Last week our school celebrated Literacy Week. Our entire school participated in a ton of fun activities including Flat Stanley, a Writers Symposium and an Inuit Storyteller.
But for my class of 6 and 7-year-olds, the hands-down favourite activity was our Friday Pajama and Fort-Building Day. After the forts were built the kids were encouraged to read their favourite books inside. Okay, stop laughing. A few determined souls actually did lie down and read.
The kids all came to school in their jammies, with slippers, stuffies, blankets and flashlights.
All day long they were asking me, “When can we build our forts?”
The happy hour finally arrived at 1:00. Armed with a few simple rules (respect other people’s forts and ask before taking something) they were set to go.
It was a noisy activity and I felt kind of sorry for the teacher next door, but the sheer excitement, happiness (I heard “This is the BEST day EVER!” more than once) and gazillion benefits that go along with such an activity, made it all worthwhile.
8 REASONS FOR BUILDING CLASSROOM FORTS:
1. Develops PLANNING Skills: Just what IS the best way to maximize the room and comfort of the fort? The kids had to work that out for themselves as there was very little adult assistance. Do they use the desks? The chairs? One blanket or two?
2. Promotes TEAMWORK: The kids started out building their forts either alone or in small groups, but before the end of the day the magic kicked in and they made one big, beautiful, gigantic structure! A lot of negotiation and compromise was needed.
3. Develops PROBLEM-SOLVING Skills: Initially the blankets kept collapsing in the middle so the kids were trying to figure out how to fix that. Tying knots in the blankets? Masking tape? And where is the best spot for that masking tape so that you’re not wasting it all?
4. Promotes IMAGINARY Play: How can you help but NOT use your imagination when crawling through tunnels of blankets and chair legs. Jungles, animals, caves, subways, fairy forests …
5. Can Provide a CALMING Effect: Okay, to be honest, most of the kids were pretty hyped up. But there were actually 4 or 5 who just lay down in a quiet, forgotten corner of the fort and either read or closed their eyes and chilled for a bit.
6. Increases FOCUS: All these kids were extremely focused on accomplishing their common goal. Not once did I have to remind someone to get “on task”! Can you imagine? Haha.
7. Facilitates SPATIAL INTELLIGENCE: In order to build a fort, you need to be able to visualize it (or at least an aspect of it) before beginning. Then it helps to be able to picture the next stage in your mind’s eye. While this is going on you’re making one quick decision after another.
8. Builds SELF-CONFIDENCE: My kids were absolutely BEAMING whenever they built a new structure, or made the existing fort a little bigger or better in some way. Every change, adjustment, refinement brought a resurgence of pride.
Have you built forts in YOUR classroom? I’d love to hear about it.