When a piece of literature written in 1967 holds up in 2017, you know it is a true work of art. E.L. Konigsburg’s Newbery Medal-winning book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a favorite of mine for many reasons. My students love it as well, whether used as a read aloud or in small reciprocal teaching groups.
In the story, main character Claudia is bored with the monotony of her life in Connecticut and decides to run away with her younger brother. Since Claudia is a planner, she creates an itinerary for them to hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art with the quest to “learn one new thing every day.” During the adventurous tale, Claudia and her brother uncover a mystery that relates to Michelangelo. Eventually, they find their way home with the help of wise Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler herself.
If you choose to read this book with students, there are many ways to extend and enrich student learning. Here are a few of my favorites:
A Virtual Visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- If you haven’t already utilized the MET’s website, it is a must-see, thanks to its vast and robust educational resources and online art collections. In the book, characters Claudia and Jamie visit the Arms and Armor exhibit. I invite students to go on an Internet Scavenger Hunt. Their task? Click through the online gallery of Arms and Armor. Find a favorite artifact, and either print it and write general information about it on the printed page or copy and post the picture in their online portfolio using SeeSaw. Access the online gallery.
- Claudia and Jamie visit the Egyptian Wing of the museum, and a statue of a cat captures Claudia’s attention. Have students search for this cat in the MET’s collection, or send them directly to the statue of the cat and extend it by reading and discussing the information below the picture.
Virtual Tour of the Sistine Chapel
- To help with background information as well as the history of Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, have students check out the chapel itself. Here is a link to a 360 picture. Please note: use professional judgment when accessing this link with students, as many of Michelangelo’s paintings have humans in their natural form. You can still get the effect of the magnitude of this project without zooming in.
- As a follow-up, have the students paint like Michelangelo. Have students tape a piece of paper to the underside of their desk. Then, students should gather materials and paint while lying on their backs. This will lead to a great discussion about how challenging this process must have been. For students who are curious, here is more detailed information.
- For those of you who are fortunate enough to take a field trip to the actual museum, here is the MET’s visitor’s guide for fans of the book: http://libmma.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15324coll10/id/150652
- If you’d like a culminating activity for the book, this WebQuest is fantastic: http://zunal.com/webquest.php?w=3043
Paired Reading Selections:
Paired reading selections help students better understand the original text and vice versa. Discussing their similarities and differences can help students understand when it is best to use fiction vs. nonfiction. Discussing the different techniques authors use for each genre is also beneficial for student understanding. Here are a few books that I like to pair with From the Mixed-Up Files…:
- Fiction Chapter book: In the book Superfudge by Judy Blume, the characters visit the MET on a field trip. My students love realizing that this is the same setting as From the Mixed-Up Files…, and it is a fun comparison since the books are fiction, yet different genres and styles.
- Nonfiction book: Inside the Museum: A Children’s Guide to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Fiction Picture book: You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum