by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
Being able to consume, critique, and create media is so important for our 21st century students. While I love to write about books in my book reviews, lots of children don't share my enthusiasm. If your kids or students groan at the mere mention of writing a book report, consider some alternative ideas.
Instead of a book report, have your kids make a book trailer! If you're not sure where to start, check out this article by Kim Chatel, Making a Digital Story with Kids. Book trailers are a great way to have children focus on summarising plot while also attempting to convey something of the mood or tone of a novel.
You can find many examples of downloadable book trailers suitable for children at Book Trailers - Movies for Literacy. Publishers' sites and Youtube will bring you even more. Creating Trailers with Students also has lots of helpful information.
Making a book trailer or any short video with your kids/students is a perfect time to discuss copyright with them. Check out the Copyright and Copyleft Wiki for some clear explanations and useful Creative Commons resources.
Instead of a book report, have your kids design a poster. Websites like Notaland and Glogster encourage the creation of interactive posters too. To explore poster creation further, you might like to read Book Chook Favourites - Making Posters.
Instead of a book report, have your kids design an advertisement for the book. The ad could take the form of:
* text and an image suitable for inclusion in a magazine
* text read aloud as audio
* text for video if you have access to a camera
* text and images for inclusion in a slideshow
* improvised advertisements that can be performed after a little practise for an audience
* any combination of the above
Instead of a book report, have your kids design a cartoon or comic. To explore this further, you might like to read Book Chook Favourites - Cartoon Creation. Software like Comic Life is great for adding speech bubbles and dialogue to photos or art work. The online comic editors like ToonDoo offer a range of backgrounds, characters and props to help kids tell a story.
Instead of a book report, kids can turn their family, pets and friends into stars. They can dress and pose them for photos, then capture scenes from the story the way they see them. Use those photos as the basis for a movie-style poster (Big Huge Labs), an advertisement explaining why people should read the book, or a comic (Comic Life). Make a slideshow of your photos and add captions and music.
Instead of a book report, sum up a book (or movie or song) in four icons. This is perfect for high school kids when time is short. Read more about it at The Tech Savvy Educator.
Instead of a book report, use animated movie people to speak about the book for you. At websites like Xtranormal, you can animate characters and have them speak. Kids could have one character interview another, and report about a book that way.
Instead of a brief book report, use Blabberize to record yourself behind a photo.
The crucial factors involved in communicating to others about a book, I believe, are:
1. Read the book.
2. Reflect about what you've read. Ask yourself questions about the plot, the characters, the theme, the problems the characters face etc.
3. Choose a format to communicate your understanding that best suits you and the book.
Find more ideas at The Daring Librarian - Ban Book Reports, and Cybraryman's collection of articles at Book Reports.
And to the purists who insist that writing a textual book report is the only way to go, I say : "Ever since cavemen sat around a fire and told yarns, humans have been preoccupied with story. Aren't sculpture, dance, comics, poetry, photography, and book trailers all ways of transmitting some kind of story? Involving your kids in something like this allows them to experience the creative process as apprentices, and may very well lead to a deep and abiding love for all types of story later in their lives." (The Book Chook, November 2009)