I am devising an activity from the New Literacy Studies perspective with college students (1st year). We are studying World Literature. I have to create something innovative. Since carnival is a specially cherished tradition in the Spanish city where I live, I think that a literary costume party -wherein the students would have to describe in first person the character they have chosen and his/her adventures- would make a great warm-up activity. How would you give some continuity to this idea later in the term? How about fanfiction? Another idea?
I love the idea of a historical dialogue. If students write a dialogue based on solid historical research (with a bibliography), then you will get academic learning as well as creativity. I've done this sort of thing in the past and it worked very well. Keep in mind that from a western historical point of view, dialogues were a powerful way of learning. Think of Plato's dialogues. Finally, as a way of grading, you can grade based on historical research and creativity.
You might have students write an original piece half-way through the semester imagining their own character interacting with a character from a work studied in the course.
I like the idea of a feathered, night-club bouncer talking with a character from A Bend in the River or 100 Years of Solitude.
I think all of these activities sound innovative, and certainly sound fun, but outside of your original idea, I'm not sure any of them are particularly age appropriate. As a student (even a 1st year college student) I might have a hard time taking some of these ideas seriously unless there was an obvious point in the lesson to some aspect of the overall purpose of the class and higher learning. I think that even while you brainstorm innovative activities, you must keep in mind the goal or the objective(s) of this class.
When I was in college, it was particularly frustrating to me to be in classes which didn't seem to have an end goal in mind. I couldn't take these classes or the professors seriously, because each class felt unpredictable, disconnected, and pointless. No matter what you choose to do, if you've outlined the entire course and the direction you are taking your students is clear and purposeful, the activities won't matter as much.
If you are focusing on World Literature, it might be interesting to get a map of the world and ask each student to place a flag in it based on where the character they have chosen comes from. I would imagine that the majority of flags would be in the USA or Europe. This would be a great way of provoking a discussion about what we define as being literature and how the Canon is dominated by Western voices.
I particularly like # 3's response. It might be interesting to have them invent families for their characters and to explain how the characters' families affected the characters's lives and personalities.
I am assuming that they are choosing a character from a text which they have read. If so, I would suggest having them write diaries or journals about their characters. They need to be advised to give information which is not stated. They need to take the inferences that they make from the text and create the journal/diary based upon their interpretations.
You may also look at how other cultures celebrate carnival and how different texts approach the subject as well.
I'm not sure if you're looking for exclusively literature for students to read and interpret or if you're also looking for writing exercises for your class.
If you need to integrate writing into your class (which sounds like it would be fascinating, by the way!), I would keep the characters they choose for the carnival in play. Staying in character, could pairs or small groups of characters introduce each other to the time and location from which they have come? You could establish requirements that ensure students really need to consider how their character would represent their native culture to foreigners from other parts of the world, how events might be interpreted differently as a result of varied backgrounds and attitudes, and so on.
You can do a talk show. Have students come in character from the literature, with other students acting as hosts. The hosts ask the characters questions. In both cases, they have to understand the book in order to ask meaningful questions and answer them correctly.
I support the idea.