It’s Fair Time!

This time of year, you might assume that I’m referring to the Great State Fair of Oklahoma.  I’m not.

I’m directing your attention to a mainstay of many southern elementary classrooms – the Reading Fair.

Being a teacher in a different state can often afford one the opportunity to experience even more facets of the craft.  From the traditions, to the school menus (HELLO, red beans and rice for lunch and grits for breakfast), there are things that deserve a place in more schools in other states.

One of these traditions is the Reading Fair.

Here’s how it works.

1 – A student reads a fiction book.  Picture books usually work incredibly well for this.  I encourage my 5th graders to choose whatever speaks to them, even if it is a picture book.

2 – The student then identifies the bibliographic information and story elements.  These include title, author, illustrator, publisher and date, setting, main characters, author’s purpose, tone/mood, conflict, solution, and a summary.

3 – Using a trifold board, the student creates a display to showcase the information in such a way that people want to seek out the book and read it.

That’s it.

Now, here’s the cool part.  In Mississippi, where we once lived, the SDE hosts a state-wide competition.  It starts off in the local school.  The winners progress to a district competition.  From district, they advance to regionals, and then on to state.  While I was teaching there, I had a couple of my class projects progress to regionals.  The kids really eat this up.

This weekend I had the honor and privilege of organizing and judging the projects that were turned in to my school’s fair. This is what I saw.

I saw projects completed by a first grade class that were so amazingly cute (The Day the Crayons Quit). I saw a ton of 3rd graders’ projects – you could tell who worked with their parents and whose parents took the opportunity to teach their kid a new crafting skill. I saw projects that enabled students to say, “No, Mom.  I’ve got this.” I saw projects from advanced readers who looked at books in a new way.  I saw struggling readers begin the project with much trepidation and turn it in with the confidence of a lion.  I saw projects where small groups of students teamed up to read, discuss, and plan.  Then they had to cooperate and manage their time to complete the work.

I’ve seen some pretty amazing things this weekend.  While the projects are spectacular – I tear up when I see them, I get goose bumps when I talk about them – the best part is seeing the sparkle in the students’ eyes as you tell them what a wonderful job they’ve done.

(The following photos are from previous years’ projects.)  I’m more than happy to share how to hold your own Reading Fair.  Feel free to e-mail me!

Cowboy and Octopus Gargoyles How to Train Your Dragon Januarys Sparrow Nicholas Flamel


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