Holes, by Louis Sachar, is one of my favorite young adult novels to read with my students. Although it's challenging for my classes (reading level 5.2), it's funny, engaging, and smart. This book doesn't talk down to my students. It's proud of its complexity, but not too proud to be silly in all the right ways. I mean, a book about pre-teen boys sweating away in a desert work camp is BOUND to include lots of stink-humor. And my kids LOVE it.
We've been reading aloud in small groups of 5-6 students. The kids take turns reading a page aloud, under the supervision and guidance of my amazing cohort, Chris, while I run grammar and writing skills groups. We use rotations, so small groups of students are all doing different things around the room at any given time, and I am fortunate to have Chris with me this year to help supervise these groups. I mean, after all, we KNOW 6th graders will always do what they're supposed to do without direct supervision, right?? Ha!
Anyway, the students have worked very hard through this book and have participated fully. They've asked thoughtful questions along the way to improve their understanding, they've made connections with their own experiences, and they've made smart predictions about what may happen next. Because they've knocked my socks off, I felt it was only fitting to celebrate the conclusion of the book with some fun activities. Feel free to use any of them with your own classes and modify things as you see fit (thought it's always nice to give credit to your source...ahem...me!). If you're on MyBigCampus, look me up (Katie Powell); I have quizzes and other resources in a bundle I'd happily share with you.
I selected 30 or so questions from the quizzes we've done along the way, focusing on themes and plot elements that run throughout the story (such as why Kate Barlow became an outlaw, how Zero and Stanley are connected back in their ancestry, what The Warden is really looking for, the importance of Stanley and Zero's journey on the mountain, etc). I printed a clip art of a shovel in a hole and pasted one question onto the back of each. I also printed a picture of treasure and one of a lizard (colored to have yellow spots). Then I asked our secretary to laminate them all.
For the game, I laid the "holes" out on the floor. Since my students are already divided into three groups, they played in their rotation groups, but you can group your students into any number of teams. The objective is to "dig" the most "holes" by answering questions correctly. The first player from the first team tosses a bean bag and has to answer the question the bean bag lands on. I did not allow team-mates to help so that each individual student was accountable for full participation. If the player cannot answer the question correctly, the card is returned to the floor. Similar to memory games, other players should make note of the card's location, especially if they know the answer, so they can get an easy "hole" on their turn. If the card has treasure on the back, everyone on the team gets a piece of candy (but I did not count this card as a "hole"). If the bean bag lands on a yellow-spotted lizard, the team must surrender a "hole." The team with the most "holes" when all cards are collected is the winner. Total game play for 3 teams of 5-6 students, 30+ cards, took us approximately 40-45 minutes.
My students were VERY engaged. They cheered and jumped around for the treasure and groaned and yelled about the lizards. And they KNEW the information!! I was so impressed by how well they did!
Typically I make games that can be applied to multiple areas of content, so I was hesitant to spend this much time setting up a game that would just be used once a year. But this book is such a hit year after year that I felt it was worth it.
This game could be used as an assessment. You could call students back one at a time to toss the bean bag to answer a set number of questions, however many you want for your assessment. You could tally how many they get right or wrong. You could even number the cards to keep question statistics, such as which questions were most often missed, etc. You could take a quiz or assessment score right from the game! I'd probably remove the lizard cards but keep the treasure in for random candy/sticker incentives along the way :)
To celebrate the end of the book, I set up centers around the room for the following activities:
1) Holes-inspired treats: donut holes, samples of various kinds of onions, dirt pudding, and sploosh (for us, I used peach-flavored applesauce, but peach preserves, sliced peaches, etc would also work).
2) What's Your Nickname prompt: I printed this page. The students wrote their Holes nickname on the name tag picture and then wrote a sentence explanation on the page. I had name tag stickers for them to wear too :) We then hung the prompts in the hallway.
3) Yellow-Spotted Lizard pencil pals: The students traced my example lizard twice onto craft foam, cut them out, and then I helped hot-glue them together along the sides, leaving the space down the middle open. I allowed the students to use any color spots they wanted. Once dry, you can slide a pencil down inside. This "pencil pal" keeps pencils from rolling off the desk :)
4) Moon Sand: On a teacher message board, a teacher said they go outside to dig holes every year to celebrate the end of the book. She said it's the student's favorite activity every year. I found this surprising and funny, so I told my class about it. And guess what--they all wanted to go dig holes. I don't know if you're familiar with February in Indiana, but our ground's pretty frozen. That's a no-go. But I found a recipe on Pinterest (yay!) for moon sand that called for 8 cups flour and 1 cup baby oil. I had about 3/4 cup baby oil, so I supplemented with cooking oil, and it seemed to work just fine :) I dumped the whole concoction in a large bucket, tossed in some sand box toys, and laid down a plastic table cloth to protect the floor. I tried it out at home with my own kiddos first, and I have a couple observations: my 3 year old was less messy than my 6th graders, and my 6th graders enjoyed the moon sand as much as my 3 year old. What a hit!
5) Of course, the movie was part of our celebration too! And since my projector burned out recently, we got to watch with our BRAND NEW projector! Woot!
We have ISTEP coming up in a week. But even if you don't have statewide testing (lucky!) or aren't in testing season, writing prompts are great assessments. This is the prompt I'm using this year:
I print several on a page and then cut them apart to affix to photocopied ISTEP prompt paper to keep the experience as authentic to our assessment as possible.
This is the rubric I'm using. The students do peer assessing first which helps deepen their own understanding of the writing process while also helping them catch their weaknesses. After revising, I grade. I use the rubric as a basic checklist (the element is present or isn't), but you could use a point scale too.