Journey, the middle grades novel by Patricia LacLachlan, lends itself really well to related vocabulary activities, and it’s a great choice for upper elementary kids as well as those middle school students who do best with shorter easy-to-read novels for whatever reason. Actually, people of all ages enjoy reading this easy little story. Mainly it’s just a great little book, in my opinion.
Journey (also the name of the main character) is about an eleven year kid who, along with his older sister, Cat, is learning to adapt to life with his grandparents and without his mother after her sudden departure. Family photos feature prominently in the story, and throughout the narrative, Journey’s grandfather uses the camera as a means to help Journey to understand and adapt to his new situation.
But for now, back to vocabulary. As I was putting together a vocabulary list, I noticed that it was just an interesting set of words. Especially the terms related to photography. There are so many ways that words from a list like this could be used as a basic for interesting vocabulary lessons.
Even a simple word like film can lead to lots of activities and discussion. For example:
Multiple Meaning Word Activity
Here are some of the main uses of the word film: 1. camera film 2. a thin coating (film of ice) 3. related to movies (film star) 4. to record a video (to film a movie) Kids can define, illustrate, and use the word with its various meanings and discuss whether the multiple meanings seem to be related or totally separate.
Parts of Speech
Film can be a noun, an adjective, or a verb. Time for a quick and easy parts of speech lesson?
What is film. How was film used? How was film developed? Maybe a timeline of the history of the camera. A simple film camera is now practically ancient history. Kids have no idea that we once took rolls of film to the drug store to get the pictures developed. And the hands-on kids who love to see how everything works might get a kick out of the old mechanical/chemical process of making a picture.
How did photography change once film was no longer needed to take pictures? Or to put it another way, how do you think things would have been different back when you couldn’t just snap an instant photo with your phone? Now we’re up to modern times, and the students can take the reins on this discussion.
Kids might also enjoy talking about their own family’s photos. Or maybe a discussion to appeal to the artistic kids about the art and craft of photography.
A few more of my favorite word choices from the story: out-of-focus, darkroom, and album.
Here’s the Vocabulary List
An idea for a lesson with this whole set of words might be to do a sort by parts of speech, putting words in multiple categories whenever appropriate. Students could include a brief example or a sentence to show how the word fits each category. Another possibility is an open sort in which the kids decide on their own categories. They might choose to sort by meaning, parts of speech, or another category.
One of the many nice things about teaching with Journey is that, with its short length, there is ample time to branch out into side lessons such as vocabulary, research, and class discussions. Might as well take advantage of the opportunity!
Speaking of related lessons, here’s a freebie to use along with your novel study, Journey’s Family Photos. It’s a fun drawing activity based on three family photos that are featured in the novel – the photo where they all look up at the plane, the torn photo with the baby’s hand, and Journey’s family photo that led to his revelation about Grandfather. Three ready-to-use activity sheets are included. Here you can see one of them.
The following image shows activities from my full Journey Novel Study. This novel study includes chapter questions, a before reading activity, key idea and details activities, context clue vocabulary activities, inferencing activities, a follow-up performance task, writing prompts, and a card game for review