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Book Report Alternative: A Character’s Letter to the Editor
|Grades||6 – 8|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Four 50-minute sessions|
Adopting the persona of a character from a novel gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their comprehension of their reading, but it also asks them to use analytical skills to go beyond the basics in the book. In this lesson, students choose characters from novels they have read and consider the significant beliefs and feelings of those characters to identify issues or situations that would spur the characters to try to persuade the audience of other characters in the novels to take a specific action or change their position on an issue.
The lesson includes an exploration of the genre of letters to the editor, a review of persuasive writing structure and letter format, and an emphasis on multi-draft writing. The lesson focuses on the character Roy Eberhardt from Carl Hiaasen’s Newbery Honor Book Hoot for its examples. Students can complete the activity for any book that they have read.
Letter Generator: This online tool allows students to read about the parts of a letter. They can then write and print their own friendly or business letter.
Persuasion Map: Use this online tool to map out and print your persuasive argument. Included are spaces to map out your thesis, three reasons, and supporting details.
In her English Journal article "Fifty Alternatives to the Book Report," Diana Mitchell explains "Students tire of responding to novels in the same ways. They want new ways to think about a piece of literature and new ways to dig into it" (92).
Mitchell's observation is supported by Jim Cope's survey of 272 high school seniors in five Georgia high schools. In the article reporting his findings, Cope states, "Book reports were listed as the third most negative school reading experience, and can be considered a subset of students' general disdain for assigned reading" (21). Like Mitchell, Cope suggests that teachers "move away from the traditional book report and consider more exciting activities" in order to raise students' interest and engagement in reading. The end result of book report alternatives, such as the one explored in this lesson plan is that the activities "whet the interest of students in exploring new directions and in responding with greater depth to the books they read" (Mitchell 92).
Mitchell, Diana. "Fifty Alternatives to the Book Report." English Journal 87.1 (January 1998): 92-95.
Cope, Jim. "Beyond Voices of Readers: Students on School's Effects on Reading." English Journal 86.3 (March 1997): 18-23