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As children begin to read we want them to get in the practice of understanding the elements of what they are reading. Who is in the book? Where is it taking place? What is happening to the characters? A good way to do this is by assigning a simple book report. This not only helps them with reading comprehension but also improves writing skills.
- Fiction: stories that write about imaginary events and people
- Nonfiction: writing based on facts with real people and real events
- Setting: a specific time and place where a story is happening
- Character: person in a story
Prepare the Students
At first assigning a book report might sound like a daunting task to your young students or they may not even have a clue what a book report is! So with each book you read to your students always start by talking about the book itself. Is it fiction or nonfiction? What does the cover tell us? By looking at the cover and the title can you predict what the book is about? As you continue to read, take the opportunity to mention the setting and the characters in the book. For example, in one of my favorite books, Corduroy by Don Freeman, the setting is the department store. The main characters are Corduroy and his new friend Lisa. Soon the children will become familiar with the words character and setting and they will be able to discuss the book using those terms.
An easy way to start with your young students is to read a book to them and then give them a piece of writing paper. Ask them to finish the sentence, “I like this book because…" Perhaps the assignment could include a picture of a favorite part of the book done by the student. The next step could be, “My favorite character in the book is______ because…"
In my opinion, even though the content of their answers is important, you should expect complete sentences and proper capitalization and punctuation from those students who are capable of doing it.
Get Them Excited
After some of the above assignments tell your students that they are going to do book reports similar to what older students do. Wow, they are getting smarter! Your expectations are that you want their personal best. Good handwriting, good answers and correctly written sentences (where appropriate).
Use a template to print out a worksheet for each child like the one provided here. Or you can easily customize one of your own. You can embellish it with clip art that is seasonal or related to the book itself. For example, in the winter, draw a large mitten on the paper and divide it into sections labeled: setting, characters, what happened at the end or whatever fits the particular book you have read.
Worksheets can be as simple as having three or four rectangles, each for a specific answer. Or it could be a “finish the sentence" type of assignment.
Save Some Paper
One of your goals should be to keep the excitement going about doing book reports and reading in general. After all, most of these little ones are just beginning to read. It’s magical! We don’t want to turn a positive thing into a negative one. So, whether they are reporting on a book they read independently, in a group or one that you read to them, here are some other ideas to make it fun:
- Bring in an object from home that relates in some way to the book and share with the class
- Dress up as a character from the book
- For a nonfiction book: decorate a can or box in the theme of the book. Then include three slips of paper inside the can/box with a fact from the book written on each slip of paper.
- Write a friendly letter to the author
- Write a friendly letter to one of the characters
Think about your objective for each lesson. Set your expectations based on the ability of your students. Vary the activities to maintain interest. Have fun!