Book Report Assignment Sheets

TIP Sheet
WRITING BOOK REPORTS

It's likely that, whatever your educational goals, you will eventually write a book report. Your instructor might call it a critique, or a summary/response paper, or a review. The two components these assignments have in common are summary and evaluation.

Other TIP Sheets on related topics that might prove helpful in developing a book report, depending on the type of book and the specifics of your assignment, include the following:

  • How to Write a Summary
  • Writing About Non-Fiction Books
  • Writing About Literature

Summary AND evaluation
Typically, a book report begins with a paragraph to a page of simple information-author, title, genre (for example, science fiction, historical fiction, biography), summary of the central problem and solution, and description of the main character(s) and what they learned or how they changed.

The following example summarizes in two sentences the plot of Jurassic Park:

Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park describes how millionaire tycoon John Hammond indulges his desire to create an island amusement park full of living dinosaurs. In spite of elaborate precautions to make the park safe, his animals run wild, killing and maiming his employees, endangering the lives of his two visiting grandchildren, and finally escaping to mainland Costa Rica.

On the other hand, a thesis statement for a book report reflects your evaluation of the work; "I really, really liked it" is inadequate. Students sometimes hesitate to make judgments about literature, because they are uncertain what standards apply. It's not so difficult to evaluate a book in terms of story elements: character, setting, problem/solution, even organization. (See TIP Sheet Writing About Literature for ideas on how to handle these standard story elements.) Nevertheless, a good thesis statement should include your reflection on the ideas, purpose, and attitudes of the author as well.

To develop an informed judgment about the work, start by asking yourself lots of questions (for more ideas, see "Evaluation" on the TIP Sheet Writing About Literature). Then choose your most promising area, the one about which you have something clear to say and can easily find evidence from the book to illustrate. Develop this into a thesis statement.

For example, here is what one thesis statement might look like for Jurassic Park (notice how this thesis statement differs from the simple summary above):

In Jurassic Park, Crichton seems to warn us chillingly that, in bioengineering as in chaos theory, the moment we most appear to be in control of events is the exact moment control is already irredeemably lost to us.

To develop an informed judgment and a corresponding thesis statement about a book, brainstorm by answering questions such as the following:

  • For what purpose did the author write this, and did he fulfill that purpose?
  • What did the main character learn? Does this lesson reflect reality as you know it?
  • Were the characters complex and believable? What do they reveal of the author? of human nature?
  • How well did the setting contribute to the mood? How did setting affect character and plot development?

 

The invisible author
One common mistake students make is failing to step back far enough from the story to evaluate it as a piece of work produced by someone. Evaluation–you may be surprised to learn it!–is as much about the author as about the story itself. It is about making informed guesses about the author's purpose, ideas, and attitudes based on his use of language, organization, plot, and character development.

Usually the author does not figure prominently in the story unless the book is autobiographical. More often he is the invisible persona–invisible, yet not absent. The author leaves traces of himself throughout. Paradoxically, your understanding of the author depends on your deliberate
detachment from the story itself to discover those traces.

Imagine standing very, very close to a large painting–inches away. Your focus is on blobs of color, but you are unable to identify the object represented. When you move back a few steps and alter your focus, the blobs take on a recognizable form. In the same way, you have to draw back from the story to discern the purpose, ideas, and attitudes of the author.

Author's purpose
No one goes to the trouble to write something without purpose. Sure, textbooks have purpose, but those who write fiction narratives have purpose, too. Even fantasy writers have purpose. A book report should include your evaluation of whether the author succeeded in his purpose.

The following writer has made a statement about the author's purpose:

Crichton seems not so much to be warning us of the evils of scientific inquiry as begging us, in a very convincing way, to exercise collective moral restraint on scientific research.

This writer would then go on to use quotations, examples, and evidence from the book to show why she believes this is Crichton's purpose.

To identify and respond to the purpose of an author, try asking questions like these:

  • Was the author's purpose to inform or simply entertain me? Did I learn something? Was I entertained? Did I lose interest? If I lost interest, was this author, perhaps, writing to a different audience?
  • Is the author trying to persuade me to think or act in a particular way? About what issue? What point of view would he or she have me adopt? Was I convinced?

Author's ideas
The author's ideas may be stated by the author himself in a foreword, or they may show up in the words of a narrator or a principal character. The character Ian Malcolm, for example, is a primary spokesman for Crichton's criticism of post-modern science. Malcolm's words, below, express one of the ideas Crichton wishes us to consider:

"I'll tell you the problem with engineers and scientists.... They are focused on whether they can do something. They never stop to ask if they should do something."

