British author W. Somerset Maugham stated: “To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”
But for many students, the traditional and seemingly ubiquitous book report is one of the chief miseries of academic life.
Book reports, the hallmark of language arts classes from elementary school through high school, serve their purpose. They provide a forum for students to demonstrate comprehension of the books they are reading, hone their writing skills and systematically analyze literary characters and themes.
But for those students and teachers weary of the standard book report – and for those students who benefit from non-traditional learning techniques – the following ideas provide engaging ways to explore books, delve into characters and bring the written word to life.
Give it a Spin. Allow students to explore a book’s events from another perspective. These approaches still challenge a student’s writing and thinking skills, but also allow them a creative stake in the story and can give them insight into motives and perspective.
Write journal entries from a character’s perspective. Create alternative endings. Retell the story or event through the eyes and voice of a minor character. Create a news story recounting events from the book. Write a letter to character. Write a structured poem – a limerick or haiku – about the plot or a character. Create a list of interview questions for a book’s character or for the book’s author.
Get Creative! Tell the story visually. For students who are visual or creative learners, art provides an exciting medium to capture characters and events from a book.
Illustrate events from a book in comic book form. Design a book cover or poster. Use magazine clippings to create a collage of images representing characters and events.
Get Dramatic! Give students the chance to move around, interact and bring characters and events to life with theatrical takes on a book.
Dress up like the book’s characters. Play charades by encouraging students to impersonate a character and have other students guess the character. Role-play events from the book – or even new events – with students in character as figures from the book. As a class, make and share a meal described in the book. Create puppets and put on a show.
Take your show on the road – or to a Time Machine! If travel is an option, field trips are a welcome change of pace from classroom activities.
Travel to a geographical location – a city, a body of water, a forest trail – featured in the book. If the book depicts a historical era, explore a museum, monument or historical home from a similar era.
Get Wired! An increasingly technologically savvy generation of readers may benefit from websites and technology that enable them to chronicle and share their reading adventures.
Books provide inspiration for a variety of activities that can encourage critical thinking and creative expression. Feed a lifelong love of reading by allowing students to explore books on a variety of levels! For more ideas on book-based activities, click here. For tech-oriented sites and ideas, click here.