When I began teaching language arts, I knew I wanted to include book reports, because they give children the opportunity to read more and different kinds of books than they normally would read and analyze them in deeper ways than they possibly would otherwise. But I also knew that book reports can become boring, monotonous, and honestly, a dread to read as a teacher! So I faced a conundrum: how do I include book reports as part of my curriculum without them becoming boring?
My solution was a book I stumbled across called Creative Book Reports by Jane Feber. I was immediately struck by the title: Yes! I thought, That’s exactly what I need! Creative Book Reports contains 39 types of book reports, almost all of which are in non-traditional formats, such as collages, flip books, postcards, diaries, and online book reviews. My favorites so far have been the Missing/Wanted posters, letters to a friend, and dioramas. Before the year began, I assembled the various types of “reports” (more like projects), each with a rubric so the students have directions and know exactly what is expected, into a binder. Each quarter, I let the students have a day to choose which type of report they’d like to complete. The results have amazed me. They have all met or exceeded my expectations, and the best part about it is that many of my students now love book reports! Last quarter, my 7th graders exclaiming “Yes!” when I announced the next book report was music to my ears :).
Here are some guidelines that have been helpful in making these book reports successful:
5 Tips for Implementing Creative Book Reports
- The book must be a novel (graphic novels included) at their reading level
- Reading magazines or short stories just doesn’t cut it.
- Let them choose the genre
- I struggled over this but ultimately concluded that I want my students to love READING above all else. First I get them reading, then I’ll work on expanding their literary repertoires.
- Let them choose the type of report, but it needs to be a new type every time unless they get my permission
- On my first attempt, I had a couple students who chose a report they thought was “easy” and didn’t put in much effort. I decided that since I’m letting them choose their book AND their type of report, it’s reasonable for me to insist that they challenge themselves by mixing it up each time.
- Give them a month to complete it
- For them to produce the level of work I’m expecting, they need a few weeks to read the book and at least a week to complete the report. Too much more or less time causes them to rush it, procrastinate, or not take it seriously.
- They present it at the end of the month to the entire class
- This puts a healthy level of pressure on them to do their best! I usually also invite other classes to come view their reports.