5 Book Report Ideas That Skip the Craft Store
Book reports and arts and crafts—they go together like peanut butter and jelly. For the artsy students in your classroom, book reports mean a weekend of hot glue and late-night runs to the craft store for more fake moss, shoe boxes, Styrofoam, and glitter. And while it’s always interesting to see which students really pull out all the stops for book reports, it’s also easy get swept up in the crafting and lose sight of the project’s true purpose: critical analysis of the book.
So, what’s a teacher to do? Take a look at these five fun (and glue-free!) book report ideas that will satisfy your craft-loving students, and still keep them focused on comprehension.
1. Pack for a trip
This project works great for both crafty and non-crafty kids. If they’re into it, your crafty students have the option of going the extra mile and decorating a shoe box “suitcase” to use for their project; otherwise, a regular backpack works just fine.
Have your students pretend as if they are going on a trip to visit the main character of their book before the story begins. What will they need to pack for the journey? Have them present to the class and explain why they brought the items they chose with them. Ask them to consider what they might pick up along the way on their excursion.
Prior to assigning this project, consider creating a rubric that outlines each element you hope to see covered in their live presentation. Make sure that you’re weaving in expectations around demonstrating how they’ve applied different comprehension skills such as making connections, applying background knowledge, making inferences, and drawing conclusions. Throwing in a few soft skills such as eye contact and effective oral communication are also nice additions.
2. Character interview
While this one might not involve any glue, letting your students incorporate some props can be entertaining. Have your students draft interview questions for the main character of their story, starting off with easy ones that will answer the basics of the book (what is your name, where does your story take place, who is the author of your story, etc.). Then, proceed to have them come up with some of their own in-depth questions for their character (what is your greatest struggle, what are your strengths and weaknesses, what did you learn, what would you have done differently, and so on) and have your students answer the questions as they think the character would.
For class presentations, have your students write up their questions and answers and bring two copies to class along with whatever props or costumes you’ve allowed. Then, have one person (you or a student volunteer) play the part of the “interviewer” while the student who wrote the report responds from the point of view of his or her character. This is a terrific book report idea that allows you to hit many different depth-of-knowledge (DOK) levels, and easily differentiate the scope of the project for different learners in your class.
3. Letter to the author
What’s that? You wish there were a way to combine a book report and an opportunity to practice formal letter writing? Well, guess whatt—here it is! This book report idea is unique in that it encourages students to examine the individual behind the book they have just read. In their letter, students should ask open-ended questions to the author about specific qualities of the book, such as why did the author choose a particular setting? Or, how did the author decide on character names? If the author of the students’ book is still living, encourage them to send their letter and see if they get a response back.
This project also works well if students are all reading the same text, as it allows for a great group discussion. You can even have a little fun and share back some answers to students’ questions from your perspective as the teacher or after doing a little research of your own through past author interviews.
4. Character diary
This is one project that really can’t be done the night before. Have your students create a diary or journal as if they were the main character of the story and write in entries as they read. There should be around five entries which should mention significant details (such as setting and other characters) so that anyone who picked up the diary and read it could get the main idea of the story. Encourage your students to take notes as they read, such as when they uncover new information about a character or see plot points that cause their character to change. This way, they’ll have specific details to refer to in their writing and can craft a clear story of character development. Consider creating opportunities for students to share what they’ve recorded so far, rather than waiting for a big “reveal” at the end of the book.
If you want to incorporate a craft element into this project, ask your students to also consider what kind of diary their character might have. If their character is a 14-year-old traveling on the Oregon Trail in 1848, would their diary be weather-worn or shiny and new? Would it have a green cover or a brown cover? When they present their project, have them briefly describe why their character’s diary looks the way it does.
5. Live newscast
These days, anyone can be a reporter! For this project, your students will pretend they are a broadcast news journalist reporting live from a critical scene in their book. They will need to describe the setting and characters of the scene they are reporting from, as well as draw conclusions about how the events might play out. If more than one student has read the same book, you can even adapt this into a fun group project, where one student is the reporter and other students are characters being interviewed on what is going on in the scene.
While students are presenting, encourage the rest of the class to listen to the story and submit their own follow-up questions as a journalist would. As the teacher, you can choose one or two questions to ask the students after they’ve presented and challenge them to respond orally or in written form, depending on your preference. This way, the students who are presenting will be more encouraged to provide their audience with important details and be ready to answer questions about the book on the spot.
Don’t forget that March is National Reading Month! Be sure to check out our other fun reading-themed blogs every week this month, like 7 Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss or Breaking Down Elements of a Successful Literacy Instruction!