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Creative Alternatives to Traditional Book Reports

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, October 26, 2007

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 8 No 83 October 26, 2007
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2007 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!



Notes from Heather
-- Roof Project, Reader Feedback
Helpful Tips
-- Cutting Activities in Half
Winning Website
-- Heavens-Above.com
Reader Question
-- Book Reports: Alternatives?
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Raising the Roof - Volunteer Project Opportunity in Michigan

Dear Friends,

A few issues back I asked for help with raising funds for a roof
project for a family who has served the homeschooling community
selflessly for many years. We only received a little over 10% of
what is needed, but I'm confident God will provide the rest.
Thank you to EVERYONE who gave -- and if anyone else can help out
the PayPal address is: raise-the-roof@familyclassroom.net

You can also phone 810-735-0977 or mail a donation to:
Beloved Books, 8572 Silver Lake Rd., Linden, MI 48451

Volunteer Help Needed

If you are able to help with working on the roof this coming Tuesday and
Wednesday (10/30-31), and you live near SW Michigan (or don't mind
traveling!), please email me as soon as possible.

If you can help with the materials list, or individually sponsor
the cost of an item, here is what is needed:

Dumpster Rental - 30 yd.
36 Square of Shingles (108 bundles)
640 ft of Drip Edge (60 Pieces)
640 ft of Ice & Water Shield
1 - 2” Vent Boot
30 Square of 30 # Felt
2 - 5 # Boxes of 1.25” Hand-drive Roofing Nails
1 - 5 # Box of 3” Hand-drive Roofing Nails
24” x 50’ Roll of Aluminum Coil Stock
3 - Box Vents
150’ of Ridge Vent
2 - Boxes of 1.25” Coil Nails
2 Boxes of Felt Staples
2 - Skylights @ 16” x 32”
1 - Skylight @ 16” x 48”

I'm available on Monday to pick up supplies, so please email over
the weekend if you can help out! heather@familyclassroom.net :-)


Reader Feedback

The email I received (below) refers to feedback from a reader last
issue. If you missed that inspiring entry, you can read it here:


"I love to read these kinds of feedbacks! It just reaffirmed my
existence here on Earth. I am also taking care of my 74 year old
father-in-law and homeschool my 13 year old. We recently got a
Dalmatian -- now 9 months old. What was I thinking! I have an
AA and the educating has never stopped. I will continue to encour-
age the love of learning in my home. There is so much out there
to grab, experience, taste -- and it is so plentiful. We have
every opportunity to learn and 'pay it forward' to those around us.
My son has a wide variety of interests and truly enjoys/loves read-
ing. What a gift. Thank you for such a wonderful insight into the
family bond your reader described. It truly was an enjoyable read."
-- Jennifer in CA


Do you have comments to share? Please do!

Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Activities: Cutting Back without Cutting Out!

"Our family recently made a decision which so far has proven to be
very helpful: We have changed some of our weekly activities to
every other week. Our children play in an orchestra, and we attend
rehearsals only every other week. (We explained to the conductor
ahead of time.) We do volunteer work in the local nursing home,
and have scheduled those sessions to alternate weeks. Also, my
daughter's voice lessons have been changed to two week intervals.
We were becoming overwhelmed with time commitments, but felt that
everything we were doing was important, so we couldn't identify any-
thing to eliminate. We haven't cut out anything, but have reduced
our obligations to nearly half of the time they were previously
taking up. There are tremendous savings in driving expenses as
well, which is especially significant for us, because we live so
far out in the country, and have to travel a long way to anything
we do. We are very pleased with the way it's working out."

-- Mary Beth A.


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Winning Website



"Put in your location and this website tells you when the Interna-
tional Space Station will be visible in your back yard! They have
information on satellites, bright stars and other things in the
night sky as well. When the Space Shuttle Endeavor recently left
the ISS to prepare for return to Earth, for two nights we were able
to watch them orbit side by side. It was well worth going out to
see. Now we are hoping to catch the Discovery Space Shuttle as it
prepares to dock on the ISS."

-- Mary Beth A.

