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Lisa DeBord


As a second grade teacher at Rancho Santa Fe Elementary School in Avondale, Arizona, Lisa DeBord appreciates great activities that encourage literacy. One of her favorites, however, isn't from her current classroom. It was an event that occurred during her third grade student teaching experience at West Point Elementary in Surprise, Arizona.

"The Passport to Literacy program was designed to bring K-8 students together outside of school time to celebrate great literature and to encourage them to explore genres, authors, or books they might otherwise have overlooked," recalls DeBord. "The program was the brainchild of the staff at the school, and the turnout was overwhelming! Approximately 45-50 percent of the student body showed up to the event, which took place in the evening during the week."

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When students and their families arrived, they each were given a passport" and a "field guide" identifying readers (teachers, staff, and local celebrities) stationed in each classroom. Each classroom had a different theme and reader, and each session lasted for 20-25 minutes. Students were permitted to visit the rooms in any order, but they had to stay long enough in each room to correctly answer a question about what was happening there and to have their "passport" stamped. "Once they had a certain number of stamps, students returned to the customs station" to declare" what they had learned and enjoyed. They then could choose a prize."

Parents enjoyed the "traveler" theme, and students liked making connections between readers and themes. "One of the most popular rooms," reported DeBord, was a local weatherman reading Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."

The experience showed favorite teachers and local celebrities in a different light. DeBord, who manned the customs station, was amused and delighted by comments students shared after they had traveled to the various rooms.

"We scheduled our Passport to Literacy for three hours (from 4:00 to 7:00 pm), so students could realistically only visit six rooms if they stayed the whole time," said DeBord. "But we had 12 readers in different rooms, so students and parents could make their own decisions about who they wanted to hear."

DeBord's advice to others who would like to hold an event similar to Passport to Literacy is to get the community involved. She suggests asking local companies to donate prizes and local celebrities to be readers. And, of course, she believes it is wise to have more than enough activities to keep families busy for the entire evening.

"Promote it heavily, and save one or two surprises to tease people with," DeBord suggests. "Use statements like, 'You'll never believe who we got to read Green Eggs and Ham! Come out to see for yourself!'"

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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