how to write a book report

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					     More Than a Few Alternatives to the Book Report

The following list of alternatives is intended as a series of basic ideas that can act as a
starting point in developing creative ways of asking students to be accountable for their
summer reading. The ideas here can be adjusted and modified in terms of their difficulty
and appropriateness for any secondary grade level. The intent of these projects is that
they be completed independent of class and submitted to the teacher at some point in
September determined at the teacher's discretion. (Listed in no particular order . . .)

Moviemaker: Write a one page “pitch” to a producer explaining why the story would or
would not make a great movie. If the pitch is to make the movie, what scenes could be
cut (and why) to bring the novel to a manageable time limit? Who would you cast in the
main roles and where would it be set?

Dedicate An Anthology of Poetry to the Novel: Collect a variety of existing poems that
you feel best capture the essence of the novel, its plot, conflict, characters, symbols,
theme, etc. and organize the poetry in a framework that parallels the novel. Choose three
or four of the poems and write about the connections you made.

Letters: There are several options for letters based on the novel:
                Write to a friend about this book and why or why not you would
                   recommend that he/she read it.
                Write to the author about any aspect of your choice.
                Write to a character in the book.
                Write as if you were the character or author and choose a targeted
                   audience. (future readers, another character in the novel, etc.,)
                Write a letter from one character in the novel to a character in another
                   novel to establish a connection between them.

Critical Lens or 5 Star Quote from the Beginning, Middle and End: Choose three
quotes from the novel (beginning, middle and end) and for each explain why you feel
they epitomize the book.

Advertisement: Take the most compelling images and/or metaphors from the novel and
create an advertisement for a targeted audience. It may be for a magazine, newspaper,
billboard or television ad.

Dramatic monologue: Create two or three monologues for a character(s) from the novel;
go beyond the text and add what you think the character is thinking/feeling at that
moment and why? Choose scenes that are central to the conflict and that are spread
throughout the book. (one from each of the beginning, middle, and end)

Debates on Paper: If you are reading a controversial text or novel with debatable
subjects (such as 1984 ) set up two pieces of writing that "debate the issues," that explain
both sides of the issue.
Gender-Bender: Rewrite one of the choices from the following list and change the
gender of the characters to show how they might act differently (e.g. Lord of the Flies).
        a crucial scene or turning point in the novel
        a series of characters' reactions, dialogues, or thoughts that are central to the
        the conflict and how it is played out
        the significant events in the plot

Roundtable Book Sale: For a book that a student feels others his/her age would enjoy,
he/she can create a three to five minute "verbal pitch" to present to a small group or the
class with the intent of getting other students to consider reading the book.

Haiku/Limerick: Choose four characters from the novel and create a haiku or a limerick
for each of them that clarifies each character as well as their relationships to each other.

Cliffs Notes: For a small group of students that might have read the same book, have
each student take a chapter and, using Cliff’s format, create their own booklet.

Roundtable Book Sale: For a book that a student feels others his/her age would enjoy,
he/she can create a three to five minute "verbal pitch" to present to a small group or the
class with the intent of getting other students to consider reading the book.

Book Review: Write a review of the novel for a targeted audience. You may want to
consider such elements as theme, structure, tone, diction, point of view, characterization,
audience, complexity, etc.

Dear Author: Write a letter to a contemporary author via the publisher (who almost
always forwards them). Determine the best approach to take based on your reaction to the

Surf the Net: Prior to, while, or after reading a book, check out the web and its offerings
about the book, its author, or its subject, and collect additional information you feel
contributes to the experience of this book. Annotate the selections in note form, making
connections to the book that you think enhance the reading.

Inspirations: Watch a film inspired by a story (e.g. Franny and Alexander is inspired by
Hamlet) and compare/contrast the works in a one page piece.

Timeline: Create a timeline that includes both the events in the novel and historical
information of the time. In a short piece of writing, explain how the author made
connections to the historical context and/or connections you would have added.