Last Issue's Reader Question

"My son is in 4th grade, nine years old and loves to read (most
of the time). I know he is at the age of doing book reports, but
does not like to write at all, and does not like lapbooks. I do
not want to take his joy of reading away by slapping more work on
him. Does anyone know a fun form of book reports? He naturally
does an oral one to me and husband. Any suggestions would be

"I'll second the request. My son will eat up books, but to get
any details - especially in a written format - is like pulling
teeth! I agree that I'd hate for him to start disliking to read
just because he knows there will be 'work' at the end. I know
that is when I stopped liking to read."

Our Readers' Responses

"I would like to offer two ideas. First, doing narrations or
book reports can be done through different formats than written
form. Making a shadow box of an important scene, using a poster
board to map the action in the book, drawing what you think the
characters looked like -- you can use a lot of different ways to
show what you have learned from a book.

Second, unless the book is assigned for the purpose of doing a
book report or review, one may not be necessary. I know I did
book reports in school, but are they the useful? If the children
are reading for pleasure, they are probably getting everything
they can out of the book already. To force them to analyze the
book might take the joy out of it.

Many parents worry about their children being able to do all the
'school' things, like book reports. Did you ever do one in
college? Yes, knowing how to write a report is important, as is
writing in general. But schools need to know that the kids
understood the book, and don't have time to talk to each child
individually, like you probably have time to ask your child about
the book he read. Take the time to teach how to write a report,
and how to review a book, but don't sweat it too much; trust your
children that they are understanding, and trust yourself that you
are doing a great job." -- Anne


"My son also hates to write. One fun way is to let him use the
computer to type it up. My son loves to use the computer. Also
let him narrate the report to you. You can write it down for
him, then let him copy your paper. He can either type it up or
write it up." -- Bunny in Florida


"When we first started homeschooling, my son was just finishing
public elementary school (5th grade). I attended one of their
Scholastic Book Fairs and found a book of wonderful ideas for
book reports, some of which had been used in his classroom.
Instead of the usual 'stale' book report, the ideas were very
creative (travel brochure, advertising campaign, election, etc.);
they all asked for the usual information (characters, setting,
etc.) but in a creative format.

Another idea would be to have him do drawings that tell a picture
story. He could give his idea of what the characters and the
location looked like. He could illustrate the most important
parts of the plot. He could draw a 'happily ever after' family
portrait, etc. Maybe he could write his own sequel, including
the events from the original that led to the events in his contin-
uation and what happens to the characters later on." -- Sherry A.


"I understand your pain. My 7 year old did not like to write.
It has helped that I get her a real book with blank pages, and
in that she can create her own work. You can find these on the
web or make one.

One idea is letting the child pick which books -- maybe 4 a year
-- that he has to write about (2 page minimum). He might feel
he has more control, and not every book is going to result in a
book report.

The second idea is finding other ways to get children to write.
The point of a book report is to practice writing. As I have
explained to my 7 year old -- 'It must be done'. Although I want
her to enjoy school, that is not the only focus. She must prac-
tice skills she is not good at yet. Reading skills and writing
skills are very different. The way we speak and the way we talk
are NOT the way we write. That is why I had to proofread this
email 4 times before I sent it.

There is a great program called Writing Strands and it has some
great ideas for writing ideas (called Starts). Maybe it is
writing about the books he reads that he doesn't like. Creative
writing may serve him better: making up stories or science fiction,
animals, etc." -- Michelle L.


"My children have yet to do a traditional book report. I have a
book of book report posters with fill-in-the-blank questions
which I have used on several occasions. I have also a few book
report forms with similar fill-in-the-blank questions.

This year I have started each of the children on using a 'liter-
ature journal'. In these, each child responds to his or her
daily reading by writing a paragraph summary of the reading and
any personal response to the content."
-- Lisa Wagner, home educating 4 children ages 5, 7, 10, and 12


"One thing that we did with our old homeschool support group was
to have a monthly book report lunch. First of all I reserved the
meeting room at the local pizza joint. Everyone in the group was
invited. Participation was not mandatory, but some of the parents
made it mandatory in their family. We would have the kids choose
numbers for organization and order their reports. They would
give an oral reading of their report, or other presentation. We
had book reports, science experiments, scripture memorization,
puppet shows, and more. The kids were all so very creative, and
it gave them all experience in public speaking that they did not
even know they were getting. The kids looked forward to visiting
with their friends afterward, and of course, the free pizza pro-
vided by the local pizza place. We parents all paid for our own
pizza and salad for free mini-pizzas for the kids. The pizza
place was also contributing to literacy programs for the children,
so they were eager to participate.

