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Character Gifting and Creativity

A recent assignment seemed to foster creativity and autonomy and surprisingly, was a big hit! Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli was our first read aloud of the year. We usually use this novel as a springboard for many other skills including introducing character development and story elements. Growing tired of the usual when reading this novel and toying with the idea to encourage students to "make their mark" and tap into their passions, I wanted something different. Thinking about an earlier discussion we had on passions and talents, I thought it would be neat if students could somehow tie their passions to a character from our book. Hence, the "Character Gifting" assignment was born.

It was simple:  

"If you had to give a pretend gift to one of the characters from Maniac Magee, what would you give and to whom? Choose one character from Maniac Magee. Think about that character’s personality and character traits.

Next, think about what you are passionate about. Video games? What is a video game you would give to Maniac and why? Are you interested in designing clothes? Design a dress for Amanda based on her sassy personality and explain your design.

This can be anything you are interested in and you may “give” it to any character in the story.

Your final product only needs to contain what gift you would give to which character and why; although you can turn in drawings or anything else you choose to create. Be as creative as you can be!"

I'm not quite sure what I expected to see, to be honest. I wasn't even sure the assignment explanation did an adequate job capturing what I could envision in my mind, but I was optimistic.  And pleasantly surprised.

What trickled in were drawings, homemade miniatures, various hand-crafted objects based on student talent or hobby. I was impressed to say the least.

A party invitation so Amanda Beale can get out of the house and have some real fun!

A home-made tiny dictionary so Amanda can carry it in her pocket and not have to lug it around in her suitcase.

A fashionable book tote made from paper. 

Homemade books for the fashionable book tote because... Amanda loves books!

A home-made book shelf made from scrap lumber in the garage.

A tiny miniature bunk-bed since Amanda, Hester, and Lester all have to share a room when Maniac comes to stay with the Beale Family. 
A passion for creating items made of Duck Tape, turned into a book satchel for Amanda.



 It wasn't just the creative ideas that students came up with that impressed me, but the attention to details and the thought process most students really put into thinking through the assignment. And as the creative products trickled in, the more students became inspired by their peers. "Can I have my drawing back? I just thought of something else I could add that Maniac would really appreciate." I heard this statement several times throughout the week. Once all of the character gifts were turned in, we displayed them on a long computer table in the back. Students have enjoyed sharing and seeing one another's ideas and products. They've complimented one another, asked for details on how things were made in awe, and sparked some excitement and confidence in bringing our passions into our educational arena. After all, what good is education if it doesn't encourage curiosity and creativity? 

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