We’ve all been assigned our fair share of book reports in our day. We may have even assigned one or two of them ourselves. Love ‘em or leave ‘em, we’re not looking to debate the merits (or follies) of the assignment here. What we will say is that there are only so many book reports one teacher can take in a lifetime! And our gut tells us that students would eagerly echo this sentiment.
In the past, we’ve offered a couple of book report alternatives—having your students use Animoto to create a book trailer, for example, or having them create a text-inspired Podcast. But Elena Aguilar’s article has given us a few more ideas. We’ve selected five of our favorites from her list, but we’d encourage you to read the entire article on Edutopia.
Burying the Book Report: 5 Book Report Alternatives
An Alternative Ending
We’re film nerds and as such, we’re always thrilled when DVD releases include deleted scenes and alternative endings. More often than not, it is immediately clear why the director left out a scene or went with one ending over another; nonetheless, we still enjoy the alternatives because they offer viewers insight into the filmmaker’s editing and reimagining process.
How about having your students come up with their own “deleted scenes” or an alternative ending to a book? This is an exciting challenge that will allow them to deviate from the script and build on the author’s style. Creating an alternative ending also pushes them to demonstrate an understanding of characters and plot.
Sequels rarely live up to their counterparts, but it does happen. The Godfather II, The Dark Knight, anyone? Having your students write a few pages, a short chapter or a summary of their sequel is challenging for several reasons: First and foremost, it’s always hard to top the original; second, it has to make sense and there must be a continuity of some elements of theme and plot; and last, it requires lots of creativity.
Letter to the Author
If a book really moved a student, s/he might be interested in writing a letter to the author. It's not uncommon for authors to respond—and that's a thrilling experience for a kid. This kind of assignment helps you assess how a student connected with a book and responded to it.
Review for Peers
This is one of our favorites because it actually gives students the opportunity to see their writing transcend the classroom. After they read a book, have them post a review on Amazon.com. This is a way for students to practice persuasive writing. It’s also gives them the opportunity to share their opinions and critical insights with other readers and critics.
A New Cover
The artists in your class will love exploring texts in a medium they are comfortable with. Maybe they are skilled Photoshop users, painters or sketch artists. The tool they use to create their cover matters very little as long as their cover works in a rhetorical way: We all tend to judge books by their covers, so how can students communicate their thoughts and feelings about a book through an image? How can they entice potential readers that the text is worthy of a read?
If you're looking for a few more book report alternatives, check out two of our blogs: "Looking for book report alternatives? Try podcasting apps instead!" and "Burying the Book Report: Using Book Trailers in the Classroom."