Jane Connealy

Postcards From the Edge
--by Jane Connealy

     This simple activity that can be used to meet a number of literacy and writing objectives: predicting, clarifying, setting, voice, perspective, character development, dialect, detailed reading, etc. The list is endless. Students enjoy the art activity and their creativity and imagination can take flight as they share the final projects with others.

  • Materials needed:

Blank drawing paper cut in half.
Aft supplies or computer graphics

  • Procedure:

    Read a piece of literature*.
    Review the characters or setting in the piece. Obviously some classes/students will need more guidance than others.
    Ask students to create a postcard that reflects setting or personality.
    (I always share actual postcards at this point and explain how choosing one of them might reflect someone's personality and their appreciation of the surroundings.)
    Select a character to receive the message and address you card accordingly.
    Write a postcard message in the voice of the character. Students may use this writing to study voice, as a method of recording events, to bring clarification to an unresolved event, reveal a character's inner thoughts and feelings, to explore setting, develop dialect or whatever lesson you'd like to enhance.
    Share! This step is vital. Simply pass and share. Students marvel at the colorful illustrations and truly engage with the postcard's messages. If you've manipulated the character assignments, then students could send and receive the postcards directly as though they are the characters. Having an audience for students' work is essential.
    Reflect. Ask students to review what they thought was interesting, insightful or just plain fun about their class mates' postcards. As their teacher it's rewarding to read about their shared successes and to explore their thought processes via writing. For the students, reflection is important to clarify their learning.
    Display the cards in a manner that allows them to reveal the message or the illustration. Often the choice is difficult as students are proud of both accomplishments. If you can cleverly display both sides, that's bonus.

This idea was originally borrowed from Dr. Kathy Philips (teaches Children's and Adolescent Literature at UNL~ I highly recommend the classes). She tells me the idea is so old she can't remember where she borrowed it. The concept was new to me, and I now use it every year. I hope it helps you!

* Attached examples come from Black Boy by Richard Wright.

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