Try a fresh spin on the tired book report assignment and use “book talks” instead. A book talk is just an informal conversation with the student wherein I determine whether the student actually read the book. No more speeches, no more poster boards, no more fatigue. As the kid talks about the plot, I flip through the pages of his book and ask about specific characters or scenes. I also like to read a small bit aloud to the student and have him tell me what happens next in the chapter. As he’s talking, it’s easy to look through the next few pages and see if he’s right.
It’s awesome not to have a stack of book reports to grade at the end of each term, but my favorite part of this assignment is the one-on-one time it allows me to spend with each student. Even if the book talk is only two or three minutes, I find it helps to build connections with kids (most of my classes have 35-36 students) that I wouldn’t otherwise have time to make. It’s also a nice pocket of time to talk about books (one of my favorite subjects) and help struggling students find titles that will hold their interest.
Give it a try for one quarter and see how it works for you. Less to grade. More fun for all. I mean, S.S.R. is supposed to be a fun time, right? My teens really respond well to not having to build yet another poster board or collage. Some years, they’ve actually cheered when I introduced the assignment.
Tracking page-counts for students is super-simple, too. Just use the tally sheet for each student and jot down the titles and page-counts of successfully reported books. At the end of each quarter, add up the pages, consult the sliding scale, and – bam! – enter the grade. You’re done. It takes me less than five minutes to figure and record the grades.
Click here for a free copy of student handouts and tally sheets. Hope you like this approach to managing your S.S.R. tasks.