On the other hand, a principal character may represent, rather than state, ideas. Hammond's visiting grandchildren, for example, might represent the oblivious, yet threatened, human populations of the mainland and the planet itself. When ideas are implied rather than stated, they are called themes.

To discover and evaluate ideas in a book, try asking questions like the following:

  • What was the central problem in the book? Was it a personal, social, or moral problem? Does it relate to life as you know it?
  • What ideas(s) about life and society does the author seem to hold?
  • What did the principal character(s) learn? How did they change? What does this seem to say about people? About society? About morality?

Author's attitudes
Once you have identified what ideas an author is trying to examine, you must still determine what the author's attitude is toward those ideas. An author's attitudes are revealed in part by the tone, or overall mood, of the work. In writing, as in conversation, tone is not so much stated as implied. In reading we depend solely on the emotional overtones of the words to infer the attitudes of the author.

For example, suppose you have determined that Crichton wishes to explore the idea of how private industry exploits scientific research. You must then determine, as well, what Crichton's attitude is toward this situation. Does he think this is a positive development, or a negative one, or a little of both? Does he think it is inevitable, or preventable? One way to figure out Crichton's attitude about this is to identify the tone he uses to tell the story. We describe the tone of a book with adjectives, and more than one if necessary: straightforward, complex, ironic, creepy, pathetic, bitter, comic, tragic.

For example, here is a statement using three different adjectives to describe Crichton's attitude toward one of the central problems in Jurassic Park:

Crichton strikes an ominous tone in Jurassic Park. Even though this is a cautionary tale, the author nevertheless is optimistic that the mainstream scientific community, represented in this story by Alan Grant, can learn restraint and respect for nature.

(When identifying the tone of a book, make the effort to distinguish an individual
character's attitude from the author's overall attitude-they may differ.)

To begin talking about tone, ask yourself questions such as these:

  • Is there a particular setting or scene that stands out in my mind? What was the mood of that scene? Is this mood indicative of the entire book?
  • Is the author an optimist, a pessimist, or a realist? How does he show it?
  • Does a principal character experience one persistent state of mind or emotion? What would I call it? Is it indicative of the work overall?
  • Did the mood of the work help or hinder my understanding of the author's ideas?

"In conclusion..."
Clearly it is important to be able to make intelligent inferences about the author, because a book evaluation evaluates how well the author has done her job, not just how much you liked the story. After you have asked and answered that question, then you may add, "I really, really liked it."

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Lesson Plan

Book Report Alternative: Character and Author Business Cards

 

Grades6 – 8
Lesson Plan TypeStandard Lesson
Estimated TimeTwo 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Publisher

 

Preview

OVERVIEW

In this alternative to the traditional book report, students have to really understand a character from a book they have read in order to successfully communicate the essence of the character using a few words and symbols on a business card. They begin by discussing the details commonly found on business cards and looking at samples. They think about how font, colors, and logos can be used to represent their characters, as well as the taglines, products and services, and other details that could be included.  Students then use planning sheets to think through the elements they want to include on their business cards before creating the final version using a word processing program on the computer. Final copies of the business cards can be exchanged among students and given to the librarian for display.

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FEATURED RESOURCES

Planning Sheet for Business Card Book Reports: Have students use this guide to think through the elements on their characters' business cards before using the computer to design the final version.

Rubric for Business Card Book Reports: Use this rubric to assess students' business cards.

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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE

In describing this activity, Gretchen Lee states "I like this activity because it forces the
students to think symbolically" (28). The students choose a font for their character or author, find icons or images for the character or author, and compose related text. These student representations of the character or author with their multifaceted texts using color, symbols, images, texts, and metaphor succeed in the classroom because they provide a snapshot of the students' comprehension of the ideas in the texts in a very concise form.

Further Reading

Adapted from: Gretchen Lee.  "Technology in the Language Arts Classroom: Is It Worth the Trouble?" Voices from the Middle 7.3 (March 2000): 24-32.

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Standards

NCTE/IRA NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS

3.

Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

 

11.

Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

 

12.

Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

 

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Resources & Preparation

MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGY

  • Computers with word processor software

  • Sample business cards from various local businesses or people you've met. (Note: many businesses have business cards propped up and available for the taking near the receptionist or checkout area. If you pick up cards as you see them, you'll always have a ready collection on hand. You might also check with local printers who make business cards for samples.)

  • Business card blanks or heavy stock paper cut to the appropriate size; or perforated business card pages for a laser or inkjet printer (available in office supply stores) (optional)

  • Peel-and-stick magnetic sheets precut to the size of business cards. These magnetic sheets are typically available in stationery and office supply stores, and the business cards can be attached to these magnetic sheets to make refrigerator/white board magnets. This makes an impressive classroom display at the end of the project (optional)

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PRINTOUTS

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WEBSITES

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PREPARATION

  • Before this lesson, students will read a book independently, in literature circles, or as a whole class.

  • Ask students to bring copies of the book that will be the focus of their business cards to class for reference.

  • Make copies or overheads of the sample business cards, the Planning Sheet for Business Card Book Reports, and the Rubric for Business Card Book Reports.

  • Practice the steps for creating business cards with a word processor using your computers and software. You may want to provide your students with more specific instructions that are customized for your software program.

  • Find sources for clip art that are appropriate for your class. Typically a small clip art library is included with word processing programs; however, additional images may be needed. Have URLs on hand that students can use to find images for their business cards.

    Optional: Depending upon your goals and the resources available, students can also draw original images on their business cards with markers, create images in a program such as Paint or PhotoShop, or scan images for their cards.

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Instructional Plan

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • identify appropriate symbols that relate to their authors or characters.

  • interact with classmates to give and receive feedback.

  • explore how audience and purpose shape their writing.

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Session One

  1. Introduce the writing activity, sharing the planning sheet, rubric, and example business card.

    1. Generally explain that students will be making business cards that include elements from the list of options on the planning sheet that are appropriate for their character or author. The business cards can be given away or traded with other students. One copy can also go to the librarian who can share them with other students at the school.

    2. Share the example business cards with students and explain the assignment, pointing out each of the parts that are included. Discuss other elements that could be added to the cards. You may also want to let students explore some business card sites on the Web to see examples, including Business Card Designs by Daniel Will-Harris and Rethink Your Business Card from Ideabook.

    3. Lead students through discussion of the key elements for each part. Sample discussion questions can include the following:

      • What are the important characteristics of a tagline or description of a business or professional? What do the words in the tagline on the sample card tell you about the character?

      • What details make sense for the character? Is there an address? Would phone or e-mail information make sense?

      • What products and/or services can you associate with the character or author?

      • What typeface best fits the character or author? How large should it be?

      • What colors belong on the business card? How do the colors relate to the other elements of the card?

      • What kind of a logo would best represent the character or author and why?

      • How do the symbols on the business card relate to the text? What ideas might you keep in mind as you choose clip art?
  2. Once you're satisfied that students understand the assignment, they can begin work with the Planning Sheet for Business Card Book Reports. Students can work individually or in groups on this project.

  3. Encourage students to interact with one another, to share and receive feedback on their plans for business cards. Since these business cards will be shared in the class as well as in the library, hearing the feedback and comments of other students helps writers refine their work for their audience.

  4. Students can continue working on the project for homework if desired.

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Session Two

  1. Remind students of the goals and elements included in this project. Answer any questions students have.

  2. To make business cards, have your students follow these basic steps, adapting them for the word processor that is available on your computers:

    1. Choose one of the following options, based on the resources you have available:

      • Open up the Business Card Template in Microsoft Word.

      • Open a new document and insert 2 columns and 4 rows. Space the columns and rows out to be 3.5" columns and 2" rows.

      • Open a new document using one of the business card layouts available (see your word processor documentation for additional help).

      • If you are using perforated business card forms, follow the instructions that have been included with the forms.
    2. Invite students to compose their text and add their images to one of the business card rectangles. If students are using Microsoft Word, they can find additional clipart in Microsoft's Digital Clip Art Gallery. In addition to clip art, students can use Word Art in their word processor to make fancier versions of some of the words on their cards (see the help in your word processor for details on how to use this option).

    3. Once students have the card composed as they want it, have them copy the contents of the first cell in the table, and paste it to the additional seven cells in the document. The eight cards should fit on one sheet of 8.5" by 11" paper.

    4. As students consider different options for their cards, you may suggest that they try one layout option in one cell of their table and another layout option in a different cell so that they can compare the two layouts side-by-side.

    5. Remind students to put their names on the back of the business cards.

  3. While students work, again encourage them to interact with one another, to share and receive feedback on their plans for business cards.

