Students Must Create: Rethinking My Book Review Projects

Tuesday, April 21, 20159:08 AM

Thanks to 20 Literary Memes for this!

As an English teacher and avid reader, I love pushing my students to be better readers. One of my big picture goals as a teacher has always been to nurture life-long readers and learners. I believe students today suffer from a serious case of aliteracy--they have the ability to read but lack the willingness to do so. I studied aliteracy in my Master's thesis and it's fascinated me--how can we motivate students to read more? I love the idea of book matching; if I can figure out students' interests, favorite movies, TV shows, experiences, etc. can I help match them to literature that they will like, too?

For years, I've had students pursue independent book projects and create written review. I've databased them on a web site so that each year, I can have students search by genre and difficulty, and read the work of their peers' to inspire future choices. The database form can be found here, and I used a site called Zoho Creator to index the full OHS Book Review Database. At the time, I didn't know the full power of GAFE but thought this site did a good job.

Years later, I've tried to step up my game. Instead of using GAFE and online tools for students to learn, research, write, and curate, I've realized the value of students creating content, too. This year, I asked students to create an online review for the reading projects. Create a written, audio, or video review for a work of fiction of their choice. The full assignment sheet can be found here if you are interested. And the results were fantastic.

I did not restrict or even recommend any sites, apps, or programs for creation. We've built the foundation with GAFE and other web 2.0 tools so I let my students now have free reign to show their knowledge, digital citizenship, and make effective choices.

Today, I want to share some of the results. This work impressed me and inspired me. It showed me mastery of skills and new technologies that helped make their reviews purposeful and effective. Most importantly, it looks like my students had fun and learned. With this project, I also expressed a desire to share with both our class and the outside world. Students were required to submit a public link to their work on a Google Form, which I will soon convert into an Awesome Table to build a new Book Review Creations Database (once I learn how to use the seemingly fantastic Awesome Table).

The full index of student work, which is simply a published sheet edited from the form results, can be found here. Feel free to explore. I hope you enjoy and maybe get some ideas or web 2.0 tools for your own classroom--or reading.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Yoo Shin created a fantastic infographic on Piktochart. Be sure to check it out in Presentation Mode.
  • Elliot had a thorough and well produced emaze review for To Kill a Mockingbird. 
  • Azad filmed an edited a fun video, and he gave credit to his music and images, which I haven't taught yet so it impressed me (but I now think I need to!)
  • Gabby's trailer for Divergent was great. I thoroughly enjoyed this and it made me laugh. 

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