Going Unplugged with Blackout By John Rocco

Kids’ Book Club Activities for Blackout by John Rocco

SummaryIn this activity for Blackout, we encourage you to read the book first in the dark if possible.  Turn of the lights, unplug clocks, video equipment, even the refrigerator, basically, anything that makes noise or distracts from the ambiance. Light a bunch of candles or a fire and sit around and read the book. Enjoy an unplugged moment with the family.  If you want to extend it with a book club group, we have a cute art project with a Haiku that uses black and yellow construction paper in the shape of a candlestick, flashlight, moon or stars and challenges the kids to think about what it is like when the lights go out.Materials Needed

  • Black and yellow construction paper
  • Pre drawn templates/stencils for flashlights, candlesticks, moons and stars. Approximately 6-7 inches tall. Adults can just draw this on their own.
  • Paper for writing first drafts
  • Safety scissors
  • Sharpened pencils
  • Glue

Skills Used

  • Analytical skills – comparing and evaluating the dark vs. the light
  • Presentation skills – sharing their projects with the group.
  • Introduction to elements of poetry – particularly a Haiku, a Japanese poem that in its simplified form uses 3 sentences with 5, 7 and 5 syllables each (respectively).
  • Spatial skills – as they learn to write sentences or words within a confined space (e.g. the shape of a candlestick )
  • Artistic elements – positive and negative space with the black and yellow paper.

Step by Step Directions

Part 1: Pre-read the story at home in the dark if possible. 
As noted in the summary above, re-create a blackout so your child understands the story first hand.  When your group gets together, they will all have a shared experience of what it feels like to be in a black out.  This is optional, but it is fun.

Part 2:  Read

Remind the group of what it felt like to read Blackout in the dark.  Ask them each how they felt?  Was it scary or was it fun, what did you do in the dark?  Solicit answers to help them get in the mind set.  Tell them you are reading again together.  Ask them to share anything new they thought of when they heard the book again.

Part 3:  Pre-Write

With the children, make a list of the things you need in the dark. This should include things like flashlights, candles, fires, my mom, my dad, my blanket, a telephone, etc.  We like to do this in a word web where you draw a circle in the middle of the paper, put the main idea in the circle (In the dark…) and write all the words associated with the concept around the circle.

Once you have added the things you need, go a deeper level and add the things you notice or feel in the dark. This would be like it is quiet, bright moon, bright stars, I am scared, I am cold, I feel cozy and snuggly, it is fun, etc., etc.   This list will be used to help the kids write their Haiku.

Part 4:  Haiku

This part of the activity is really aimed for 6-9 year olds. Younger kids can just skip the Haiku part and just make a big list of the words they like about the dark.

A Haiku in the U.S. typically has a structure of three lines stacked on top of each other. The first line has 5 “on” (an on is actually little more complicated, but for kids this age, just call them syllables), the next has 7, the last has 5.  The Haikus we like the best for kids are a word pictures that capture what is happening in a moment, often nature is an easy subject.  It is a great structure for describing what it is like to be in the dark.

Have the kids write down (or dictate to an adult) a sentence or two about being in the dark, using the list you generated as a place to start if they need ideas. Something like:

“In the dark, it is very quiet and I need a candle so I can see.  I am not scared.  The moon and stars are out.”

Next, have them break up the sentence into the proper syllables. They will have to change the wording a bit.  It would look something like this:

The dark is pretty
I feel peaceful and quiet
I wish there were stars

You can use this template if the kids need more direction:

The dark is: _______

I feel: ____________

I wish: ___________


Part 5:  Publishing

Get one piece of black construction paper and one piece of yellow construction paper per child. Using stencils, on the yellow paper trace the flashlight, candle stick, moon or stars (or whatever you are using) with pencil.  The students will copy their Haiku into the shape on the yellow paper.  They should be careful not to get too near the outside border or pencil line of the shape. Spacing and alignment of their sentences so it fills the entire object is a challenge and good for developing spatial awareness and coordination.

Next, trace the exact same shape on the black paper (or have them pre-cut).  The black paper with the shape cut out will and cut it out be glued on top of the yellow construction paper so that their writing shows through in the shape of the object. .

Read aloud to the group.