One of my favorite books to share with students is The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups by David Wisniewski.
In this highly-entertaining book, Wisniewski takes several "rules" that children often hear -- like "eat your vegetables" -- and explains the real reason that rule exists. For example, we don't eat our vegetables because they make us healthy. The real reason we eat them is to stop them from rising up and taking over the world! Or, we don't brush our hair to help us look neat, we do it to stop the hair from growing back into our heads and crowding out our brains. The book is filled with hilarious examples and colorful illustrations that my students loved.
I read excerpts from this book over the course of a couple days, and several of my students looked at it in their free-time. We then set out to write our own examples for a class book entitled "The Secret Knowledge of Fourth Graders."
Here are some of the "rules" students wrote about:
- Why you need to read "Just Right Books"
- Why we use number 2 pencils on tests
- Why you can only check out 2 books from the library at a time
- Why we take AR tests
- Why it's important not to be tardy
- Why we return library books on time
- Why we have homework
- Why we use pencils instead of pens
- Why we don't bend the pages of a book
- Why we stack chairs at the end of the day
- Why we take standardized tests
I'm planning to share several of these examples with my students next year, and I will definitely do this activity again. My students enjoyed it so much that several of them were talking about making other "spin-off" books such as The Secret Knowledge of Minecraft Players or The Secret Knowledge of Readers. I'm sorry that I didn't get to see how those turned out as well.
If you've never read The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups, I highly recommend it. It's great for sparking creative writing ideas, and it can provide a fun writing activity in the late stages of the year.
What are some other school rules you can envision your students writing about? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments!