Book Reviews: An Alternative to Book Reports



For many of us, just hearing the words book report gives us a flashback to tedious reports that we were tasked with completing when we were in school. I remember standing in the front of my class, reading my book report, being bored by my own review, and just as bored by the reviews of the others. The big problem was that they lacked creativity. There was an exact format and so even though we did different books, they all sounded exactly the same. 

So needless to say, I don't want to be THAT teacher, but I do want to know that my students are reading, especially since we do a 40 book challenge. So I started to play around with the idea of book reviews. I'm a voracious reader, and Goodreads is one of my favorite websites. I love to keep track of the books I want to read, the books my friends are reading, and also write book reviews when I've completed a book. I like getting my voice heard and sharing my opinion. 

What's that? A book review is opinion writing? That's right! This doesn't just cover reading comprehension, it's also going to cover opinion writing. Don't you just love it when you can double dip? I know do! 

Now, there are tons of formats for book reviews. I know this just from reading reviews on Goodreads, but I also saw that teachers are doing these in many different ways. I did a lot of reading on what others are doing, and then decided what I wanted to see in the reviews of my students, as well as what was appropriate for fifth grade (which ruled Goodreads out). I knew right away that I wanted students to share their reviews so that they would serve as recommendations and encourage their classmates to select the books they were reading about. 

The first thing I did is decide what components I wanted to see, or what my requirements would be. I decided I wanted the following, not necessarily in this order, but pretty close to it:
  • a creative review title
  • an introduction with the title, author, and genre
  • a short summary that DOES NOT give the ending away - again, I want these to serve as recommendations, so it's important that they not give the ending away so others will actually want to read and find out what happens
  • the above bullet can still apply for nonfiction, but the summary would be focused on the main topics
  • a detailed description of the main character or characters/a more detailed description of interesting topics if nonfiction
  • their opinion of the book with a rating on a five-star scale 
  • two personal reactions - reasons why they rated the book the way they did, with supporting evidence
  • a recommendation - a sentence or two describing the perfect audience for this book
Students had two options for presenting their book reviews, Kidblog, which I love because it is private to just our class. You can get a free membership, but I did the paid one just so that I would have all of the perks since I used it for more than just book reviews. 

Below is what the main Kidblog page looks like. It displays all of the book reviews for our whole class. We did talk about coming up with more creative pictures for their headings (as well as copyright issues related to that) and I plan to more strict about that this coming school year. 

T his is what the student book reviews look like when you select one from the main page. Students are required to comment at least one review per week. 

If you are interested in using Kidblog, you can grab a copy of my step-by-step directions for creating their post by clicking the picture below: 

The other option was a video review and womp, womp, womp - no one did it. 😞 But, I did give the option, and even made my own example video (after about 200 takes...thanks to my extremely patient hubby). Maybe this year will be the year of the video review. My fingers are crossed! 

As these are graded, I did create a book review rubric. You can click on the picture to download the rubric. 

If you are interested in grabbing everything I created, I recently listed my book review pack in my TPT store. You can click the picture below to see the listing. 
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California Dreaming Giveaway


Many TPT sellers are preparing for a trip to California for the annual conference, being held in Anaheim this year. You're probably thinking that I will be headed there since I'm currently living in California, but I won't actually be attending. However, I have a really good excuse to not attend - my husband is coming home after a six-month deployment! I haven't seen him since January so as much as I love all things TPT, I'm perfectly ok with missing out this time!

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