didn't end up having time to finish all this, unfortunately. I'd actually wanted to extend the project a bit, writing postcards this time to Mouse Man, telling him which place they liked the most and wanted to visit, and suggesting new places for him to visit on future adventures.

The postcards are now up on my bulletin board, and I think it is a really neat project. I wanted the kids to get excited about traveling to other places, and to practice real writing strategies, because postcard writing is a real-life skill!

I would love for other teachers to use or extend this project. You could use the pictures on Mouse Man's blog (or if you want my Snapfish album of all of them, email me), or you could find your own inanimate friend and you or your students could take photos of him or her anywhere. You could do a pen pal project with this, with each other or with other classes or other schools.

In a couple weeks, Mouse Man will be going on another international adventure with Nancy, and then on some domestic journeys with me. So look for more pictures!


Teacher said...

This sounds similiar to a Flat Stanley project I did with my second graders. They made flat Stanleys (based on the book Flat Stanley) and sent them to other classrooms all over the United States. It was a wonderful mapping experience and soo much more!

I love love love the idea you have!

Katie said...

I wish I could have taken Mouse Man with me to Honduras. He could have seen some really amazing places! I'll send you a link to my pictures very soon, possibly even tonight. Your postcard should arrive in 2-3 weeks!