Book Report Alternative: The Elements of Fiction
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In this lesson students review the elements of fiction and key components of a book report. They are then given an opportunity to identify and share these concepts by writing and illustrating their own mini-book based on a fiction book they have chosen to read. They use the online Stapleless Book tool to publish their mini-books. This activity offers an alternative to the traditional book report and an opportunity for students to share their work in pairs or small groups and learn from each other.
Stapleless Book: This online tool allows students to create books that can be printed and folded into mini-books without the use of staples.
From Theory to Practice
In her article "Fifty Alternatives to the Book Report," Diana Mitchell writes: "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." This lesson invites students to respond to texts in a new way while also helping them focus on key points in their books and challenging them to write concisely and to "read like writers." By focusing on the key elements of fiction, this lesson reinforces the reading-writing connection.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Crayons or colored pencils
- Various books read by students which will be the subject of stapleless book
- Before this lesson, have students read a book independently, in literature circles, or as a whole class.
- Review the elements of fiction (plot, character, setting, conflict, theme) using examples from stories students have previously read together.
- identify elements of fiction (plot, character, setting, conflict, and theme).
- analyze a fiction book, locating elements of plot within that book.
- communicate elements of plot in their book, in visual and written form, by producing a mini-book.
- celebrate reading by sharing their stapleless books with their classmates in either pairs or small groups.
Instruction & Activities
As a prewriting activity, have each student list on a sheet of paper (or on the Stapleless Book interactive) the elements they will include in the pages of their book.
The books will comprise eight pages, including
- Cover (p. 1)—students will write the title of the book they read, then design an alternate cover of their choosing (based on something from the book such as a recurring symbol).
- Printed copyright information (p. 2).
- Plot summary and descriptions of the main character, setting, conflict, and theme (pp. 3–7).
- Author biographical information (p. 8).
Students have the choice of which pages each element will appear. Some may deem, for example, that the main character should be described before the plot; others may want to summarize the setting first. After they have chosen the order as a prewrite, students will, in one or two sentences each, summarize the plot and describe the main character, setting, conflict, and theme of the books they read. Allow them to revise their drafts as needed. They will then draw pictures on each page, representing the element being discussed.
This summarizing activity challenges students both to reflect on what they have read and to practice synthesizing information. The resulting stapleless books will serve as vehicles for celebrating reading for its own sake as well as sharing what students have been reading. The mini-books may spark the interest of others to read the novels that have been shared where they may not have been aware of them before looking through the summarized stories.
Finally, the lesson can be a good pre- or postreading tool, reinforcing students' knowledge of the elements of fiction.
Student Assessment / Reflections
Grades could be assigned based on a combination of the following:
- Teacher observation and anecdotal notes based on student activity during lesson
- Prewriting activity listing elements of fiction
- Completion, effort, and understanding of concepts as evidenced by written and visual communication of concepts in the stapleless book
- Oral presentation of stapleless book in small groups
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