Camp Read Away: Another Idea For March Is Reading Month


camp read away, ideas for march is reading month, camp read away, ideas for march is reading monthI think that my students’ favorite thing that we do for March is Reading Month is Camp Read Away.  I’ve collected 8 tents over the years.

You can pick up some great buys at garage sales, and when my close friend Maria asked me what I wanted for my birthday she wasn’t too surprised when I said: “The purple Disney Princess tent”.

It easily holds 4 giggling girls and they LOVE “reading away” in it! Camp Read Away is an easy theme day to throw together. Here’s how I do it:

Notes Home:

I Launch Camp Read-Away on a Friday; I send a letter home about it on Monday with a reminder on Thursday.  To make “camping” a bit more fun, I ask parents to please send a flashlight to school with their child.  Click on the link to view/print the letters. 


The night before I cover my windows with black bulletin board paper, and set up the tents.  I like to have the windows covered so that when my students enter the room it is entirely pitch black; they have only their flashlights to guide them.  They love the adventure.

I have foam alphabet and number puzzle mats that I put on the floor as a path that leads to the various tents.   I tell my students to stay on the path.  If they fall off they’ll land in the Camp Read Away swamp and could be eaten by a crocodile!  This adds to the excitement.

Set the mood:

I put a CD of a thunderstorm in my boom box.  I flip it on so that when they enter the pitch-black campground it’s raining.  A rumble of thunder cracks and startles the children whose eyes are still not adjusted to the darkness.  It makes the adventure even more fun!

I put a small basket of books in each tent.  I’ve already explained to them that they are to read quietly with their flashlights for a full 10 minutes.   As an incentive to get them “down to business” I tell them that if their tent is quiet, I will come around with glow-in-the-dark bracelets; they may choose any neon color they wish to wear for the day, but they have to be caught quietly reading to earn one.  This does the trick to simmer them down!

smores, camp read away, ideas for march is reading monthSnack Time:

For snack we have Smores. I have parents who signed up at my Open House that are willing to provide things for our special occasions. I’ve already sent a note home with those children asking them to provide an ingredient for our Smores.

They are easily made in the microwave.  Depending on how many students you have, you’ll need 3-4 Nestle candy bars, a bag of large marshmallows, and a box of cinnamon graham crackers.  I like the cinnamon kind because they taste better.   Because they are so rich, each child gets only ½  a graham cracker.

Break the tiny chocolate rectangles apart.  Put 1-2 rectangles on top of ½ a graham cracker, put a marshmallow on top of the cracker; put 4 of these stacks on a paper plate and then set in the microwave for 5 seconds. Keep watching through the window that they are melting.  Add more seconds if needed.  Immediately put the other graham cracker on the top when they have melted.

Continue to make more until you have enough for each child.  I have a microwave right in my classroom so this really helps.  I’ve put the tents back up and my Y5’s are once again reading, while I’m making snack.  I have my “mood lighting” on.  They still like to read with their flashlights even though it’s not necessary.

 ideas for reading with a flashlite, camp read away, ideas for march is reading monthLessons:

It’s basically a regular day except that our tabletop and their centers revolve around a “camping” and “reading” theme.  For example one of their centers is to cut out a circle and glue it to a Dixie cup and then Pinch & Poke a pattern in the top.  When everyone is done, we again turn off the lights, put our flashlights inside the cup and see our star design on the ceiling!

We play flashlight tag, sing the alphabet song with the flashlights, add and subtract numbers with the flashlights, and play “I Spy” with the flashlights.  To sing the alphabet song just put the beam of the flashlight on the letter and move it along.

To add and subtract, write the numbers 0-10 with a black marker on a piece of tag board; include the symbols + - and = on the bottom line. Move the flashlight beam to a number, then to a + or - symbol then another number then the = sign.  Whoever calls out the correct answer first, gets to hold the flashlight next.

ideas for march is reading month, camp read away, easy readers, class books, I play “I Spy a Shape” and point the flashlight beam to the door. My students should say,  “Rectangle.” We also play  “I Spy a Color.” My students have to say the color of the object the flashlight beam is on, in English and Spanish.

For a reading-writing extension they TRACE-WRITE-CUT-and GLUE their My Camping Booklet together and then we read it as a whole group.  They enjoy taking these "easy readers" home and sharing them with their families. Click on the link to view the booklet.

To reinforce listening and following directions we do a camping glyph, as well as a camping-alphabet slider. We sing the alphabet song with that and they manipulate the paper strip sliding it up and down as I ask for various letters. Click on the link to view my Activities For Camp Read Away Book

skunk, ideas for march is reading month, campfire songs, camp read awayStory Time:

I found a blow up campfire at a garage sale, that I blow up with a bicycle pump. I set this in front of my rocking chair.   Before I had the blow up campfire, I crumpled up red, yellow and orange tissue paper and laid it around and under a real birch bark log.   I stuck a small flashlight that I had wrapped in tissue beside it.  I use this during story time and we read by the campfire and sing campfire songs.

I have a few favorite songs that I teach my Y5's:  A Camping We Will Go and  The Little Skunk. I have a skunk puppet that I use to help out.  Because we're learning to count in a variety of ways we also sing 10 Little Campers to the tune of 10 Little Indians.  They enjoy making an Itty Bitty Number Booklet as we "Camp Count" by 10's to 100 as well as 1's, and then count backwards from 10-0 and blast off.  The Itty Bitty number booklet also counts by 2's, 3's and 5's for older students.  Click on the hot links to view/print the songs.

I also play the CD "Goin' On A Bear Hunt" Our paper bag bears are still hibernating in their big leaf bag cave, but will soon be awakening on the first day of spring (March 20th).  I thought it would be fun to do this musical-movement song, since bears are often seen at campgrounds.  We sit in a circle and repeat what the narrator says as well as a movement that they do.

Michael Rosen's Board Book Goin On A Bear Hunt is animated in this YouTube video and the author does his personal version of the book in this Goin' On A Bear Hunt YouTube video.  Check out the next YouTube video to see another song that we sing. 

After we go on our initial bear hunt we sing this song and instead of catching a bear we catch different animals.  This song leads us into our writing transition, where each student illustrates their own page and writes about what animal they caught on our bear hunt.  Click on the link to view/print this Class Book.   

There is another You Tube video called Goin' On A Lion Hunt that you can show and do a comparison contrast discussion of the two stories.  You could also have your students write their own version of the bear story using another animal like these children did with the lion.  Have them substitute different things that they will cross or go through to make their adaptation even more interesting.  You can have them graph which story they liked better.  Click on the link to view/print the graph.

My favorite camping story that I read to my Y5's is a hilarious rhyming book called A Camping Spree With Mr. Magee.  {amazonWS:itemId=0811836037}

princess tent, goin on a bear hunt, camp read away, ideas for march is reading month

At the end of the day we toss Ebony the skunk back and forth and share what part of the day was our favorite.  I give everyone a certificate of participation.  Click on the link to print/view a Camp Read Away certificate.

I keep the tents available for the next week and simply pop a few of the biggest ones up during Free Play center time and Free Reading time.  They are great for imaginative play, and a “super-duper-shutter-upper” when I want them to quietly read.  

Even if you only invest in one tent, it is really worth it, because of the fun YOU and your students will have.  I set a timer so that everyone gets a turn in the princess tent, even the boys!

princess tent, goin on a bear hunt, camp read away, ideas for march is reading monthThanks for visiting.  Feel free to PIN away.

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading, or do things worth writing about." -Benjamin Franklin


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