Two Thumbs Up! Get Students Writing and Publishing Book Reviews

K - 3
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Seven 30- to 45-minute sessions
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Designed for students in grades 2 and 3, this lesson demonstrates the process for writing book reviews and offers ideas for publishing student reviews. Students begin by evaluating book reviews written and read aloud by other children. Next, students discuss the effectiveness of, what components are included in, what they learned from, and what they might change about the book reviews. Once students have a foundation for book review components and structure, they choose a favorite book and write a review. Finally, students publish their reviews by videotaping them or posting them online.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • In this article, the author defines comprehension as the transaction between the reader and the text. Teachers can support readers' comprehension by teaching decoding skills, helping students build fluency, building and activating students' prior knowledge, motivating students, and engaging students in personal responses to text.

  • Teachers can help motivate students by providing authentic learning experiences. An authentic "literacy event" is one that offers students an opportunity to experience reading and writing in a situation that they might encounter in society, such as reading or writing a book review.

  • Teachers can also engage students in personal responses to text and teach students how to evaluate and critique texts so that students will grow to be critical readers and writers.

  • Another important aspect in fostering comprehension is making a connection between reading and writing. When teachers make an effort to help students see the parallel processes in reading and writing, students may begin to understand that reading and writing are meaning-making activities.

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).
  • 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.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of 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.

Materials and Technology




1. Locate a magazine such as Entertainment Weekly or People or a local newspaper that has book reviews to show students during Session 1.

2. Bookmark the Spaghetti Book Club, Scholastic: Share What You're Reading, and World of Reading websites on the computer you will be using during this lesson. Choose several book reviews from one of these websites. One or two will be read aloud in Session 1 and another should be copied onto chart paper or a transparency for use in Session 2.

3. Provide a selection of 20 to 30 age-appropriate children's books for students to choose from for their book reviews (see the Database of Award-Winning Children's Literature or the Children's Choices Booklist for appropriate book titles). As an alternative, ask students to choose a book from the classroom or from home that they can read well and would like to recommend to other readers.

4. Get a copy of the book Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell or choose another short picture book to write a review with your class in Session 4.

5. Print and make copies of the Story Map 3 graphic organizer if you would like a literature response or prewriting organizer.

6. Rent or borrow a video recorder and tripod if you plan to record students' reviews for publishing. In addition or as an alternative, preview the Scholastic: Share What You're Reading site or sign your class up for World of Reading for publishing their reviews online.

7. Print out the Homework Letter, Revision Questions, Role-Play Scenarios, Book Review Template, and Book Review Rating Sheet; make a copy for each student in your class.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Listen to and evaluate book reviews written by other children and critique them for their effectiveness

  • Identify the features of a book review

  • Engage in an authentic purpose for reading and writing by choosing a book based on their interest and reading level to read and write a book review for

  • Apply their knowledge of book reviews by writing one that incorporates the features they have learned in this lesson

  • Use the writing process to write their book reviews (prewriting, drafting, editing, revising, and publishing)

  • Develop collaborative skills by engaging in whole-class discussions about book reviews and partnering with peers to revise their book reviews

  • Evaluate their review and performance using a self-assessment sheet

Session 1

1. Begin by asking students to think about a time that they have visited the library or gone to a bookstore or book fair. Ask students how they decided what books to borrow or buy. Lead them to discuss the qualities of the book that helped them make the choice. Did they look at the cover, read the summary, notice the pictures, read a page or two, or seek out familiar characters or authors? Tell students that sometimes people read reviews about books to help them decide what books to buy. Show students a magazine or local newspaper that publishes book reviews. Explain that reviewing books is a job that people can have.

2. Tell students that they are going to write book reviews to share with others. In this session, students will hear you read aloud book reviews written by children close to their age. Set a purpose for listening by asking students to notice what the children include in their book reviews.

3. After reading the reviews, ask students to turn to a classmate and talk about some of the things they noticed about the book reviews. Give students about one to two minutes to discuss. Then conduct a whole-class discussion and make a list of features that were included in the book reviews. Your list might include things such as:
  • Provided their name

  • Stated the title of the book and the author

  • Gave a brief summary of the book, without giving away the ending

  • Shared their favorite part of the book

  • Explained what made the book different or interesting to read

  • Gave a recommendation (e.g., "I would recommend this book to anyone who likes...)

  • Used expression when talking about the book

  • Made a text-to-self connection
4. Read through the list that students develop together. Let them know that they will be using this list as a guide when writing their own book reviews.

Session 2

To prepare for this session, copy the features of a book review that your students compiled in Session 1 (Step 3) onto sentence strips. You will also need a sample book review from Spaghetti Book Club or World of Reading written on chart paper or a transparency (see Preparation, Step 3).

1. Start this session by displaying the sample book review that you have selected on chart paper or a transparency. Hand out the sentence strips with the book review features written on them to different students.

