Monday, January 30, 2017

Four Guidelines for Innovating and Designing a Book Unit

When I was a young student, I loved reading. I have memories of hiding under my blankets in bed with a flashlight, hoping my parents never caught me and made me go to sleep. When I reached the age in school where book projects, or book reports as they were called back then, started to be assigned, I was more than eager to share my reading experience with my classmates.

Unfortunately, the book report experience was a HUGE disappointment. One basic assignment, over and over again - write a report about the book. Of course there were other requirements, but each time it was an essay. No variety, no choice, no excitement to complete the work.


When I became a teacher, I vowed to change the “book report” for my students. I wanted them to be excited to read a book simply so that they could complete the project. It has taken me years of different projects and iterations of the same project, but I have some projects that I assign that I am truly proud of. Don’t get me wrong, I still do, and will continue to change my assignments, as they are never perfect. In addition, each year I find tweaks I can make depending on how they go over with each class. I offer four guidelines that I use when designing book projects for my junior high students:  


  1. STUDENTS MUST HAVE CHOICE - not all students learn the same, and not all students create the same, so we need to give them a choice in demonstrating their learning.  Several of my projects give them freedom and choice in WHAT they create, and HOW they create it.  


  1. INTEGRATE AN ELEMENT OF TECHNOLOGY - this is the world our students live in, so to me it is important to teach them these skills along the way. I always like to incorporate an element of technology so they can learn different tools and tech skills while developing a really cool project. This is also partly selfish, as I am not a lover of crafty things and bristle board projects laying around my classroom.  I currently use GSuite apps such as Slides, Docs, Drawings, and Blogger. In addition, my students use Youtube, WeVideo, iMovie, Canva, amongst others.


  1. INCLUDE A PRESENTATION PORTION - I am someone who was shy when it came to public speaking, and it was something I had to work on. I believe that by including an element of presentation, students can gain these public speaking skills in small amounts with each project. I never make it a large portion of the project, usually a minute or two, as I don’t want to scare them too much, but want them to take the risk of putting themselves out there in front of their class. One or two minutes has always been something they have been able to handle without too much anxiety.


  1. AVOID BOOK COVER REGURGITATION - I want to make my students think about the book instead of simply regurgitating the book cover. I push them to think about what it was about the book that made it a good read, or if it disappointed them they need to be able to articulate why.  In one project, I actually have my students think as the protagonist, and they need to be able to articulate thoughts the character may have by reading between the lines. This blog is one of the higher quality blogs I have had turned in. I want them to have to READ the book, so my projects are designed so they have to demonstrate that they have actually completed the reading.

I know that my students appreciate the work I have put into creating my book projects, as they tell me each time I assign one, and they write it on Christmas cards and end-of-year thank you cards. This to me is the best reward.  Each time I hear positive feedback, I know that I have fulfilled my vow to myself when I became a teacher.  


Charity Helman is based out of Bragg Creek, Alberta. Charity teaches at Rundle College Jr/Sr High School in Calgary, Alberta. She is an educator with a passion for developing a  quality learning experience by creating innovative projects and lessons enhanced by the use  of educational technology and GSuite. As a Level 1 and 2 Google Certified Educator, and a  Google Certified Innovator (#TOR16), Charity loves to empower her students and other  educators by teaching them about GSuite and other edtech tools.  




@charityhelman
+charityhelman
Charitableedtech.blogger.com



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