Tag Archives: Alternative Book Reports

Digital Writing Tools For Reluctant Writers

So, your students tell you they hate writing or they profess they are not good writers. Why beat them over the head with writing essays? Here are ten digital writing tools to help build writing endurance and have students create authentic and creative writing pieces.

  1. Blog It – This year my students are blogging about their Genius Hour projects. Each of their blogs detail and record their passion project research and findings. Students can create blogs about anything and everything so don’t only have them write on lined paper for your eyes only. Let students write for a global audience and write about topics that are meaningful to them.
  2. Collaborative Writing with Google Docs – Whether students are working collaboratively compiling research for a debate or working together to write a screenplay or story, why do it alone? So many authors today are collaborating and students should be able to work together too.
  3. Digital Inspirations – My friend and colleague, Carol Varsalona creates these amazing pictures and inspirational words on her blog Beyond LiteracyLink and has all different writers, teachers, and artists contribute their own digital inspirations. Have your students take their own photographs and write inspirational words, poems, ideas to go along with the images produced.

C Varsalona Beyond Literacy Link4. Podcasts are a great way to get students writing, speaking, and collaborating. I am a huge fan of NPR’s RadioLab podcasts and have used them in my classroom as a mentor text. Students can script their podcasts before recording them and make their own radio shows on all different issues and topics.

5. Prezi Picture Books in lieu of a traditional picture book, students can create their own digital picture books using Prezi or Google Slides and then screencast an audio file reading aloud the picture book created.

6. Twitter Poems and 140 Character Memoirs

7. Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books in the 1980s? Have students create their own Choose Your Own Adventure story or research inquiry using YouTube, Thinglink, or SymbalooEDU. Students do all the writing and research and allow the viewers to choose the direction of the story or inquiry.

8. Create Your Own Textbook on Wikispaces. What if you had students create the course textbook for the students next year? Let students curate the materials, and design the texts that are essential to classroom learning and content knowledge.

9. StoryWars is a website that was recently shared with me because it is a collaborative story telling website where people can upload their own stories or contribute a chapter to an existing story. Participants can read a story, write a chapter, or vote on a story’s path.

10. Make it a graphic novel using ToonDoo or Bitstrips blending dialogue and cartoon images together.

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12 Tech Based Alternative Assessments In Lieu of Book Reports & 5 Paragraph Essays

The ideas presented below are part of a poster session I will be presenting at at the International Literacy Association (ILA) in St. Louis, MI July 17-21, 2015. I always want to encourage my students to read and love reading. At the same time, I am trying out different ways to assess student reading and understanding of a text without a test, essay, or book report. Here are a dozen alternative book assessments that I have used with my own middle school ELA students.

1. Twitter Chats & Cyber Book Clubs- Students hold book discussions on Twitter.

2. Video Trailers – Students create a video trailer about the book and to promote the book to their peers using iMovie.

3. Movie Poster – Use Glogster or BigHugeLabs to create a promotional movie poster.

4. White Board Animation Video – Summarize the book in a creative and visual way.

5. Blog Post Review or Discussion Guide – Students write a review or create a discussion guide and post on a class blog.

6. Instagram Scrapbook – Students create a digital scrapbook of the key events and ideas expressed in the text.

7. Symbaloo or Thinglink Text Set – Have students create a text set (various articles and texts) to support the main idea or theme in the text.

8. Storyboard That – Use animation or storyboard platforms for students to recreate the key elements of the text.

9. Lego Movies – Students can design and film lego versions in key scenes from the text.

10. Prezi Teachers Guide or Lessons – Students can use Prezi or any presentation tool to create a teacher’s guide and design a lesson to teach from the text.

11. Write Book Reviews for Amazon or GoodReads

12. QR Code Key Quotes – Students can design a QR Code Scavenger Hunt throughout the book of key quotes or scenes that support the theme of the text.

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Tee Shirt Book Reports & Other Pin-spiration

Today my students brought their summer reading book reports on a tee shirt. The idea I found on Pinterest earlier this summer and cataloged with my “Must Use This” pin board. The shirts that my students designed were amazing.

The requirements of the assignment included the title and an image that represents the book on the front of the tee shirt. On the back, students were to write a summary about the book and include key quotes. I had students wear the shirts to class and then they each shared a 1-2 minute book talk about their book. I said fill up the canvas any which way they design: sharpies, paint, rhinestones, iron-ons. The outcomes were truly creative and unique.