2. Explain to students that first you will read the book review aloud while they listen. Then you will read the review a second time, inviting students with the sentence strips to raise their hands when they notice the features written on their sentence strips in the book review. Each time a student raises his or her hand, stop reading and post the sentence strip by the sentence in the book review.

Note: Most likely you will have some sentence strips that are not used, but this is a great opportunity for discussion. Book reviews will not always incorporate every feature. Different authors will add their own personal touch depending on their writing style or the book being reviewed. Despite these variations, all book reviews will include the title and author of the book, a brief summary (without giving away the ending), and a recommendation.

3. Tell students that, in this session, they will be listening to some more reviews written by children. Their purpose for listening this time is to evaluate or critique the book reviews. Hand out the Book Review Rating Sheet to students and explain each statement. Tell students that they will be using this rating sheet to "grade" the reviews they hear.

4. Listen to the first review. Stop and ask students to share positive comments first. What did the reviewer do well? Questions to ask students include:
  • Did the author include some of our listed features?

  • Did the author talk with expression?

  • Would you want to read this book after hearing the review?
Next ask students to share some suggestions for improving the review.
  • What could the reviewer have done better?

  • What would you have done or added if you were the reviewer?
Last, ask students to rate the reviewer as Proficient (have mastered book reviews), Apprentice (know a lot about book reviews, but still have room to learn more), or Novice (need more practice at book reviews) and explain why.

5. Repeat this process (Step 4) for a few additional book reviews. Have students listen to each review and then evaluate it.

6. To conclude this session, ask students to reflect in their journal or on a piece of paper. Ask them to think about the reviews they listened to today and write down what they think makes a good book review.

Session 3

Before this session, gather 20 to 30 books from your library for students to choose from for their book reviews. To get ideas for appropriate books, ask your local librarian or search for award-winning books on the Database of Award-Winning Children's Literature and the Children's Choices Booklist. When gathering books, make sure to choose ones that are age appropriate and meet the varying levels of readers in your class. Keep in mind also the date of publication and the topic. Not all award-winning books will be appropriate for your students.

1. Spread the books you have gathered around the classroom. Tell students that you have selected some children's books that need to be reviewed. In this session, you would like them to walk around and browse the different books and choose three that they would be interested in reading and reviewing.

2. Remind students of the discussion in Session 1 in which they talked about the qualities they look for when choosing books. Encourage them to read the summary if there is one, flip through the book and try reading a page or two, and look at the pictures to get an idea of what is happening in the story.

3. Give students about 15 minutes to browse through the books and make their lists. Then gather students together and ask each student to choose one book from his or her list to write a review for. [As an alternative option, ask students to choose a favorite book from home or from the classroom library that they are familiar with and would like to recommend to their classmates.]

4. Once students have selected their books, allow them to take them home to read with a parent or another adult (e.g., extended family or a daycare provider). Use the Homework Letter, or create one of your own, to inform parents of what students are working on in class. If possible, have the letter translated for your ELL students, or make arrangements for ELL students to read their book during school time with support from a teacher, peer, mentor, or parent or community volunteer. Students will need to be prepared to tell about their book in their own words in Session 4. [If students have chosen longer books to read, you may want to allow several day before beginning the next session.]

Note: To help students be able to remember their stories, you might provide them with the Story Map 3 graphic organizer to record the beginning, middle, and end. You might also choose to add an extra session to the lesson, and have students read their stories and fill in their story maps in class.

Session 4

1. Post the book review features in the classroom where students can see them. Pair students together and have them tell their partner about the book that they chose to read and review. Students can refer to their Story Map 3 graphic organizers if they completed them. In addition, encourage them to share their recommendation, favorite part, or the connection they made with their partner.

2. After students have a chance to share their books with one another, gather them as a whole class to write a book review together. Introduce the book Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, which is a fun and short story to read to children in grades 2 and 3. [Note that this activity can be done with any short picture book (see Preparation, Step 5).]

3. Ask students to listen to the story as you read it aloud. Set a purpose for listening by asking students to be prepared to give their input for the book review that the class will be writing together. While reading, stop periodically to discuss the story with students.

4. After reading, tell students to turn to a classmate and share their thoughts about the story. After one to two minutes, draw students' attentions back to you and begin by writing the title and author of the story at the top of the chart paper.

5. Write the first sentence of the review, thinking aloud as you are writing. For example, you might say, "I think that one of the hardest things for Molly Lou Melon was moving to a new school. It's hard moving, and it's especially hard if you have a run-in with a bully like Ronald Durkin. I bet that kids who have moved to a new school will really like this book. Let‘s start out our review by saying, ‘Have you ever moved to a new school? If you have, then you will really like the book Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon. It's about a girl who has to stand tall against a bully named Ronald Durkin.'"