Related Art: Bring in copies/examples of art related to the book’s time or themes; in a
piece of writing, compare, describe, and discuss the connections you made.
Movie Preview: Movie previews always offer a quick sequence of the best moments that
make us want to watch it; create a storyboard or video and narrate the scenes for your

Rosencrantz and Gildenstern: Write a story or journal from the perspective of
characters with no real role in the story and show us what they see and think from their

Adaptations: Adapt the novel for a different audience, medium, or genre, create:
       a children's book or a book for any different age group than was originally
       a drama or screenplay
       a video
       a short story
       an epic poem
       a parody
       a satire

Visual Art: Create a visual representation of one (or more) of the chapters or the entire
work in one of the following ways:
         a storyboard that captures the significant events in the novel
         a comic strip of the book's plot (or chosen chapters)
         draw the most important scene in the chapter and explain how its action is
           central to the plot/conflict
         create a drawing or painting that captures the essence of a character, event,
           symbol or theme in the book
         create a video
         create your own idea and touch base with your teacher about your new option

Performance Art: Create a performance piece that you feel captures the essence of a
character, event, or theme. You may chose one of the following mediums:
         an original musical composition
         choreograph an original dance
         choose a piece of music and/or song lyric and write a one page interpretation
            or a 3-5 speech to explain your rationale for your choice.
         write a song/ballad about the story, a character or an event in the novel

Fictional Friends: Who of all the characters would you want for a friend? Why?
What would you do or talk about? Create a piece of writing that extends these ideas.

Collage: Create a collage around the themes, metaphors, imagery, symbols, or characters
in the book, and on the back, explain your visual images in a one-page interpretation.

State of The Union: The President wants to recommend a book to the nation: tell him
one important realization you had while reading this book and why he should recommend
The Adjective Approach: Pick five adjectives for the book and/or character(s), and
explain how they apply by including specific references from the text to support your

Dear Diary: Keep a diary as if you were a character in the story. Write down events that
happen during the story and reflect on how they affected the character and why.

What If: Write about or discuss how the story would differ if the characters were
something other than they are, of a different race, gender, religion, age or social class.

Interview a Character: Choose a character and create a series of questions and the
character's answers that fit with his/her actions. Go beyond the information given in the

Original Poetry: Create a series of original poems for one or more of the characters in
the novel.
        take sections of the story and choosing carefully, create a "found poem"
        13 views: inspired by Stevens’s poem “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”:
           each stanza offers a different view of a character or chapter
        create a series of sonnets dedicated to a character(s)
        create an epic poem that re-tells the story
        create a parody of a famous poem that inserts elements from this novel
        create a series of poems that best illustrate your poetic style and that make
           specific connections to the novel

Personal Ad: Choose several characters from the novel and create a personal ad for each
of them that fit with the writer's characterization.

Holden Meets Hamlet: What would one character (or set of them) in one story say to
another if given the chance to talk or correspond? Write a dialogue, skit or letter.

Character Analysis: Describe a character as a psychologist or recruiting officer might.
What are they like? Use specific references from the text to support your description?
Why are they like that?

Write Into: Find a “hole” in the story where the character(s) disappears ("off camera")
for a time and describe what he/she is doing during that time and what motivates him/her
or them.

The Woody Allen: In Take the Money, Allen interviews the parents of a man who
became a bank robber. Write an imaginary interview with friends and family of a
character whom they try to help you understand.
Author Interview: Write an interview or letter in which the character in a story asks the
author a series of questions and reflects on how they feel about the way they were

Letter to the Newbery Committee: Pretend the novel is up for the Newbery Award and
you have been asked for a letter of recommendation on why it should be considered.

The Kugelmass: Woody Allen wrote a story in which the character can throw any book
into a time machine and it takes you inside the book and the era. What would you do, say,
or think if you “traveled” into the story you read?

Time Machine: Instead of traveling into the book, write a scene or story in which the
character(s) travel out of the book into today.

Biography: Write a biography of one of the characters who most interests you. You can
take the liberty to begin the biography before the book starts and continue after it ends.

Autobiography: Have the character that most interests you write their autobiography of
the time before, during and/or after the story occurs.

Board Game: Design a board game based on the novel, complete with "players" and
directions. Create question cards that are based on the novel's literary elements.

Second Chance: Talk or write about how it would change the story if a certain character
had made a different decision earlier in the story. (e.g. what if Huck had not run away?)

Reader Response Journal: Pick the most important word/line/image/object/event in
selected chapter(s) and explain why you chose it; be sure to support all analysis with
specific references to the novel.

Notes and Quotes: Draw a line down the middle of your notebook paper; on one side
write down important quotes; on the other, write commentary and analysis of the quotes.

Dear Classmate: Using email or some other means of corresponding, write each other
about the book as you read it, having a written conversation about the book.

