Book Report Alternative: Sharing Info from Informational Reading
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Reporting facts from an informational book does not always lend itself to student creativity. However, given the opportunity to use the Printing Press for their book reports, students can use their imaginations as they create newspapers that reflect the content of their informational books.
Printing Press: This student interactive will be used to create newspapers.
Inverted Pyramid Format: This printout will help students understand the format of news articles.
What Will I Read Next? Students will use this printout as they listen to each other’s reports to keep track of books they wish to remember for reading choices later.
From Theory to Practice
In 2006, American College Testing reported that only half of college-bound students were ready for college-level text. The report concluded that students lacked experience in reading complex informational text. Bauerlein suggests that educators should provide opportunities for “one hour a day of slow reading with print matter.” Furthermore, he proposes that educators should “concoct slow, deliberate reading exercises for students to complete” in order to instill the skills necessary for informational text reading. This lesson provides students an opportunity to practice those skills and then share their newly acquired knowledge.
Voukon points out that the traditional fiction-based book report format does not create excitement for reading; alternative methods that motivate today’s students are necessary. Likewise, other engaging options for students to connect to informational text are required, and this lesson offers one such option.
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
- 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).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 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.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 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
- Newspapers for student examination
- Classroom with LCD projector and whiteboard/interactive whiteboard
- Books from Suggested Informational Books
- Computers with Internet capabilities and the optional possibility of printing
- Test the Printing Press on your computers to familiarize yourself with the interactive and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- Reserve time in your school’s computer lab or library for sessions four and five that will occur after students completed reading their informational text and writing their articles.
- If possible, have the Printing Press bookmarked on the computers. If that is not feasible, you can sign up for a wiki at Wikispaces where you can create a class page for the link or you can simply tell the students the address of the printing press.
- Find books from the Suggested Informational Books printout, and consult with your school librarian for additional informational books for the students.
- For session one, students will examine the newspapers in groups of three to four, so secure newspapers for this activity. Make one copy per student of the printout Informational Text Notes for this session.
- For Session Two, find a recent news article to share with students that illustrates using the six questions reporters answer: Who?, What?, Where?, When?, Why?, and How? You can use the Internet Public Library to find articles from newspaper around the world or choose to use an article from a hard copy. Make one copy for every two students. Also, make one copy per every two students of the printout Newspaper Story Format for students to utilize as they examine this article.
- For session three, make one copy for every student of the Newspaper Story Format printout to peer edit each other’s articles.
- For session six, make one copy per student of the printout What Will I Read Next?
- understand an informational text.
- demonstrate their understanding of the text by creating a one page newspaper.
- understand the six questions answered by a newspaper article.
- apply that understanding to create a news article.
Session 1: Introduction
- Divide the students into groups of three or four; provide each group a newspaper to scrutinize. Instruct the students to explore the newspaper, paying attention to format and types of articles. Tell students to be prepared to share their findings when the class re-assembles. While students discuss in their groups, circulate throughout out the room, keeping students on task.
- Ask each group to report back on what they found. As students contribute their ideas, create a list and project this list to a whiteboard. Save this list to use in session three. Check that the students mention the following:
- City where published
- Place lines
- Factual articles
- Human interest stories
- Help Wanted Ads
- Personal interviews
- Local news
- National news
- Explain to the class that they will be creating newspapers after they have independently read nonfiction books/informational texts. Hand out the printout Informational Text Notes and go through what they will be looking for as they read their books. Allow time for students choose their nonfiction books or informational texts.
- Assign students to read their books and to complete the Informational Text Notes while reading. Explain that in order to be prepared to create their newspapers, students must complete both tasks of reading and note taking before Session Two.
- To allow students time to read their books, a break between this session and the next will be necessary. During that time period, frequently check that students are making progress in reading and note taking.
Session 2: Writing Articles
- Check that all students have brought their informational books and completed Informational Text Notes.
- Explain to the students they are now ready to begin writing their news article about their book. Project the Inverted Pyramid Format and discuss the six questions that reporters use when writing:
- Who was involved?
- What happened?
- Where did it happen?
- When did it happen?
- Why did it happen?
- How did it happen?
- Divide the class into pairs and distribute the printout Newspaper Story Format as well as the newspaper article you have prepared. Tell the students to read the article together and then complete the printout. As students work with their partners, circulate through the room, helping those who are finding the activity challenging and keeping students on task.
- When students have had adequate time to complete the task, call the class back together and go through the answers. Also, ask students to identify the headline, byline, and place line of the article. Point out to the students that news articles do not include the reporter’s opinion.
- Have students take out their Informational Text Notes. Point out that they have already answered the six questions that reporters use in their notes. Tell the students to write newspaper articles using their answers to the six questions. Explain that the four facts they learned can be the details for the article. Also, mention that they will save the vocabulary words and objects to use in a different part of their newspaper.
- For the rest of the session, allow students to write their articles. Move throughout the room, assisting students who are having problems. Read students’ writing, helping with grammar and mechanics and checking that the six questions are being answered. Check that students are not including their opinions.
- Assign students to finish their news articles if they are not done by the end of the session.
