No-cost celebrations can become cherished memories for your students.
Remember the fun you used to have building forts at home? Draping a sheet or tablecloth over some furniture and spending hours in the tent? It’s even more fun at school!
First: Lay down a challenge for your class:
+ Read a given number of chapter books
+ Reach your AR goal for the month or grading period
+ Memorize math facts (when every student in your class masters multiplication facts, that is a feat most worthy of celebration!)
The reward: Fort Day. Bring in clean sheets and tablecloths for draping over classroom furniture (tell students not to bring fitted sheets). Desks make a good foundation, and textbooks hold the sheets in place. Students enjoy their forts — they can read, play board games, or just hang out for an hour.
If you want to really have fun, let kids make one giant fort out of the whole classroom. My class created different rooms and hallways, and had a blast crawling through the fort!
My experience: Fort Day should last no longer than two hours (including set-up and clean-up), usually the last hours of a Friday. Fort Day is best as a one-time good deal. The second Fort Day in one year just doesn’t have the same magic.
Lay down a Fort Day reading challenge that ends right before your state achievement tests. If students can qualify for Fort Day by reading chapter books and nonfiction, THEY WILL READ A LOT OF BOOKS. Everyone benefits!
Build vocabulary with “Fort” words: fortitude, forte, and fortuitous all have to do with strength, just like a real fort. Have your class look for more fort words in the dictionary. They will find fortunate, unfortunate, fortunately—and forty. No matter what I say, my students just won’t accept that “forty” isn’t a fort word in this lesson plan. I back down and tell the kids they have a point—it does have “fort” in it, doesn’t it?
IMPORTANT! Set Fort Day rules. The most important rule: don’t fart in the fort. You will be very sorry if you don’t make this a rule. The girls in my class insisted on it. The boys followed it. Kids get very excited on Fort Day, and excited kids can be naughty kids. I just had the offenders sit out for a few minutes, then rejoin the group. I didn’t have repeat offenders.
I recommend blankets for the base of the fort and sheets or tablecloths for the tents. Blankets don’t make good tents because they don’t “breathe” and the forts get stuffy. eHow offers tips on making forts at home here, here and here.