Harry Wong
Oct 2017
Vol 14 No 3

Beyond Book Reports

By Jean Domanski

Fun Ways to Demonstrate Reading Comprehension of Fiction Books

If someone handed you a book and told you that you would have to write a report on it afterwards, would you enjoy reading it as much as if you had read it for recreational purposes only? We want to know that our students have understood what they have read. But isn’t there anything less dry than the typical book report?

If you sense that your students dislike writing book reports, but you believe that a comprehension exercise is beneficial, there are several routes you can take. One is the story map, a graphic organizer that contains a rectangle for each part of the story. You can draw one or create one on your computer using drawing tools. Students will write the book’s title in the top rectangle, the author and illustrator in the rectangle below it, and the names of the main characters and the setting in the rectangle below that. Next comes the main character’s problem. Below that come three smaller rectangles drawn next to each other. These are for the three major events that occur as the main character attempts to solve the problem. The last rectangle is reserved for the solution to the main character’s problem. If you wish to have the children write a traditional book report later, this story map will serve as a wonderful starting point. However, it can stand alone as an assessment of story understanding, as well.
Another pencil and paper-type activity is the flow map. The flow map is one of several “thinking maps” that brain researchers are recommending to teachers to encourage a student’s organization of his or her thoughts. A flow map looks like the traditional flow chart. However, the arrows only “flow” in one direction. To start, a child will write his or her name; the title, author and illustrator of the book; and the setting and characters at the top. Then, you or the student will draw a rectangle. Inside, write the first major story event. If a child has specific details to add about the event, he or she can write these on lines below the rectangle. When finished with the first rectangle, draw an arrow coming from the right side of it, pointing to the next rectangle you or your child will draw. Continue this process until your child is finished naming all of the story’s major events and details. When you get to the end of the page’s width, just begin a new line of rectangles. You may even use a large piece of poster board, if you wish.
If the poster board makes you feel crafty, why not try the “book cube” next? You’ll need a clean, empty half-pint milk carton. You
could also use a quart or half-gallon size carton. In fact, this might be easier for little hands that form large letters, but then you’ll have more of a “book rectangular prism.” Either way, the directions remain the same. Tuck the pointed top of the carton into the center of the carton. Then cover the entire carton with paper. It should remind you of wrapping a present. Now you have six flat sides on which to write. On one side the student can write the title and author of the book, and on side two he or she could name the setting and major characters. Turn the cube and write what happened in the beginning, write the middle on another side, then write what happened at the end of the story on one of the two remaining sides. On the last side, students can draw a picture from the story. You can vary how each side is designated in future story cubes or prisms.
A very physical way to report on a book involves a tossable sphere, a beach ball! Use a sharpie to write story parts on different sections of the ball. Then toss it back and forth among the classmates. Whatever part of the ball the catcher’s right hand touches is the part of the story they have to name. Exercise and reading are rolled up in one ball!

Students will benefit from whatever method you choose. Not only will they demonstrate comprehension of a book, they will also develop knowledge of story parts.

About the Author

Jean Domanski is Teacher on Special Assignment, working as an English Language Development Specialist in the Los Angeles area. Prior to helping to coordinate her district’s ELD Program, Mrs. Domanski taught first and second grade for eleven years. She is a mother of two sons, and she enjoys freelance writing during her free time. Jean has had several language arts articles published by Eclectic Homeschool Online Magazine and has also written for several non-education publications.



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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 and is filed under AUGUST 2009, Jean Domanski. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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