They all wanted to look good so they ended up writing down the
synopsis of the book. Some just read the back of the book jacket,
some created posters and alternative book covers, and some of the
younger kids just got up and stood by mom or dad and told the name
of the book they learned to read. It is all relative to what the
parent expects from their child. You are free to expect more or
less from month to month, depending on your work load." -- Sheri


"My hands-down favorite curriculum for teaching writing skills is
'Institute for Excellence in Writing' with Mr. Andrew Pudewa.
His method breaks down all the writing steps into user-friendly
portions, including book reports. Learn more at his website:
www.writing-edu.com. If you ever get to hear him at a conference
or workshop, you will see how amazing his method is -- even for
reluctant writers!" -- Kathy G. in CA


"A wonderful alternative to the traditional book report is a great
idea that belongs to Charlotte Mason. This wonderful educator
incorporated what she called narration. Narration is retelling
the book that was read. Even a very young child can narrate or
tell back something that they read. Ask them to include all the
details that they can remember. It sometimes helps to ask them
to act like they are telling the book to someone who has never
read it. Every detail counts. Have them make their narration of
the book as much like the original as they can. This really
encourages the child to pay close attention to the details of a
book and to remember them." -- Alisha


"I too have 2 boys ages 9 and 11 who enjoy reading but not writing
about it. I found some good suggestions for book reports that are
more fun and less report-like from Mailbox magazine (our local
library carries it). Our favorite one is to cut out colored con-
struction paper in the shapes of a sandwich with all the fixings.
The bread or bun is for the title of the book, the lettuce is for
the author; tomato can be the main character, etc. It gives the
children the opportunity to organize the main plot of the book
without making a boring chore out of it. If the book has a lot of
action, they can make hot peppers to write down their favorite
action part; if it is sad they can add extra onion. There is
really no limit to what their imaginations can come up with using
this format!

Book reports don't have to seem like book reports, but simply an
extension of what they read. If they are reading a mystery, cut out
a brown cloak, a magnifying glass, and brown hat to have them write
their info on. As they are reading the book, ask them to journal
about a particular situation the main character is in and how they
think it will work out. Make mini unit studies using themes from
books being read. All these will give you the evidence of books
read that the school districts want without making them have to do
'form' book reports." -- Rhonda S.


Need even more ideas? A HomeschoolingBOYS.com member sent this
extensive idea list to the group:


Answer our NEW Question

"I'm a NEW subscriber. The reason I subscribed is because I am
very prayerfully considering home-schooling my 8-year-old son.
I was hoping the readers could offer some advice or ideas. I
have struggled since school started just to get him to do home-
work. He would rather play outside! He is a very active boy,
very creative, but not very patient. He is on medication for
ADHD, which has helped in the classroom a lot. (I feel guilty
every time I give him his pill. I would rather give him natural
supplements for this, or use dietary measures, but our health
plan does not pay for naturalistic or homeopathic care or supple-
ments, and we cannot afford them because we are stretched very
tightly on our budget.) I am on Social Security disability;
hence the tight budget, but that also means I am at home. I just
am not sure I can 'do the job'. I am not a teacher, and although
I consider myself fairly well-educated, I have always struggled
with math. My reasons for considering this are the poor social
environment in our schools nowadays, with drugs, bullying, and
social pressures over 'fitting in'. Although my son is a very
friendly and outgoing boy, I do not like some of the words and
behaviors he brings home. I realize it gets worse with each
progressing grade.

My main worries are, does home-schooling lead to too much isola-
tion? Also, I am concerned about the mounting costs of not only
books and materials but sports and field trips, which are impor-
tant for home-schoolers. I certainly do not want to fail, and
then have to enroll him back into school. He is a very strong-
willed child, and how could I deal with him defying me or refusing
to pay attention to the tasks at hand day after day...? Homework
struggles have been exhausting enough for me without having to
fight my way through learning at home. I would welcome any ideas
or suggestions from the more experienced home-school parents.
Thanks to all of you in advance." -- Trish


Do you have an encouraging reply for Trish?

Please send your email to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

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