  4. After the business cards are printed out, students can decorate them with markers or other classroom supplies.

  5. As students finish, ask them to turn in two business cards (one for you and one for the librarian). Encourage students to share and trade their additional business cards.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

For more formal assessment, use the Rubric for Business Card Book Reports which is tied to the elements included in the planning sheet.

On the other hand, nothing is as useful as the feedback that they'll receive by sharing their business cards with their peers. Informal feedback from students who read the cards and search out the related book are excellent feedback for students.

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Related Resources

LESSON PLANS

Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Examining Story Elements Using Story Map Comic Strips

Comic frames are traditionally used to illustrate a story in a short, concise format. In this lesson, students use a six-paneled comic strip frame to create a story map, summarizing a book or story that they've read. Each panel retells a particular detail or explains a literary element (such as setting or character) from the story.

 

Grades   5 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Glog That Book!

In this alternative book report, students identify the elements of fiction in books they have read by creating glogs, interactive multimedia posters, and then share their glogs.

 

Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Technical Reading and Writing Using Board Games

Students celebrate a novel they have read and get hands-on experience with technical writing by creating a board game based on the novel and writing the instructions for it.

 

Grades   6 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Getting Acquainted with Farcebook

In this alternative to the traditional book report, students report on their novel choices using Facebook-like pages.

 

Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Characters for Hire! Studying Character in Drama

In this alternative to the traditional book report, students respond to a play they have read by creating a resume for one of its characters.

 

Grades   4 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Creating Reading Excitement with Book Trailers

In this alternative to the traditional book report, students create book trailers using Microsoft Photo Story 3, a free downloadable software program for digital storytelling.

 

Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: The Elements of Fiction

Students identify the elements of fiction in a book they have read and share summaries of them by writing and illustrating their own mini-book.

 

Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Hooking a Reader with a Book Cover

Students select a book to read based only on its cover art. After reading the book, they use an interactive tool to create a new cover for it.

 

Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Summary, Symbol, and Analysis in Bookmarks

Students make bookmarks on computers and share their ideas with other readers at their school, while practicing summarizing, recognizing symbols, and writing reviews—all for an authentic audience.

 

Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Creating a New Book Cover

Students explore book covers of a variety of books then create a new cover for a book they have read.

 

Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Writing Resumes for Characters in Historical Fiction

Students write resumes for historical fiction characters. They first explore help wanted ads to see what employers want, and then draft resumes for the characters they've chosen.

 

Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Comic Strips and Cartoon Squares

Students must think critically to create comic strips highlighting six important scenes from a book they have read.

 

Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Creating a Childhood for a Character

Students explore familiar literary characters, usually first encountered as adults, but whose childhood stories are only told later. Students then create childhoods for adult characters from books of their choice.

 

Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: A Character's Letter to the Editor

Students write a persuasive letter to the editor of a newspaper from a selected fictional character's perspective, focusing on a specific issue or situation explored in the novel.

 

Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Creating Careers for Characters

Students select a job listing for a character in a book they have read, then create a resume and application letter for that character.

 

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CALENDAR ACTIVITIES

Grades   3 – 6  |  Calendar Activity  |  February 12

Judy Blume was born in 1938.

Students work with a partner or individually to create cartoons of their favorite scenes from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

 

Grades   K – 8  |  Calendar Activity  |  June 6

Celebrate Cynthia Rylant's birthday!

Students work in small groups or as a class to map the plot of a selected Cynthia Rylant story and create original literary works using the plot diagrams.

 

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PROFESSIONAL LIBRARY

Grades   8 – 12  |  Professional Library  |  Journal

Fifty Alternatives to the Book Report

Offers 50 diverse suggestions intended to offer students new ways to think about a piece of literature, new directions to explore, and ways to respond with greater depth to the books they read.

 

Professional Library  |  Journal

How Comic Books Can Change the Way Our Students See Literature: One Teacher's Perspective

In this article, Versaci details the many merits of using comics and graphic novels in the classroom, suggests how they can be integrated into historical and social issues units, and recommends several titles.

 

Grades   5 – 9  |  Professional Library  |  Journal

Technology in the Language Arts classroom: Is It Worth the Trouble?

Suggests the authentic audience found on the Internet has a profound effect on the quality of student writing in all grades, and that the key to successful technology projects is integrating them into the curriculum so that computers are a means, not an end. Offers ideas for classroom activities and projects using stand-alone computers, and using computers with Internet access.

 

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