Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Hooking a Reader with a Book Cover

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 50-minute sessions
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In this lesson, students select a book to read based only on its cover art. They then analyze why the art attracted them and anticipate what the book may be about before examining the rest of the information found on the book cover. After reading the book, they reexamine the book cover to determine whether, in their opinion, it conveys the key elements of the book. Finally, students use an interactive tool to redesign the book cover.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

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).

Further Reading

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.

State Standards

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

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 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

  • Texts with appealing cover art, including a variety of genres and reading levels

  • A large book with rich cover art to use as an example



  • Make one copy of the Book Cover Art Notes, Book Review Web, Post-Reading Book Cover Analysis, Sample Book Cover Analysis, Book Cover Creator Planning Sheets, and Book Cover Checklist handouts for each student. You may want to make extra copies of the Full Jacket Planning Sheet in case some students need more than one.

  • Gather a set of books for students to select from for this activity. Include books with cover art that will appeal to your students. Be sure to include books for a variety of interests and reading levels, as appropriate for your students.

  • A book, preferably with a large cover, to use in modeling the activity. The activity will work best if the book is one with which most students are not familiar and which has rich cover art.

  • Students will be creating several lists, webs, and other writings that they will need to refer to during the process of redesigning their book cover. Arrange for students to keep their work together in a notebook, folder, or other place so that it will be at hand when needed.

  • Test the Book Cover Creator, Book Cover Guide, and ReadWriteThink Webbing tools on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • analyze the cover art of a book prior to reading it to anticipate what the book will be about and whether they will enjoy it.

  • identify key elements in a book they have read.

  • analyze the cover art of a book after reading it to determine whether key elements of the book were conveyed in the cover art.

  • redesign the cover of a book they have read to convey key elements of the book to potential readers.

Session One

  1. Show students the front cover of the book you have selected. Lead students in a discussion of the properties of the cover art.

    • What colors are used? What feeling do these colors convey?

    • What images are used? Are the images symbolic or realistic?

    • Do the images depict places, people, or actions?

    • If the cover art is a clue to what is inside the book, do students think it gives a clue about the setting, characters, theme, or plot of the book?

    • Do students like the cover art? Does the cover art make them want to read the book?

    • What is the title of the book?
  2. After closely examining the front cover, ask students to anticipate what the book might be about.

    • What do students think the book is about? On what do they base this opinion?

    • What genre is the book? Is it fiction, non-fiction, mystery, etc? What clues does the front cover offer about genre?

    • Who is the audience? Is it written for children, teens, or adults? Why do they think so?
  3. After students have commented on the cover art, examine the rest of the book cover or jacket, pointing out the various features as discussed in the Book Cover Guide. Based on the rest of the information from the book cover, were their original ideas about the book correct? Is this a book they think they would like to read?

Session Two

  1. Have students look through the books you have gathered, looking only at the front cover art, and select one they think they would like to read.

  2. Pass out a copy of the Book Cover Art Notes to each student. Students should use the handout to make notes about the front cover art and to anticipate what the book might be about based on the cover art.

  3. When students have finished making notes, they should use those notes to write two short paragraphs detailing what they like about the cover art and/or why they selected the book and what they anticipate the book will be about.

  4. When students have finished writing, they can examine the rest of the book cover or jacket and decide whether they want to read the book. If not, they should select another book to read and make notes about the cover art of that book.

  5. Allow time for students to read their books in and out of class before beginning the next session.

Session Three

  1. Explain to students that they are going to use what they now know of the book, after having read it, to re-evaluate the book cover art.

  2. Pass out a copy of the Book Review Web handout to each student. Alternatively, students can use the interactive ReadWriteThink Webbing Tool. Ask students to brainstorm the most important or memorable aspects of their book, using the Book Review Web. They should focus on aspects such as the setting, characters, plot, and theme.

  3. After students have finished brainstorming, they should look back at the web and highlight one or two key elements they think should be conveyed to potential readers through the cover art.

  4. Next, pass out copies of the Post-Reading Book Cover Analysis and Sample Book Cover Analysis handouts to each student. Students should complete the handout using both the original, pre-reading analysis they did of the book's cover art and the web they completed after reading the book.

  5. Have students hand in their work when they have finished. Review students' work and make any comments or suggestions before beginning the next session.

Session Four

  1. Explain to students that they are going to design a new cover for the book they read. The cover should be designed to attract readers to the book, but it should also give potential readers enough information-both in imagery and in words-to help them decide whether it is a book they think they would enjoy reading.

  2. Before beginning, students should familiarize themselves with the parts of a book cover using the Book Cover Guide. After students have reviewed the guide, allow time for them to browse through books, either in the classroom, online at, or at a publisher's Website, and examine the variations possible on the front cover, back covers, flaps, and spines.

  3. Students may also wish to read about how color is "read" at Reading the World of Color or one of the other Web resources as they plan the colors to use in their cover art.

  4. After students have familiarized themselves with the various parts of the book cover, pass out a copy of the Book Cover Creator Planning Sheets to each student. Students should use the sheet to plan out the parts of the book cover prior to using the interactive tool.

  5. Pass out a copy of the Book Cover Checklist to each student. As they work, students can use the checklist to make sure they include all the important elements of the book cover. Remind students to refer to the handouts they used to analyze the original book cover and to identify elements they felt should be covered in their redesigned book cover.

  6. When students have finished, have them turn in their planning sheets. Review the planning sheets and make any comments or suggests prior to beginning the next session.

Session Five

  1. After they have reviewed any comments or suggestions, students should use the Book Cover Creator interactive to redesign the cover of their book.

  2. Remind students to refer to the checklist to make sure all important elements are included.

  3. After students have finished their book covers and printed them out, display the finished products in the classroom.

  4. Allow students time to browse the book covers and use them to select another book to read.


  • Have students create a book cover for a sequel to a book they have read. How will the characters or setting have changed and how can they reflect that change in the cover?

  • Many books include different cover art with new editions of the book. With students, compare two versions of book covers for the same book. How are they different? Which is more appealing? Which gets across the key ideas of the book better? Why might the cover art have been changed for the newer edition?

  • Having students use each other's book covers to select another book to read will naturally create small groups of students who have read the same self-selected book. Take advantage of this opportunity to allow students to form informal book discussion groups.

Student Assessment / Reflections

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