Convention Introduction: You have been asked to introduce the book’s author to a
convention of English teachers. What would you say? Write and deliver your speech.

Day in Court: Use the story as the basis for a court trial; students can be witnesses,
expert witnesses called to testify, judge, jury, bailiff, reporter; this could be a project for a
large or small group who read the same novel. It could also be created by an individual
as a piece of writing outlining the events of the trial.
Censorship Defense: Imagine that the book you read has been challenged by a special
interest group; write a letter defending the book, using specific evidence from the text to
support your ideas.

Call for Censorship: In order to better understand all sides to an argument, imagine you
are someone who feels this particular book should not be read; write a letter in which you
argue it should be removed.

P.S.(post script): After you read the story, write an epilogue in which you explain, using
whatever tense and tone the author does, what you think happened to the character(s)
after the author finished.

Speculation: At some point before you finish the book, based on everything you know
now in the story, what do you think will happen and why do you think that?

Media Connections: Read from the newspapers, the magazines and the internet to find
articles that somehow relate to issues and ideas in the book you are reading; paste them
on notebook paper and write your "connections" around the edges.

Open Mind: Draw an empty head and inside of it draw any symbols or words or images
that are bouncing around in the mind of the character of a story; follow it up with writing
or discussion to explain and explore responses.

Interrogation: This can be done if two students or the teacher is familiar with the book,
a student pretends to be a character or author and has to answer questions from that

Post-Its™: If you are using a school/library book in which you cannot make notes or
marks, keep a pack of Post-Its™ with you and take notes on them. They can simply be
"notes of interest." (liked? disliked? confused? horrified? Made me think more deeply
about . . .) When you are finished with the book, go through the post-its and create a
series of journal entries that expand on the comments you noted.

Just the Facts Ma’am: Acting as a reporter, the student writes a newspaper article that
answers the basic questions of: who, what, where, why, when, and how?

Brainstorming/Webbing/Mind Map: Create your own mind map that re-tells the story
through symbols, color and associative connections.

Storyboard: Create a storyboard for the novel, or depending on length, for significant
chapters from the beginning, middle and end.

Interactive Story: If you like to work with computers, create a multimedia, interactive
version of the story. Another possibility is a web site for other readers.
CyberGuides: Search the Net for virtual tours based on the book you read. Try for some ideas. Write a series of responses to your tours and how they
contributed to your understanding of the novel.

Write an Essay: Using one of the different rhetorical modes, write an essay in which you
make meaningful connections between the text and your own experiences or other texts
you have read.

Playing with Point of View: How would it change the story if you rewrote it in a
different point of view (e.g., changed it from first to third person)? Choose a significant
chapter or event (the climax, for instance) on which to base your rewrite.

Coming Attraction: The novel is about to be made into a movie and you have been
chosen to design the promotional poster. Include the title and author, a listing of the main
characters and the contemporary actors who will play them, a drawing of a scene from
the novel, and a paragraph that summarizes the key scenes in the plot.

The Perfect Gift: You are responsible for choosing a different and appropriate gift for
four of the characters from the novel. Create a visual of each gift, name the character
who will receive it, and write an explanation of why the gift is perfect for that character.
The gifts can be concrete or abstract.

Daily Edition: Using the novel as the basis for your stories, columns and editorials,
create a newspaper or magazine based on or inspired by the book you are reading. Use a
desktop publishing program to give it an "official" look.

Oral History: If you read a historical text, find and interview people who have some
familiarity with that time period or the subject of the book. Create a series of questions to
ask them and record their answers.

Create Your Own Test: Create your own test or essay questions about the text; some
possibilities for focus are: connections to real life or other works of literature, literary
devices that were especially effective, the "big ideas" that really hooked you, etc.

That Was Then, This Is Now: After reading the text, create a Before/After list to
compare the ways in which characters or townspeople have changed over the course of
the story. Evaluate the changes based on criteria you establish.

Special Thanks goes out to all of the people who contributed ideas to this compilation;
Donna Murano, (Olympia); Shiela Yerden, (Athena Middle); Sarah Ross, (Olympia).
The internet was also a resource for this list, in particular, Jim Burke's web site, a great site for teachers. I am sure that there are many more great
ideas that can be added to this list; please think of it as "a work in progress," and I hope
that it will grow longer each year.

Compiled and edited by Jude Ellis