Distance Learning Reading Activity

I wasn’t sure distance learning and reading groups were going to work, but I recently tried a reading activity with my students that was a big hit. I sent students home with one of three reading group books before self-quarantine started due to COVID-19. I prepared three separate letters from the point of view of a key character in each book. Next, I stuffed envelopes with a book character letter, activity directions, and a pre-addressed stamped envelope for a return letter. Finally, I dropped the character letters in the mail.

point of view character letters

Within two days, students began emailing me to say their letter arrived! Forget the fact that this was a reading activity; students were so excited to get real actual mail addressed to them! It helped motivate them to write careful responses from the point of view of the main character in their reading group book.

Reading Activity Materials

  • Copies of character letters (enough for each student reading a book)
  • Class set of activity directions (enough for all students in your class)
  • 2 class sets of envelopes (one envelope to mail to your students, one envelop for the return letter)
  • 2 class sets of stamps (one stamp for outgoing letter, one stamp for pre-addressed letter for the reply)

point of view character letters

Character Letter Activity Directions

  • Prepare your letter from the point of view of a principal character in your reading group book. Add fun details that reflect character traits and setting from the story. For example, in my letter for the book, Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey, I added a sprinkle of fake snow to the envelope. The story takes place in Alaska, so I included the fake snow to represent the setting of the story. In my letter for Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, I added smudged fingerprints. Danny’s dad is a mechanic. The fingerprints reflect the dad’s job, and how his hands get greasy when he works.
  • Here are my SAMPLE LETTERS to help create your own version of a letter from a book character.
  • Write a page with directions about your expectations for the assignment. I used these LETTER WRITING DIRECTIONS.
  • Pre-address and pre-stamp envelopes with the address where you want the return letters to go. I used my home address since we are in quarantine due to COVID-19.
  • Stuff each envelope with directions, one character letter, and a pre-addressed/stamped letter and seal closed.
  • Address and mail to each student.

Alternate Letter Ideas

  • If your students don’t have book group books, mail directions with a pre-addressed envelope and ask students to mail back a reply from the point of view of a book character in any book they are reading.
  • Depending on the activities of your students while in quarantine, ask them to mail you a favorite recipe with specific directions (procedural writing) or a letter about an activity at their house (descriptive writing), or a letter explaining why/why not social distancing is important (persuasive writing).
  • Include stamped postcards to save on the cost of postage or handle it all through email. Email can be a good option if you are worried about the spread of COVID through regular mail.

point of view character letters

To purchase low prep novel units for my three reading group books, click HERE, HERE, and HERE. To see another fun reading activity that thinks about point of view, CLICK HERE to read about a through the keyhole setting activity.

As classrooms across the country adjust to distance learning, teachers are scrambling to adapt their curriculum to an online format. It is not realistic to expect the same content or type of instruction in the distance learning class, but parents can expect innovative teaching ideas as teachers try new ways to activate student knowledge from afar. This reading activity is one way to assess reading comprehension, writing skills, and even keyboarding or handwriting skills. It also has real world application since it involves using proper letter format. Finally, if you are looking for an outside activity during quarantine, this might offer an opportunity to walk to your local mailbox (or at least to the end of the driveway).

Peek-a-Boo Book Scene

If you are looking for a creative way to assess student summer reading, have your kids design a Peek-a-Boo book scene. The purpose of the Peek-a-Boo book scene is to think about point of view, put yourself in the main character’s shoes, and see what the character sees. Or, you could add a twist to the project and ask students to consider events from a flipped perspective and design a scene that shows a different angle than what the narrator described in the book.

Peek a Boo Book Scene

For the activity, students choose a favorite scene from a book they read and imagine what the character’s world looks like through his/her eyes. Students draw the scene using details from the text and then build their “window” pocket. To finish, readers slide the snapshot of the character’s view into the frame to create a unique peek inside the book’s world.

Peek-a-Boo Book Scene Options

  • The simplest option for the drawing is to have students choose a favorite scene, imagine they are the main character, and create a drawing of the scene the way the book character would see it and describe it. If you want to make the activity a little more challenging, have students consider a different vantage point. They can draw the scene as an onlooker observing the main character or from the perspective of another character in the story who is involved in the scene.
  • Draw multiple scenes and stack them in the frame pockets, so students can switch the view if they want to see something new.

Peek a Boo Book Scene

  • Use THESE PEEK-A-BOO TEMPLATES for the story scene drawings and the frames. You have the option to print a frame that has a wooden texture on it, or you can print solid white frames and let students design the outer edge. In the image below from Danny the Champion of the World by Dahl, you see a view through a keyhole into Danny’s gypsy caravan home. The frame has been decorated to look like an old gypsy caravan.

Peek a Boo Book Scene

  • Create your own type of frame. You could think about what Ivan sees in the mall and create a frame that looks like an animal cage if you are reading The One and Only Ivan by Applegate. You could design a shop store window and peek into Sarah’s bakery in The Bread Winner by Whitmore. I like THIS EXAMPLE for younger students with curtains. And I love THIS SCENE that gives the illusion of night with a flashlight beam.
  • If you think creating the pocket for the scene picture to slide in and out will be too complicated for your group, simply attach the scene behind the window view with tape or glue. You would still need to cut the openings in the window view, but you could leave all the white border edges around the drawings and attach straight to the back of the peek-a-boo frame.

This craftivity can be adapted to use with almost any picture book or novel. In the samples below you see Luke’s view from the attic vents in Among the Hidden by Haddix (image 1), and Chester the cat’s view of the family living room in Bunnicula by Howe and Howe (image 2).

Peek a Boo Book Scene

Peek a Boo Book Scene

When readers think about story scenes from multiple viewpoints, they develop a deeper understanding of the characters. By analyzing the scene in different ways, students activate their critical thinking skills and become more observant readers. We often ask students to create a mental image of what is happening in the books they are reading; the peek-a-boo book scene gives students the opportunity to illustrate a concrete image of what is happening in the story and build a stronger connection to the book character’s world.

If you need more creative ideas to spice up your novel studies and guided reading activities, CLICK HERE to see another blog post with project ideas for chapter books.

To purchase low prep novel units mentioned in this blog post, click the links below.