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Book Report Alternative: Creating a Childhood for a Character
|Grades||6 – 8|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Four 50-minute sessions|
Asheville, North Carolina
In this lesson, students are introduced to familiar characters, from literature and from popular culture, whom readers first encounter as adults, but whose childhood stories are only told later. Students first discuss Merlin from the stories of King Arthur before reading Jane Yolen's Merlin and the Dragon. They then discuss the characteristics and stories of other familiar literary characters who are first introduced as adults. Then, in groups, students plan their own versions of a childhood for a selected character, and describe that childhood in the form of a short story, journal entry, or time capsule letter. This lesson uses Jane Yolen's Merlin and the Dragon to model the concept, as well as several examples from literature and popular culture. A suggested booklist is also provided.
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.
Plot Diagram: Students can use this open-ended online tool to graph the plot of any story.
Stapleless Book: Students select page templates and then design pages that can be printed out, cut and folded into an eight-page book.
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