Question Detail

Alternatives to old school book reports?

Nov 2, 2014 7:33pm

I want my students to do a book report styled project, but I don't necessarily want them to do it the old school way we had to do it in school - you know, where we had to get up and give a 5 minute summary of the book? Most of the kids didn't even read the book, anyway. What are some fun alternatives to the old school book reports that my students would enjoy doing/making and that I would also enjoy listening to/grading?

  • English Language Arts
  • 7
  • Assessment / Planning


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    • Nov 3, 2014 3:42pm

      Here are a few things that have worked for me:

      1) Having the students create a movie poster for their book (e.g. if your book was a movie, what would be the most important/exciting/interesting parts to share?).

      2) Students design a "scene" from the book, diorama style that incorporates text/pictures and 3D elements to share important ideas/parts of the story.

      3) Teach the class how to write reviews (Lucy Calkins--Teachers College, has a great writer's unit on reviews) and have them write book reviews and share with the class to "sell" their book to others.

      4) Have them design a new cover for their book that includes a few quotes/info about the story.

      Happy book reports!

      • Nov 8, 2014 9:54am

        I recently had my 7th graders do a "Book-buddies" report. Working in pairs, students selected a book, divided the book into ten sections, and took responsibility for writing short summaries of alternate sections. (Five summaries ended up being about one page of written work per student.) The purpose of the summaries was really just to ensure that they had read the books and to provide them with a map prior to creating play scenes. They had three weeks to complete their books.

        When they were finished reading and summarizing, they discussed and selected an exciting or pivotal moment in their book for which they would create a play script.

        Both partners had to act in the scene (playing any gender or age), but they could invite peers to play roles as well. The scripts needed to be 2-3 minutes long (they need to time themselves reading a page from their novels aloud in order to gain a sense of how long their scripts would need to be). They could use any dialogue already in the story, but they also needed to invent some. They were not to use a narrator; rather, their goal was to move the plot along through dialogue and actions.

        Prior to presenting their scene to the class (using a suggestion of props and costumes), they introduced the book & author and gave background information that would help their audience appreciate the scene they were about to view.

        It was really fun to watch "episodes" from a wide variety of novels. The kids enjoyed it so much they asked it they could do this type of report again. Another positive outcome was that several pairs formed new friendships after working on this project together. Let me know if you need more info. and/or handouts!

        • Nov 9, 2014 6:59am

          Have your students write blogs. This way other students can comment on their work or find a great book per their peer's recommendation. is the website I use to entertain this work.

          • Nov 10, 2014 6:29am

            I'm not sure which grades you have, but we had students in advanced grades/classes write letters in the voice of the author to someone significant in the author's life that referenced things in the story.

            With my classes now in the library, we often make book trailers. I have them do a storyboard first, then work up their initial project in PowerPoint so that they can control where the words and images are laid out on the page (it's great practice in condensing wordiness), then convert the ppt to jpg images, and transfer to PhotoStory3 (a free program from Microsoft). They love doing this, and it hones their writing skills.

            • Feb 14, 2015 10:42am

              Students can make Google Docs presentations, I-movies, book trailers, wordles, tagxedos, etc. and then share with their classmates. Technology standards are covered this way too. I also use Students post blogs and comments about their books and other students' books weekly. Students blog in school and at home throughout the week. I learn more about thinking and them as a reader than I ever did from a book report.

              • Feb 17, 2015 11:57am

                When I was a student-teacher these were a few of the ways our sixth graders exhibited how well they knew the book Freedom Train about the life of Harriet Tubman. (1) Students wrote &/or performed a song or rap to a familiar beat containing details from the story.
                (2) Students also created a game board which included references to the story's setting and task cards which relied upon the player's knowledge of the story.
                (3) Students performed a talk show. When working with a partner, one worked as the host and the other as a character, fielding questions from the rest of the class justifying actions taken and feelings throughout the story. As a surprise, I remember another student shocking everyone as one of the other major characters, which was an unexpected twist.
                (4) Creating a Wanted Poster was another option.
                (5) Perform a Puppet Show.

                RAFT as a creative writing strategy will inspire your students to write from another perspective based upon the parameters dictated or those they choose. This acronym stands for Role, Audience, Format, and Topic. Students write based upon who he/she is as the writer/character from the story and tailors the content based upon the audience being addressed. Formats can vary as a letter, speech, or poem. The topic will be tied to some significant aspect of the book. Given this twist and some artistic freedom, an assignment like this can be a welcome way to assess what students know and can surprisingly reveal what even your reluctant readers can convey in an exciting way. Try to provide a rubric to help generate their creative juices. It'll be so much fun for you to enjoy when you put your energy in the front end.