Sunday, April 5, 2015

Not Another Boring Book Report

My tenth grade English students just finished up their independent reading projects, but I didn't have them create just another boring book report. Instead, students used ThingLinks to curate research on their selected novels. Their task was to find a variety of visual, audio, and written pieces to act as mentor texts for the writing of their own literary reviews. I then collected the links to all of their ThingLinks and connected them to our class picture, a ThingLink of ThingLinks!

By focusing on curating research, we were able to spend time talking about responsible research and what makes a scholarly source. Students were tasked with compiling a works cited for all their links, which we used the Easy Bib Add-on in Google Docs to create. As a class, we discussed the distinction between a book summary and a literary review before students set about finding well-written reviews to act as mentor texts for their own writing. Finally, students used the literary reviews they found as models to help them craft their own reviews. Instead of giving students a set outline to follow, a set number of sentences and paragraphs to follow, students crafted their reviews to read like those published pieces they found in The New York Times' Review of Books, on the American Library Association's site, the Library Journal online, and shared on National Public Radio's Book Reviews.  And that was our goal. When students return from Spring Break next week, we'll be revising their reviews in order to submit them to online spaces like Teen Ink, GoodReads, and Amazon.

Giving students the choice to select their own novels, as well as the choice of how and where to share their literary research and reviews makes for a powerful learning experience for all involved. And it certainly means that I'm not assessing another boring book report.

Check out their work below. You'll also see my lesson materials below. Feel free to adapt them for your classroom!

You’ve spent the first quarter reading and reflecting on your choice SSR project. Now, let’s do something with your reading! We will be using your SSR book in two ways. You will be using your SSR text to complete your midterm benchmark essay. You will also be completing an interactive, research-based presentation on your SSR novel using ThingLink.

Login to your ThingLink account by first checking your district email for your login and password information. Then, you will use ThingLink to create an interactive presentation on your book, sharing reviews, research, and connections to your reading. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Take or find a high-quality image of your book’s cover. This will be the base image you use for your ThingLink creation. If you use someone else’s image, make sure that you keep track of where you found it as you will need to give credit to the original source in a works cited document. 
  • Step 2: Create a Works Cited in your Google Doc account. Use the Easy Bib Add-on to help you easily create a Works Cited for all the research, images, and content that you are adding to your ThingLink. Under “File,” be sure to select the “Publish to Web” option. 
  • Step 3: Get researching! Here is what you will need to link to your ThingLink (though you can always connect more than this): 
    • three well-written literary reviews of your selected book. These are not Amazon reviews. Find three scholarly reviews that incorporate more than mere opinion of the book and instead analyze the literary elements and merits of your SSR text. Here’s an example
    • a well-researched source that connects to the setting/context of your book. Did you read a book about Civil War in Sierra Leone? Find a reputable source that explains the historical context of the war to link to your creation. Did you read The Great Gatsby? Find a scholarly source about the nouveau riche during America’s depression era. 
    • a well-crafted introduction to the author. If the author of your SSR text has his or her own website, this would be perfect to link to your creation. If not, find a well-written introduction to the author and his/her background. 
    • three well-produced audio/visuals to enhance our understanding of your SSR book. Consider looking for a high-quality image of a scene from the book which you can link and briefly explain in your creation. Find a podcast interview with the author to link. Locate a video of the author speaking about his/her book. Make sure you have a mix of media. All three should not be the same type of media. 
  • Step 4: Use your research to create your own review. Your book review should be written like those that you researched. Use your researched reviews as mentor texts. What do you notice about the style and voice in which they are written? Your review will need to incorporate specific details about the author’s writing style in addition to reviewing the plot and characters found in the story. You are not simply looking at why the story works but how it works. 
  • Step 5: Link it up! You will need to have your works cited, your review, and all eight of your researched links added to your ThingLink creation.


Michelle Haseltine said...

Oh my goodness!!! This is a brilliant idea and the work of the students is amazing! I am going to adapt this for my sixth graders. Thank you so much for this idea! I am so excited to pull this together!!! You are amazing!! I am so inspired! :)

Jennifer Ward said...

Yay! I'd love to see what your sixth grade students create. Maybe we could connect our students in the future, Michelle!

Michelle Haseltine said...

I'd LOVE that, Jen!!!! I will definitely share when I'm done and I'd LOVE to connect our students. Where are you? I'm in Virginia (outside of DC).

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