"My Side of the Mountain" is the first in a trilogy of novels by award winning children's novelist Jean Craighead George. The author's passion for nature appears in most of her books, and this story of survival is no exception. In it, she writes the story of Sam, a teenage boy who leaves his city dwelling family for life alone in the mountains. The book is written on a sixth-grade level but is suitable for grades four to eight.
Essential Scenes Triptych
After reading the book, have students choose the three most essential scenes from the story's beginning, climax and end to illustrate. Have students create a triptych, a piece of art with three painted panels, of the three scenes. Provide students three pieces of heavy paper on which to sketch the scenes. After sketching, have students paint the scenes with acrylic paint or watercolors. Give each student a piece of large poster board paper on which to mount the three paintings side by side, illustrating the three main scenes of the story.
"My Side of the Mountain" contains information that could be used as part of a survival guide such as recipes, how to make a fish hook, ways to build a shelter and tips for interacting with wildlife. After discussing these with students, instruct them to identify what would be needed to survive in some different biomes. Assign students a biome or allow them to choose one. Have students write a survival guide, identifying five to 10 items needed for survival and the steps they would take to survive alone in the new biomes.
Another creative writing activity might include having each student write an imaginative personal adventure story. Ask students to imagine that they are going to escape family, friends and everyday life to go on an adventure alone. Students use the writing process, brainstorming ideas for the story and then crafting their imagined adventure in the style of George. Afterward, have students share their stories with the class aloud, and then bind all the stories together in a class book.
Animal Perspective Poems
Sam befriends animals in the story that the author describes in detail. The animals become an important part of the story and of Sam's survival. Have students write poems retelling scenes from the story from the point of view of some of the animals as they interacted with Sam. The novel contains many examples of figurative language that students might also identify and use as a starter in writing the poems. Personification, simile and hyperbole are three of the figurative language devices the author frequently uses.
Story Trivia Game
Instruct students to think of themselves as trivia game writers for the book. Have students create a game themed board for the game on poster board. Instruct them to create a background, path for moving game pieces, game pieces and a set of rules for the game. Students then write questions and answers about the story on index cards, with answers on one side and questions on the other. Provide students with time to try out their games with other students so that they all have an opportunity to answer questions about the story.
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