Anatomy of a Creative Novel Study

by Kristin Woolums, M.Ed.

A creative study based on From the Mixed-Up files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler

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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is a Newbery Award-winning novel about two children who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The story combines adventure and comedy, and each year, my 5th graders eagerly tell me how much they love it!

Originally published in 1968, one might think that it wouldn’t appeal to today’s youth, but here’s how I foster a love of a novel that’s over 40 years old:

A Virtual Field Trip

Early in the story, the lead characters, Claudia and Jamie, run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I take my students to the computer lab for a virtual field trip to see the sights that Claudia and Jamie would have seen (www.metmuseum.org). The website allows students to see priceless pieces of art that they perhaps would never get to see, so I allow them to browse through the many pieces shown online. Click here for a printable sheet about the virtual tour.

The students supply a few details about their favorite pieces, including a rough sketch, which they record on a note-taking guide (click here to print it). We discuss the proper way to react to art and that there are many pieces that showcase the human body in tastefully, yet unclothed, ways (just a head’s up!).

A Great Debate

There are several ethical decisions that Claudia and Jamie encounter throughout the story:

o Stealing money from the museum’s fountain so they could eat

o Sneaking around and lying so they wouldn’t get caught living in the museum

o Worrying their parents by running away

Each student chooses whether they thought the action was justified or not, and in a traditional debate setting, we civilly discuss the matter at hand. This makes for some very teachable moments, and the students love this!

A Creative Culmination

To end the study, the students participate in a creative “summary-by-chapter” book report. A post describing all of the details about this creative project, including a rubric, is coming next on A Learning Experience. The best part is that this idea can be adapted to any novel!

This wonderful and timeless adventure about two children running away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is chock full of adventure, comedy, and a sense of family as Claudia and Jamie learn to survive in the real world. My students enjoy the novel, and I hope Ms. Konigsburg is happy that I’ve taken her exciting novel to the next level by interjecting classroom reading with a virtual field trip, a debate, and a creative book report project!

Kristin’s Chapter-by-Summary book report idea (including a rubric) is coming next on A Learning Experience!

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.

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3 Comments

Filed under Assessments, comprehension, Field Trips, Reading, reading aloud, reluctant readers, technology, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Anatomy of a Creative Novel Study

  1. ecossick

    I love these ideas, Kristin! The Met site makes me want to go there right now. What a creative way to integrate the arts with literature. Love it!

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