6. After you have provided the first sentence of the review, ask students to share what they think should come next. Refer students to the list of book review features that they generated in Session 1 when deciding what should come next in the review.

7. After your class has written the book review together, model choral reading it with expression. Individual students may also want to practice reading it aloud in front of the class. Finally, look at the list of book review features again and identify those features that are used in your class-written book review.

8. To help students get to know the books that they will be reviewing better, assign for homework or allow time in class for them to read their books again. Meet with your ELL students and struggling readers during this time to make sure they are receiving enough support for the reading.

Session 5

1. In this session, students write a draft of their own book review. To inspire students in their writing endeavor, you may want to begin this session by reading aloud some more examples from the Spaghetti Book Club or World of Reading website.

2. In addition or as an alternative, display a transparency of the two Sample Book Reviews. Read the reviews out loud to students. Ask them to tell you which review is better and why. (Book Review 1 is better than Book Review 2 because it includes several features from the chart, it tells the important parts of the story, and it is interesting. Book Review 2 gives too many details and does not tell the most important parts of the story.)

3. Have students begin writing their drafts. During this time, conference with students as they write to help them with the content of their reviews. Help students create a catchy beginning, keep to the main points of the story, and refer to the list of book review features. If your students need further writing support, you can use the Book Review Template. For even less experienced writers, you may opt to have them talk out their review while you transcribe for them.

4. During this time, classroom management can be tricky, especially when you need to meet with everyone in the class. One option to consider is to have a sign-up sheet or list on the board for conferences so that you know who needs help. If the list is visible, students know when their turn is coming and can be prepared when you are ready to meet with them. You may also want to have a "While You are Waiting" chart to direct students what to do while they are waiting for a conference. You might include activities such as drawing an illustration to accompany their review, circling words that they need help spelling, practicing reading their review in front of a mirror, checking their work for punctuation and capital letters, or adding an entry to their journal that tells what they liked and disliked about the book they read.

5. Ensure that everyone has completed a draft of his or her book review before moving on to the next session.

Session 6

1. In this session, students work on revising their drafts. Pair each student with a partner.

2. Before having students share their drafts with one another, model for them how to share and revise a book review. Use the Role-Play Book Reviews to model this process. First, choose a student to role-play along with you and sit facing each other. Have the student begin by reading aloud Book Review 1. After the student has finished reading, respond by offering a positive comment, and then model how to use the Revision Questions to evaluate the book review. As you ask a revision question, have the student answer by showing you where in the book review that question was addressed. For example, one of the questions is, "Did you include the title and author of the book?" The student can then point to the sentence that provides that information in the book review. If he or she has forgotten to include it, it can be added right then. Repeat the role-play activity with Book Review 2.

3. After this modeling, read the Role-Play Scenarios and have students discuss how they would handle each situation. Then invite students to meet with their partners to share their book review drafts and go through the revision steps together.

4. While students are sharing and revising, listen in and guide the discussions where needed. You may need to prompt or help partners as they work on their revisions with their peers.

5. Give students about 15 to 20 minutes to work with their partners. Then, gather students as a whole class to talk about their partner work. Ask students to share the positive aspects of their partner's review and any revisions they made to their book review.

6. Collect all of the student reviews. Read through the reviews and offer feedback to students. You will want to check to see that they made revisions according to the Revision Questions. You may also want to conference with students to edit for spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Session 7

Now that the revision and editing process is complete, students should be ready to publish their reviews. Publishing options include having students post their reviews online or record them on video. (See Extensions for other publishing ideas.)

Publishing online

There are a few websites on which students can submit their reviews for publication online. The Scholastic website has an area called "Share What You're Reading" where kids can Write a Review and also Read Book Reviews written by kids at their same grade level. The World of Reading website also offers publication of student reviews. (Note that you will need to e-mail this site in advance to arrange for the reviews to appear online.)


To prepare for videotaping, allow time for students to practice reading their book reviews aloud so that they can read them fluently and with expression. Students may also want to create a backdrop and choose illustrations from their book that they want you to zoom in on while they are reading the review.

After recording students, provide time for them to watch themselves on tape. Give the option for students to share their video with the entire class or watch it on their own. For videos shown in class, remind students to politely listen to one another's reviews and offer positive comments only.


  • Set up a display in the public or school library with the students' reviews along with the books.

  • Have students share their book reviews during school announcements each week or read them to a live audience (e.g., to another class or to their parents).

  • If book reviews were videotaped, create a take-home kit that includes the video, a note about the project, and a blank spiral notebook for students and family members to write responses and positive comments about the different reviews. Send the kit home with a different student each week.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Use the Book Review Rating Sheet for students to rate themselves on their reviews. You can also use this rating sheet for teacher assessment. Use the Book Review Rubric as an alternative way to assess students’ work.