Renovating the Traditional ELA Book Report

Let's renovate the traditional book report by using 1 of these 5 engaging ideas for students to demonstrate their learning.

It is time we renovate the traditional book report. English Language Arts has been a part of school curriculums for many years. However, this doesn’t mean that how we teach language arts can’t evolve.  

Today let’s look at one staple of ELA curriculums – the book report – and ways that we can update it to better fit the needs of our classrooms and students. In the ELA classroom, students read books. This is a good and important part of the curriculum. It is then necessary to have students demonstrate that they have read assigned books as well as respond to what they have read.  

The traditional book report fulfills these needs. It also is rather dull and can easily be plagiarized.  Because of this, finding a quality alternate assignment is invaluable. These alternate assignments might take the form of class presentations, art projects, letters, or advertisements, to name a few options.  

Making them both academically rigorous as well as engaging is very necessary, but it can also be challenging.  If you are looking for something to fill this need in your classroom, I want to give you some options.

Option One:  Retell, Relate, Reflect, Review Book Report

This FREE book report alternative is a great way to get students thinking about their reading and digging deeper into their thinking. It can be used with any novel that you would assign a traditional book report to go with. In it, students respond with detailed responses in paragraph form. It includes easy-to-understand instructions and a detailed rubric. Additionally, this assignment can be used multiple times throughout the year without becoming stale. Students are asked to retell, relate, reflect on and review their novel. Find this free resource in my Shopify store

Option Two:  Book Flatlay Project

Book Flatlay Assignment Example

Writing is an integral part of ELA curriculums, and being able to respond in writing is an important skill for all students. That being said, not all reports need to be strictly in written format. Incorporating art can be not only fun but also a great way to engage students who are visual learners.  

This Book Flatlay project is a great option for this. In it, students showcase what they think about and what they have learned from an assigned novel. Students will learn how to create a book flatlay image and then justify their prop choices by finding evidence in the text to support their ideas.  

It is a great assignment option for all types of novel assignments – from an independent reading novel to a literature circle book or a whole class novel. Learn more about this resource on Shopify CAD or Teachers Pay Teachers USD.

Option Three: 12 Genre Book Reports

Encouraging students to read a wide variety of genres is a great way to introduce students to types of literature they may not be familiar with. Try assigning a different genre for students to read each month. This forces students to read outside of their go-to genre(s). It is helpful if you ask your school librarian to pull a box of books for each genre so that students can find them easily. I also provide students with book lists sorted by genre to help them research possible titles before they go to the library. 

I created a resource that includes 12 different genre-based assignments, including both fiction and non-fiction books. Response formats include oral presentations, choice boards, comparison/contrast activities, writing, and student-created lessons. The assignment type rotates throughout the year to help your students achieve mastery while still providing students with choice.  

With my 12 Genre Book Reports assignment, students will showcase their creativity while meeting your curriculum standards and demonstrate their knowledge through written and oral work. Teachers are provided with levelled rubrics, digital and PDF formats, and a suggested teaching schedule. 

Learn more about this resource on Shopify CAD or Teachers Pay Teachers USD.

Option Four: Book Unboxing Assignment

Students love social media and YouTube culture. Use their knowledge and excitement to promote reading in your classroom. Students select 3 – 5 books they have read and unbox them for the class. Students can present this information in a video format or a live presentation. This can be used with any fiction or non-fiction book. Learn the step-by-step method for getting students to create their own unboxing videos in this blog post. Learn more about this resource on Shopify CAD or Teachers Pay Teachers USD.

Option Five: Independent Reading Journal

When I first started teaching, I assigned a book report each month. Then I decided to switch this up and have a major creative assignment due once a quatre on average. To hold students accountable for their reading between major creative assignments, I had them complete a weekly reading journal entry. 

Students can write about their thoughts and feelings about the text they’re reading. I have students select 1 journal entry a month for me to formally assess, and I check the other three for completion. Some months you can decide which of the 4 entries gets marked.

This assignment uses tracking forms, journaling, goal setting, and student conferencing to give your students structure and direction to their reading.  This helps them keep on track with firm goals in mind and encourages deeper and critical thinking.  Learn more about this resource on Shopify CAD or Teachers Pay Teachers USD.

Reading and novels are an important and time-tested mainstay of ELA curriculums  Requiring students to respond to their reading is part of this. However, the way we ask students to respond does not have to be unchanging. Whether you use one of the ideas in this blog post or your own, engaging students in quality alternatives to the traditional book report will benefit everyone involved.

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