Love ‘em or leave ‘em, it’s safe to say that there are only so manybook 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 shared a couple of book report alternatives for literature teachers—having your students use Animoto to create a book trailer, or having them create a text-inspired Podcast—but we’ve also had a lot of luck with Shelly Mattson Gahn’s assignment, “Careers for Characters.” You can find this and a variety of other lessons in Teaching Literature in Middle School: Fiction
Gahn uses this assignment with her eight-grade students, but simple adaptations could make it appropriate for both older and younger students. Here’s how it works.
Careers for Characters: A Book Report Alternative for Literature Teachers
In this assignment, students will select a character from any novel or short story. Based on what they know about their character’s personality, talents, flaws, hobbies and interests, they must find a job for their character and draft a cover letter to apply for the position.
- To get things rolling, lead a class brainstorming session. Select a character from a work the entire class is familiar with and compile a list of details to include in a model cover letter. Discuss the character’s talents, flaws, hobbies, interests and personality and jot down your students’ ideas on the board.
Using the ideas your students generate in the brainstorming session, type up a cover letter and distribute copies to the class to use as an example.
- Once students choose their own character, have them repeat the brainstorming exercise on their own. This will help them better understand and “get into the role” of their character.
- Next, send your students to Your Free Career Test, a short online questionnaire that asks students questions that relate to career categories. Remind students that they are to assume the role of their character when they are filling out the questionnaire. Keeping this in mind, they should answer the questions based not on their own personalities, but on those of their character.
Upon completion, your students will receive an assessment that assigns them to a career category and offers a bulleted list of example careers for their character.
In addition to visiting Your Free Career Test, ask students to investigate the classified sections of local newspapers and websites like CareerBuilder and Monster to select possible job prospects for their characters.
- In the next step, each student writes a cover letter from the character to the company offering the job. The letter should follow a business letter format and should be typed.
We like this assignment for a variety of reasons: Not only do students find it entertaining, it gives them the opportunity to explore a variety of resources while honing their creative writing skills. Although the career research in this project applies to a fictional character, students can use the same information to investigate their own career aspirations.
Photo credit: martinak15 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)