"My Side of the Mountain," by Jean Craighead George, is the story of a boy called Sam who runs away from home to live by himself in the wilderness of the Catskills. The story is rich in plot, character and natural details and gives many examples of survival skills. Whether your students are visual, audio, kinesthetic or interpersonal learners, they will understand the story more fully after working on these projects.
Visual learners retain information best when they receive it through pictures, and they will benefit most from projects that allow them to make visual representations of the story. Have students create a colored, labeled map of Sam's home on the mountain, or have them build a diorama depicting a central scene in the story. For a more comprehensive project, have students make a timeline of the events of Sam's stay in the wilderness. You may have them make their timeline after they finish reading the book to develop recall skills, or while they read the book to help them remember plot points.
Audio learners function best when they receive information by ear or through words. Writing assignments are a good way for such students to structure thoughts and present ideas. Have students keep a journal from Sam's point of view as they read the book, and after they have completed the reading, have them write a sequel chapter from Sam's point of view telling about his life after his time alone. Alternatively, you can tell them to imagine that Sam decides to publish a survival guide after the novel finishes, and have them write the guide from his perspective.
Kinesthetic learners benefit from hands-on, movement-oriented projects such as re-creations and simulations. To help these learners, assign each student a vignette from the book and have him or her perform it for the class. Students may pantomime Sam's survival techniques, or they may bring in props. They can also create sports or games that Sam could play with only the objects he has available in the woods and then teach their games to the rest of the class. The hands-on elements of these projects and the limitations on what materials they can use will help kinesthetic learners understand Sam's situation.
Some students work better in groups than they do individually. Interpersonal projects keep these students engaged and stop them from feeling overwhelmed. Divide the class into pairs of students, and have them interview one another. They may choose to act out such roles as a reporter interviewing the author, a reporter interviewing Sam, Sam interviewing the author, or the author interviewing Sam. You could also have students create surveys about the book with questions like the following:
"What was your favorite chapter?"
"What do you like best about Sam?"
"What would you have done differently?"
"What do you think happens to Sam after the story ends?"
Have those who created the survey canvass their classmates. Have them examine their results to find the most common and least common responses. They can then orally present these findings to the class.
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