Although many students enjoy reading, the thought of writing a book report may put a damper on their enjoyment. Allowing students to have some alternatives to writing about the characters, setting and plot can engage them while giving a teacher the information she needs to assess a student’s understanding of specific elements of literature.
Ask students to write a different ending to a book. They must be able to justify why this ending is logical by including supporting details. Alternatively, ask them to project a new ending when given a different set of circumstances. For example, what if Cinderella had lost both of her slippers when she ran from the ball? How would the story have been different? Would the prince have found her?
Artistic students shine when creating a book jacket for their book. Requiring the student to include specific elements on the jacket allows the teacher to assess knowledge of the book. The jacket should have an appropriate illustration on the front, with the title and the author's name also included. The back of the book jacket should contain a blurb about the story and “reviews” from classmates who have read the same book, such as “I was on the edge of my seat!” “Exciting -- a Must Read!”
Take Me Away
For books with a clear setting, whether real or fictional, students can create a travel brochure for the book. The brochure should include details about the location as well as reasons to visit, a map, and attractions in the area -- all of which must relate to the story. For example, for “The Three Bears,” students might include a description of the woods where the bears lived and a map to their home. Reasons to visit might include the many nature trails and wildlife to be found when hiking in the woods. Attractions in the area might include the bears’ house, Goldilocks’ house and a ranger station.
Read All About It!
Students can write a summary of the plot of the book or engage in higher-level thinking by using their writing skills in a more creative way. After discussing the different types of writing found in a newspaper, students create their own newspaper that focuses on the book they have read. The newspaper could include a news article with the basic details of the story, a weather report and a feature story about one of the main characters. It might also include an editorial piece with an opinion about a character or event and an obituary for one of the characters. Students can even include advertisements appropriate to the story. This can be a project for an individual, a small group of students or the entire class.
Thumbs Up Or Thumbs Down
Students can work in pairs to give their recommendations for a book. They must review the book, giving details about the characters, setting and plot -- no spoilers allowed! The retelling of the plot should leave the class guessing and hopefully wanting to read the book to find out what happens. The reviewers then give their recommendation with a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” which must include support for their opinion.
Michele Norfleet is a freelance writer who writes on travel, home and garden and education topics. She has coauthored a handbook for teachers on school-wide discipline and has contributed tips for special-needs students in the basal curriculum for RCL Benziger. Norfleet holds a master's degree from Southern Illinois University and has experience as a special-needs teacher and speech pathologist.