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Activities to Do Instead of Book Reports

by Debbie McCarson

Book reports are as boring to grade as they are to write. Assigning burdensome book reports can hinder students from fully enjoying a great work of literature. Give yourself and your students a break by assigning alternatives to the traditional book report. Fortify lesson plans by choosing activities that reinforce specific writing skills or literary elements you are studying in class.

Character Revelation

Characters are developed through many techniques, such as description, dialogue and action. These book report alternatives focus on characterization. Write an obituary for one of the characters in the book. Include the character’s likes, accomplishments and surviving family members. Interview a character from the book, making up at least 10 questions discussing the character’s thoughts on his or her role in the story. Write diary entries as though you were one of the characters in the book. Include entries from different parts of the story. Have each student write a letter to one of the characters. Have classmates exchange letters and reply from the perspective of the character. Create an award for the main characters in the book, and then explain in a paragraph why these characters deserve these awards.

Skillful Summarization

Summarization is a task that develops reading comprehension, critical thinking and editing. For summarization practice, create a newspaper for your book. Write a feature article that tells the story of the book. Make sure to include a clever headline. Include an editorial on your opinion of the book. You can include as many things in your newspaper as are appropriate, such as a weather report, comic strip and classified ads based on situations in the book. Students can design marketing ads that would be relevant to the story. Alternatively, have students study examples of different book jackets, and then design one for the book they read. Don't forget to include the summary.

Coveted Destination

Authors use rich descriptions to develop the setting of a book. Use these assignments to center students on the techniques authors use to create setting. Illustrate a timeline showing the events of the story; include a map showing the location the story took place. Design a travel brochure to entice visitors to visit the setting of the book. Acting as a television reporter, report from a scene in the book as if it were happening live.

Thematic Communication

Common Core Standards dictate that elementary students be able to determine a theme of a story through inferences based on details given in the text. Make a word collage to focus on these details. Write the title of the book in large print in the center of a piece of poster paper. Have students hunt through magazines, catalogs and old books for words and phrases that offer hints about the theme of the book. Work together as a class to cover the entire poster. When finished, have students study the poster and discuss whether the poster reveals the theme.

About the Author

Debbie McCarson is a former English teacher and school business administrator. Her articles have appeared in "School Librarians’ Journal" and "The Encyclopedia of New Jersey." A South Jersey native, she is a regular contributor to "South Jersey MOM" magazine.

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