Session 3: Peer Editing and More Writing
- Divide the class into pairs. Have partners exchange their news articles and complete the printout Newspaper Story Format for their partner’s article. Ask students to help each other if a part of the newspaper article is missing. Also, encourage students to check grammar and spelling. Circulate around the room assisting in this process and checking that students are on task. Allow time for students to revise their articles.
- Project the Printing Press and model for the students how they will find the newspaper option with this interactive. For this project, tell students they will use Newspaper 4. Together examine the template and ask students where they think the name of the paper, date, and price should appear. Point out that the larger text boxes will be the best place for students to type in their news articles. Explain that their articles may take one or two text boxes. To complete their newspapers, show the students they will need two or three other articles as well as an image with a caption.
- Discuss what types of articles the students could write for the other two or three textboxes. Project the list the students created in session one when they explored the sections of the newspaper. Invite students to look at the Informational Text Notes and consider how they could connect other information from their books to other parts of a newspaper. Ask students for suggestions of ideas. If students are having difficulties with this discussion, suggest these examples to activate the students’ creativity:
- The name of the newspaper reflects the location for the book, so the newspaper for Jim Murphy’s An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1783 is set in Philadelphia in 1783.
- The price of the newspaper relates to the monetary unit of the location as well as the price of the time period. For example, at the end of Keiko’s Story: A Killer Whale Goes Home by Linda Moore Kurth, Keiko is returned to Iceland where kronur is the currency and the price of the newspaper could be 124 kronur (which is about $1.00). Students can use online currency converters for prices and visit sites such as Explore Money from Around the World to get more ideas.
- For their new vocabulary words and objects, students can create advertisements. For instance, for Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story about Brain Science by John Fleischman an ad for a tamping iron, the metal rod that accidently went through Gage’s skull, would be appropriate.
- Students could write help wanted ads for jobs of people who were in the book. For example, for Stephen Buchman’s book Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive, students could write an ad for a beekeeper.
- Students could include obituaries for people, such as for telegraph operator Vincent Coleman who died in the accident described in Sally Walker’s book Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917.
- Give students time to work on the other two to three articles they will need to complete their newspapers. Circulate around the room helping those students who are having trouble making connections for the other textboxes.
- Assign students to complete their other articles to be prepared to create their newspaper in the next session.
Session 4: Assembling the Newspaper
- Have students meet in the library or computer lab. Model for the students how to navigate to the Printing Press, select the option for a newspaper, and choose Newspaper 4. Demonstrate how to choose a textbox and then change the font, font size, alignment, and font color.
- Together have students open the Printing Press and begin adding their news articles written in the last two sessions. Move through the room, assisting those who are having problems using the student interactive. As students work, help students in proofreading and offer suggestions of how to improve their articles.
- Near the end of the session, instruct students on how to use the option save as a draft and where they should save their files.
- Tell students they will add images to their newspapers tomorrow, so they should think about what image they would like to use to illustrate their first news article and what the caption for the image will be.
Session 5: Completing the Project
- Model for the students how to open their Printing Press files. Then model for the students how to find images and save them correctly. Show the students how to add their saved images to their newspapers. Demonstrate for students where to add their captions for their images. Instruct students to finish their newspapers and add their images.
- Circulate throughout the room, assisting students who have difficulties saving or adding their images and helping students proofread their articles. Also, check that students are staying on task.
- As students finish, pair them up to read each other’s newspapers and check for the following:
- Grammatically correct sentences.
- Correct spelling.
- Correct capitalization of titles and subtitles.
- Image chosen fits with the newspaper.
- Caption describes the image.
- After students have corrected any errors, explain to students how and where to save their final copies. Then instruct the students to click Back and e-mail their completed projects.
- Remind students to be ready to share their completed projects in the next session. If students need more time, show them the option of e-mailing the file to themselves and working on it outside of the classroom. Remind them that they will need to e-mail their finished files.
Session 6: Sharing (Classroom)
- Give each student a copy of the printout What Will I Read Next? Explain that as they listen, students will complete this form so they will have suggestions of what other informational books they might enjoy reading.
- Have each student present his/her newspaper. Allow time for students to ask questions.
- After all have presented, use some of the reflective questions in the assessment sections to get student feedback.
- Allow students time to use the classroom library or school library to check out their next book(s) from their What Will I Read Next? printout.
- Partner up students and ask them to compare and contrast their informational text books. Have students use the Venn Diagram, 2 Circles for this task.
- If computers are not available, students can create newspapers using poster board and markers.
- Have students print their newspapers. Mount the newspapers on colorful construction paper and display these in halls of the school to suggest books to students in other classes.
- Post the newspapers to a class wiki or a class website, so that the learning community can enjoy students’ work.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Evaluate each student’s Informational Text Notes.
- Review each student’s newspaper. In particular, check their main articles answer the six questions. Check that all work is grammatically and mechanically correct.
- Look at each student’s What Will I Read Next? printout. Have the students keep these for reference throughout the year.
- After all newspapers have been presented, ask students to reflect on the learning experience by having them complete one or more of the following prompts.
- Because of this project, I learned ____________ .
- What I found difficult about this project was _____________________.
- What I enjoyed about this project was __________________.
- To improve this project, I would _____________________.
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