Book reports and summaries are a thing of the past. Engage your middle and high school students with five book report alternatives that will leave them asking for more and, most importantly, building vital reading and analysis skills along the way.
1. Assign one pagers at the end of a novel.
One pagers are engaging, allow for creativity, and lead to higher level thinking and analysis. Assigning a one pager is easy and works for any novel. Follow these simple guidelines:
Make it standards based: choose a standard to focus on, and design the content of the one pager around that standard. For example, these directions help students to master standard RL3:
Grade the learning, not the art. While I require my students to fill the blank space of their one pagers, I make it clear that students are not graded on their artistic ability. Then, I give suggestions for filling the blank space that do not require artistic ability: magazine cutouts, color, or filling blank space with powerful words and quotes.
Share models and a rubric with students so expectations are clear.
2. Make paper airplanes.
Paper airplanes are not just for kids to toss around when the teacher is not looking. They can also provide a fun alternative to book reports. Here’s how:
Instruct students to fold a paper airplane.
On the outside of the plane, instruct students to draw the plane’s windows with the protagonists on one side and the antagonists on the other. Instruct students to label each character and give a brief description of each.
On the inside of the plane, instruct students to write an analysis of the characters. How did the characters change throughout the novel? How were the characters impacted by (the plot, the setting, the conflict, etc. )? How do the characters affect each other?
Require students to back up their analysis with text based evidence, just like they would in a more traditional essay.
On the day airplanes are due, instruct students to fly their planes to a classmate (you might want to model a proper flight vs. an aggressive flight!). Students read their classmate's analysis, then share one fact they learned about the characters with the rest of the class. Allow students to make several "flights" so students can hear a wide range of perspectives.
If you want to save time on making a paper airplane book report assignment, you can grab my Best Ever Reading Response project set here, which includes four other projects plus Paper Airplane Book Report instructions, a rubric, and an airplane template that makes implementing this project easy!
3. Make it a book talk.
Book talks are the perfect interactive alternative to a traditional book report. Book talks give students an authentic audience, motivation to succeed, and require higher level thinking that can help push students to be more analytical in response to their reading.
Book talks can be implemented in several ways:
Students can prepare their book talks ahead of time, then sign up for times to present their book talks to the class. Require students to bring their book on the day they give their talk. The great side effect of book talks is that kids in the audience get interested in new books!
Students can complete book talks speed dating style. Ask students to complete this form:
Line up chairs in the classroom so students are facing each other with half of the class on one side and half on the other. Set a timer for five minutes and instruct students to give their book talks to and listen to the book talk of the person sitting across from them. When the timer is finished, instruct students on one side to shift one seat to the right. The student on one end will move to the beginning of the row so each student has a new partner. Reset the five minute timer and repeat the book talks. When the timer is up, the same row shifts to the right again. Repeat as many times as you see fit.
Do FlipGrid Book talks. Students can use FlipGrid to record their book talk using laptop cameras, their phones, or iPads. This is a great way to save class time (you can show selected book talks or the book talks of students who volunteer--watch the rest for grading outside of class). It's also a great alternative for students who are not comfortable getting in front of the class for their book talks.
4. Create book trailers using iMovie.
Want instant engagement? Offer book trailers as a culminating book project. iMovie makes it SO easy. Students can use phones or iPads to create a professional looking book trailer.
To create a book trailer, students must first choose a design template from iMovie:
Next, students will complete a storyboard for their book trailer. To create storyboards, students will need images and videos that connect to their novels.
For the best storyboards, instruct students to follow these simple steps:
Choose a focus for your book trailer. Entice your audience to read your novel by hinting at major themes that readers will take away. Highlight characters and conflicts that viewers will be able to connect with.
Next, examine the titles of the story board. Brainstorm titles that will help to tell the story of your novel with a focus on themes, relatable characters, and conflict.
Last, brainstorm a list of images and videos you will need to capture. The images and videos will show for a certain number of seconds indicated by iMovie. Be sure to limit your videos to indicated seconds.
Begin taking pictures and videos!
Put it all together. Write your title and subtitles. Insert pictures and images, and choose audio.
Preview your book trailer and revise as needed, adding or changing pictures and video and editing grammar.
After students finish their book trailers, have a viewing party complete with books and popcorn. Beware: students will want to read more books after viewing their classmates' trailers!
5. Create professional looking book covers using Canva.
If you haven't used Canva in the classroom--go, right now! Canva is an amazing design tool that allows teachers and students (or the average Joe) to design anything from posters to greeting cards. They also have the option of creating book covers!
To create book covers in Canva, visit the Canva website linked here. Create an account if you don't already have one. Click on Templates and do a search for Book Covers. Choose one of the free options (there are LOTS of great free options--there is no need to purchase templates or images). Start editing!
In order for your students to create a book cover on Canva, they will need to create a Canva account using their email. Make sure this works for your district (check FERPA requirements for using outside apps--in my school, I share the website with admin before using anything with my students).
Recommendations for implementing a standards-based book cover project:
Master standard RL 2: Student's book cover must reflect the theme of the novel. The back of the cover must include an objective summary of the text.
Master standard RL 3: Student's book cover must reflect the interaction of at least two different elements of the novel. For example, the cover might show how characters are affected by the setting or by a major event (with no spoilers!).
Master standard RL 6: Student's book cover must reflect the development of two different characters' points of view. For example, the front might reveal one character's point of view and the back another.
Display book covers in your classroom to entice your readers to read even more!
With a little creativity, we can engage students to analyze their texts in more meaningful, interactive ways. Try one of the five alternatives to book reports and let us know how it goes! Share your reflections, comments, questions, and suggestions below. Enjoy!
Want to save time and implement some fun alternatives to book reports? Check out my Best Ever Reading Response Projects here.