Written book reports are as old as the hills, and certainly not anything you need to be instructed in, I know! However, below are just a few thoughts on why written book reports are still valuable, and some ideas for how to implement them.
The Short Form Book Report
What is a short form book report? It’s exactly what it sounds like- students simply complete a short form about the book, following specific directions, rather than writing the report entirely on their own. This type of report could easily be completed during class in one sitting, kind of like an essay on a test. Questions or prompts can be anything you choose, and you could definitely allow students to use their book as they’re completing it.
Reasons to use a short form book report:
- To accomodate a lower-level class
- To prepare the class for writing a book report on their own
- To allow students to complete the assignment during class
- To alleviate some of the academic pressure when the focus needs to be on another aspect of language arts
- To simplify grading for the teacher!
- To cut down on (or eliminate entirely) plagiarism, and students turning in a report for a book they haven’t actually read
Paperless option! If you use Google Apps, an easy way to have students complete a short form report is by creating a Google Form and sending students the link. You’ll probably want to print out the spreadsheet of their answers for easy grading.
If paper and pencil is your jam, check out my Book Report Bundle– it includes an editable short form that’s ready to print and use, as well as resources for 4 other types of book reports too!
The Traditional Written Report
Can I just get something off my chest here? I am genuinely concerned about our recent and ever-increasing heavy lean towards trying to make everything in the classroom a blast. Please don’t read: “I think classrooms should be boring and nevermind student engagement or enjoyment.” That’s not what I mean. I love to have fun! I love to think outside the box and shock my students by doing something crazy, and I love when we learn on accident because really we just thought we were having fun. However… in an attempt to boost engagement, to reach those kiddos on the edge that we know we might lose if we don’t make one last desperate attempt to capture their interest, sometimes I wonder if we’re not sacrificing (here comes that yucky term again…) rigor.
I’m not suggesting that we should force our students to do things that are honestly beyond their level (there’s enough pressure already on you to do that)- I’m talking about meeting them where they are in their learning journey, presenting them with a challenge, and giving them the tools and encouragement they need to meet that challenge, or at least give it an applaudable attempt. For some students, simply writing an old-fashioned book report might be a true challenge. But I implore you to consider presenting them with the challenge, for some or all of the following reasons.
Reasons to do a written book report:
- It’s another writing opportunity, of course! This means it gives your students more real-time practice with grammar, punctuation, spelling, proper paragraph format, etc.
- Depending on what type of content you require to be in the report, even a simple book report can be a great way to cover multiple learning standards and objectives.
- Most reports include some type of summary- effectively summarizing texts is a core academic skill.
- A book report can sometimes be less intimidating than an essay or other more open-ended writing assignment because (if they read the book like they were supposed to!) they probably feel a little more confident that they do have something to say. A simple written book report can be a great starting place for hesitant writers to see that they can write!
If you’d like some support and ideas about teaching writing, check out my discussion on using the writing process in your classroom.
Suggestions for assigning written book reports:
- As always, give really clear written directions for what you expect. One of the quickest ways to create student frustration is to be ambiguous about what a successfully completed assignment will look like. Create a handout, and go over it with your students- even high schoolers. If you can, provide them with a sample of a well-written book report.
- Reiterate that one important goal of their book report is to demonstrate that they did indeed read the entire book. Give them ideas about content they can include that will show you that they did their reading- encourage them to be specific.
- One thing that I always stress heavily is that a report should be more than just a summary or a re-telling of the story. Sure, it should include some summary, but it also needs to include the reader’s own thoughts: what did he gain from the book? What was his favorite part? Would he recommend it to a friend?
- You can encourage a ton of independent literary analysis with written book reports! Require students to discuss what they think the author’s purpose was, the theme of the book, an example of figurative language they noticed, identify genre, etc.
- Definitely use a rubric to grade- it will drastically reduce your time spent grading, as well as give students a clear understanding of the grade they earned.
Don’t forget to check out the Book Report Bundle resource– it will save you tons of time. 🙂
What are your strategies for implementing written reports? Share with us in the comments below!
Don’t miss the previous post in this Book Report Series: Oral Presentations!