Learning Plans & Activities
Wish You Were Here!: Postcards from the Imagination

In this lesson, students choose a favorite work of literature, film, or television from the genres of fantasy or science fiction, and re-imagine that work as a real-life travel destination. This lesson can be completed over the course of two class sessions or used as an in-class project or a homework activity.

SUBJECT:

Art

Language arts

GRADE LEVELS:

3-5

POSSIBLE PARTNERS:

English teacher, art teacher, librarian

LEARNING OBJECTIVES:

Students will improve reading comprehension, summary skills, and creativity through the act of interpretation.

MATERIALS NEEDED:

Classroom text/Library fiction books

Art supplies: poster board cut into 4x6 rectangles, magic markers/pens

TIME NEEDED:

Two to three days

STANDARDS ADDRESSED:

AASL Standards Framework for Learners

I.B.3. Generating products that illustrate learning.

III.B.1. Using a variety of communication tools and resources.

V.A.1.Reading widely and deeply in multiple formats and write and create for a variety of purposes.

V.C.1. Expressing curiosity about a topic of personal interest or curricular relevance.

Common Core Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.1
Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.7
Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)

Instructional Procedure

This activity can be integrated with an existing reading assignment, or used to encourage students to explore unassigned books on their own. If students will be choosing the books for the activity, the first day of the project can be centered around a common text from science fiction or fantasy genres.

1. Facilitate an informal discussion in class around the role of setting and place in such works. Examples can include Oz, Neverland, Hogwarts, etc. Ask students to describe what makes those imaginary locales not only interesting, but important to the story that unfolds within them. Example: If Oz did not have a yellow brick road as part of its landscape, Dorothy and her friends would not have a guide for their journey. The most prominent landmark in Mordor (from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings) is the tower of Sauron, with its ever watchful eye.

2. After discussing the value setting has in works of fantastical fiction, ask students what sights they would most like to see if they were to take a vacation to one of these fictional locations. Then, assign one of the following:

  • Option A: Choose one work of sci-fi/fantasy, and create an inviting postcard for its setting. Include aspects of the setting you feel are most important and that illustrate what is most captivating about it. (Encourage students to consider famous locations from literature, comics, film, and television.) Include a slogan ("Enjoy a vacation through the looking glass!" for Alice in Wonderland, or for A Wrinkle in Time, "Feeling Stressed? Take a rest on Uriel!") that helps transform the location into an attractive travel destination.

  • Option B: Choose one work of sci-fi/fantasy, and write a travelogue for it. Imagine you are a travel agent trying to persuade more tourists to visit that location and write a paragraph that "sells" the setting as an inviting locale. For example, if using one of the Harry Potter books, you can create a travel brochure for Diagon Alley (or any of the other magical places) that includes travel tips and reviews wizarding shops ("How to get the best deal at Eeylops Owl Emporium," or "Visit Madam Malkin for the latest trends in wizarding robes!")

3. When students have completed their postcard or travelogue, have them share their results with each other in class or in small groups, and describe their process:

  • Why did they choose their imagery and slogan?
  • What about the setting itself appeals them?
  • What role did the setting play in the events of the plot? Was the setting itself a sort of character in the work?

Differentiation

Students can complete this activity during class time, or as an independent project. Instructors can choose options A or B if they want students to focus on either visual expression or writing. (Or, students can choose their own option, which can be an indicator of learning style and/or communication strengths.)

Assessment

Students will be assessed on their ability to:

  • Identify the role of setting in a work of literature or film
  • Interpret a literary element and present it in a new context
  • Distinguish relevant details of a text from less important elements

This project is an effective way to not only teach a fundamental part of critical analysis (selecting and describing details, interpreting in new contexts), but helps inspire student interest in reading. The act of imagining themselves as tourists who "enter" a work of literature or film enables them to interact with the material in a refreshing way that can strengthen both literacy and critical thinking skills. This exercise can be a fun, unconventional way for younger readers to take ownership of literary works, and possibly embrace those works as new favorites.

Additional Resources

Read more about this topic in Seth's editorial, "Literary Journeys to Ignite the Imagination."

Houston, Lynn Marie. Literary Geography: An Encyclopedia of Real and Imagined Settings. ABC-CLIO/Greenwood, 2019. https://products.abc-clio.com/ABC-CLIOCorporate/product.aspx?pc=A4991C

Vardell, Sylvia M. "Children's Literature Basics. Fantasy." School Library Connection, ABC-CLIO, September 2015, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/1960212?learningModuleId=1960216&terms=science+fiction&tab=3&topicCenterId=2158571.

Vardell, Sylvia M. "Finding Fantasy for Any Reader." School Library Connection, September 2019, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2217063.

Wipf, Joan Brogan, and Denise Da Ros-Voseles. "Lost Opportunities: Rediscovering Fairy Tales." Library Media Connection, 30, no. 4, January 2012. School Library Connection, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/1979571.

Seth Taylor

MLA Citation Taylor, Seth. "Wish You Were Here!: Postcards from the Imagination." School Library Connection, March 2020, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2250330?childId=2250331.

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Entry ID: 2250331

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