- a film version of the book (even a bad adaptation!),
- a theatrical version of the book,
- a magic or variety show,
- a reader’s theater production of scenes from the book,
- individual or group art, writing, or cooking projects,
- presentations of writing and other projects based upon the novel,
- a call to action or service, or
- a theme-based party.
preferences as well as those of their families. The bulletin board display of these shields later appeared on the website of Walden Media, a co-producer of the movie. Kids were pretty psyched to see that their creations had a world-wide audience.
Party Overview: This is a gathering of new friends, based upon the party which Opal and Gloria throw at the end of the novel. In the novel, the gathering takes place in Gloria’s overgrown backyard, and the food and drinks are an interesting orchestration of many hands.
Look: Since the book’s party was held at night, all lights in the classroom were off. Each desk contained a brown bag filled partway with sand, containing one battery operated candle. These were in place of the
luminaria which Opal created for her party. Some white Christmas lights were also hung. Several students printed out or collected dog pictures which they posted around the room, just as Sweetie Pie Thomas had at the party; after all, "every party needs a theme."
Sound: Taped recordings of crickets played throughout the party. Later, a thunder soundtrack was added to create the approaching rainstorm. The music teacher played guitar and led us in a few songs, just as Otis did at the party. We also played some bluegrass and country music when we weren't singing ourselves.
Taste: “Dump Punch,” pickles, and egg salad sandwiches were on the menu, just as they were at Opal’s party. Since the students made the sandwiches themselves, they were much more willing to try them!
Smell: A spring scented air freshener was placed on the vents. It made the whole room smell like a Southern garden (at least, how we imagined it might smell). The air freshener had never been used before
in the class, and was never used again, which made that smell unique.
Feel: In keeping with the “new friends” theme of the party, we brought in another class to share the theme. The closeness of that many people in that setting we created made the party truly memorable.
(especially as influenced by American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne, Cut From the Same Cloth: American Women of Myth, Legend, and Tall Tale by Robert D. San Souci, and Big Men, Big Country by Paul Robert Walker)
Theme: Larger Than Life
Party Overview: An old fashioned, lumber-jack type breakfast.
Look: The students ate at one long table, which was set up in a glassed-in foyer on a snowy day in January. Red and white checked table cloths and old-fashioned lanterns set the scene. Also, students were dressed as their favorite tall tale characters, or as tall tale characters of their own creation from a unit writing assignment. Book boxes (book shaped dioramas containing summaries and a three-dimensional scene) were hung nearby.
Sound: In the background was a recording of traditional American folk songs played on fiddles and banjos. Later, students read aloud their original tall tales.
Taste: Students enjoyed a Paul Bunyan sized meal of pancakes and bacon, washed down with hot chocolate. Twenty students (and some parent helpers) ate over 80 pancakes and 80 pieces of bacon!
Smell: The food was cooked there, in that room, from pancake batter that students made from scratch. The smell of pancakes and sizzling bacon mingled with pine shavings which were sprinkled on the ground to give it that “woodsy” smell.
Feel: The blustery cold day visible through the windows, contrasted with the warm food inside, made for a close, comfortable gathering.
Can we even launch these types of parties anymore, with all the food and festivities they entail? Perhaps not. But I think we owe our students a bit more closure than simply saying, "Please pass your books to the front of the class." As Cesare Pavese once said, "We do not remember days, we remember moments."
Let's give our students one moment to remember.