We have decided to auction the tee shirts online in October and use the money raised to donate to the non-profit organization Give More Hugs. GMH strives to bring basic school supplies and resources to schools in need around the world. The auction link will be posted soon.

The concept for the tee shirt book report originated from The Polka Dotty Place Blog and Teaching My Friends blog. Even though both these blogs are elementary school level, my middle school students LOVED the project.

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Alternative Book Reports to Promote Literature Rich Classrooms

What are our objectives when using literature in the classroom and curriculum?

To help you people find books that will be meaningful to them.

To help young people develop the habits of good readers – active readers – who make meaning of words on the page and take an active stance while reading.

Emphasize gender-fair and multicultural resources and the attitudes, interests, problems, and opportunities of young adults in contemporary society.

This summer I have gone on a young adult book binge and I am currently rethinking some of the book assessments that I offer to my students. I believe that teachers need to be interacting with young adult literature on a regular basis to explore current publications, revisit favorites, and discover new and renewed ways to connect young readers with books.  I strongly feel that teachers need to create options for students in assignments and culminating assessments. Projects should promote authentic learning and writing for real purposes.

Below are three different book assessments I have had my middle school students complete in lieu of a test to show me their reading and understanding of an independent reading text.

1. Bookseller’s Day – Hold a bookseller’s day in your classroom where each student will try and sell their independent reading book in a book talk and display. Students create a “pitch” to review and promote their book to whole class. Props, costumes, and music are encouraged and visual aids might include posters, book jackets of your own design, stickers, bookmarks, business cards, or postcards. Students prepare a  brief summary of the book, a book review, and if the book has been made into a movie, compare and contrast the book and the film.

2. Author’s Study allows students with a favorite author to complete an author’s study project. Students write a report or create a presentation that offers key biographical information about the author, genre of writing, key quotes from the author about their writing life and craft, pictures of the author and images of book covers. Students can create an annotated bibliography of the books the author has published and a one page reflection about how this writer inspired or influenced them.

3. Book Reviews – To help students dig deeper in reflection about a book he or she has read – and to avoid surface plot retelling that comes with traditional book report assignments – book reviews found in newspapers and magazines are an authentic method for evaluating a text. I often give my students guidelines for writing book reviews. Paragraph 1 offers a brief summary of the plot in 2-4 sentences with an attention grabber in the first sentence. Paragraph 2 addressed whether or not the reviewer recommends the book with reasons to back up his or her opinions. Paragraph 3 – When the book is finished, what stays with you?

Looking for more project ideas, I have written in previous posts about video projects and technology based projects to do with students as alternative book reports and assessments.

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Tunnel Books: Book Report Alternative

Early this school year, I came across a tunnel book* on Pinterest that caught my attention. I pinned it thinking I have to do something like it with my students.  As the last outside reading project approached, I decided to offer a tunnel book as a choice assessment project instead of the traditional book report, poster, or essay. I gave my students a link to a “How to create a Tunnel Book” video and the end projects my students turned in last week are amazing to say the least.

*What is a tunnel book you ask? Wonderopolis has a great definition and description:

Tunnel books are made up of a series of pages that are held together by folded strips of paper on each side. In fact, the sides of a tunnel book might make you think of an accordion. The overall effect of a tunnel book is to create the illusion of depth and perspective.

Tunnel books are “read” through a hole in the cover. Each page features openings that allow the reader to see through the entire book to the back cover. The images on each page work together to form a three-dimensional scene inside the book that helps to tell the story. 

Here are a few of the finished projects:

Hiroshima Tunnel Book

 

 

 

Minori’s Tunnel book based on Hiroshima by John Hershey

 

 

 

 

Hiroshima Tunnel Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Hiroshima Tunnel Book

 

 

There were a series of pictures that could be interchanged to see the impact of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and its people.

 

 

 

 

Hiroshima Tunnel Book

 

 

She included a summary on both of the outside pages of the tunnel book to frame the images she created.

 

 

 

 

Anne Frank Tunnel Box (Inside)

 

 

Katie created a tunnel box that had a collage of images of Anne Frank on the inside and outside of the box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Frank Tunnel Box (looking inside)

 Looking down into the tunnel box you can see the layers of the story that she included with inspiring quotes from Anne Frank pasted on the inside and outside of the box. There was a large part of the box cut open to see inside, as if one was watching a 3D television.
Navajo Code Talkers Tunnel Book
 Shota read The Navajo Code Talkers and used paper cutting to create a layered image of the soldiers during combat in WWII writing and deciphering Navajo code which some people argue helped American win the war.
To make your own tunnel book, you can find directions here.
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