Writing Lesson of the Month Network

...sharing thoughtful, mentor text-inspired lessons your students will love!

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg is a classic in children's literature.  It captures the essence, and sometimes dangerous nature of a child's imagination.  It is a story about two chidren that find a board game that comes to life, and they have to finish it before the animals will go away.  I love this story, because of the foreshadowing, details, and suspense.  The foreshadowing is done in such a subtle way; you may find yourself being unintentionally drawn into the story.  I was also impressed at how Van Allsburg uses the adjectives to describe the animals and their behavior in the house.  He uses details in such a way that really allows the reader to, almost, be in the story.  Finally, the illustrations, also done by Van Allsburg, add so much to the story.  The images all seem to be drawn from a child's point of view.  I believe this adds another layer of description for the reader, as if they are there.   


I have two activities that pair well.  At the end of the book the story hints that Danny and Walter Budwing have just found the game in the park, and they do not read instructions well.  One activity to do is to have students continue the story from Danny and Walter's point of view.  Another activity could be used for a variety of cross-curriculum studies.  Have each student create their own board game.  It should include instructions, and perhaps each student can write their own version of Jumanji, revolving around their own board game.  It could be games about: the water cycle, biomes, Civil War, or Nevada History.  Give students a few spaces that must be included on their board, like people or events: Gettysburg, Battle of Bull Run, Battle of Antietam or Battle of Sharpsburg, Lincoln, Harriett Tubman, General Lee, General Sherman, General Grant.  It will show what students have learned about the subject, and students can then trade games and play with their classmates. 


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I really like how you took a creative mentor text and have used it to inspire games about more expository topics.  I can't think of a better way to excite students to build their own games than to use Mr. Van Allsburg as a "jumping off point."






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