In a now infamous quote, Madeline L’Engle once wrote, “We can’t take any credit for our talents. It’s how we use them that counts.” Last week, we put our talents to good use – creating a special celebration to help younger readers gets excited about a classic story that has been beloved for more than 60 years. 5th grade hosted a party for 4th grade readers inspired by A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle. Over the last few weeks, 5th graders have been working hard to brainstorm and create activities, games, and crafts all inspired by Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin’s epic journey through the universe.
We knew that we wanted to throw a party that helped to bring this classic story to life for readers, and to make it more than just a normal book club. We wanted to celebrate the most exciting, spooky, and curious parts of Meg’s journey and help our younger readers to appreciate them, too. But where to start? How to keep it organized? And how to get it done in just a few library classes??
First, we read the book. 5th graders read over Spring Break, while 4th graders picked up copies when they received their invitations to our shindig a few weeks later. Next, during our library time, we brainstormed a big list of possible activity ideas. From a green screen to record our favorite scenes to a real life tesseract, no idea was too big or too hard! Our next step was to narrow down our list keeping three main ideas in mind: time, budget, and reality. We decided that 5-7 stations would be a good fit for our group, with more than 100 students in planned attendance. Here are the activities we decided on:
- An escape room-style game called Escape from It, which included challenges like searching around the room for hidden puzzle pieces, solving math problems, getting spooked by hidden characters, and board games
- A real-life tesseract, designed and created by hand (and tested many times!)
- A movement game based on the creepy scenes from Camazotz called Camazotz Sayz
- A Wrinkle in Time themed quiz game using online tool Kahoot
- A scavenger hunt with favorite quotes from the book hidden around the library
- Craft options like creating a pair of magic spectacles like Mrs. Who’s, designing your own planet, or drawing your favorite Wrinkle character
After selecting our activities, it was time to get down to business planning. 5th graders used their library time to work in groups on their chosen stations. With a very firm time limit in place, they did most of their work outside of school, keeping their half-finished creations behind the circulation desk for safe keeping. I opened the library before school and during middle school breaks to give them extra time to work. I mostly stayed out of the way and let them do their thing – but kept an open dialogue about logistics and supplies (no, we can’t actually lock people inside of the escape room; yes, I can find you 200 more pipe cleaners). The morning of the big event, 5th grade classes worked through their library and break time to get ready. We dimmed the lights, put some thunderstorm sounds on the stereo (it all started with a dark and stormy night, after all), and got ready for our guests to arrive.
Before the event began, both 4th and 5th graders got a pep talk about expectations. 4th graders were reminded that a lot of hard work went into planning the party, and we brainstormed ways to show the 5th graders that we appreciated and enjoyed their effort. 5th graders talked about what it meant to be leaders and role models, and how to inspire their younger guests to give their very best behavior. I believe that these conversations made a huge difference. If you’re planning a big event like this one, take the time to talk it out – it made the party so much more fun and meaningful for everyone!
Our party lasted approximately 60 minutes. After cycling through the stations, each 4th grade homeroom was assigned a 5th grade English class to sit with. Each group, with at least one teacher, relaxed in a comfy area to discuss the book while munching on cookies generously provided by the St. Anne’s kitchens. Here were some of our favorite discussion questions:
- If you were in trouble, who would you want to help you – Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, or Mrs. Which? Why?
- Think about Meg’s experience at school with her teachers and the other kids. Have you ever felt misunderstood or lonely like Meg?
- Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace take a lot of big risks. Have you ever taken a big risk? How did it work out? Are you glad you did it?
- If you had the opportunity to time travel, would you? Where/when would you go? The past? The future? Why would you go there?
- Who is the most courageous character?
- Meg is not a perfect person. Do you admire Meg? Why or why not?
- Did the plot of A Wrinkle in Time surprise you, or did you find it predictable?
- This book is more than 50 years old. Do you think that it has aged well since it won the Newbery Award in 1963? Why are why not?
- If you could talk to author Madeline L’Engle, is there a question that you would ask her?
These thoughtful questions – and their enthusiastic responses! – were the perfect way to wrap up a fun and exciting book club. After our 4th grade guests went back to theirclassrooms, the 5th grade met to reflect on the experience. We asked students to consider – what went well? What didn’t go so well? What surprised you? What would you change for next time?
As the perfect ending to our celebration, the 5th graders got to “chaperone” the 4th graders on a field trip to see A Wrinkle in Time in a local movie theater the morning after our party. What a way to bring the story to life and see things from a different angle! Our A Wrinkle in Time party was one of my favorite book clubs yet. Great job planning and leading, 5th grade! Thank you to Violet Crown for having us for this special treat, and to a generous donation from an anonymous member of the St. Anne’s-Belfield School community for making this unforgettable celebration possible.