When you have a child who hates to write, short book reports can be just as daunting as a full-fledged research paper! Many of us have kids who don’t like to write or can’t write. What is to be done? Let me give you a bit of advice.
Step away from the formal book report.
I know you just caught your breath. “How can I do that? Isn’t that a schooling rite of passage? Won’t I look like a bad homeschool mom if I don’t make my kids do book reports?” Have no fear. Help is here! What you have to do is separate the comprehension from the writing problem. Think outside the book report box, and you’ll have lots of ways for your child to show you they understood what they read. And if they show you they didn’t? Get some comprehension strategies.
Alternative Comprehension Strategies
While it’s unavoidable that, at some point, your child will have to learn how to write a book report, the skills leading up to that point can be learned in a variety of creative ways. Later, once he or she is more comfortable with the foundational comprehension skills, you can lay the groundwork for developing the report-writing skills.
Here are some suggestions for building those other skills.
Keep It Simple
Especially for the younger kiddos or those who have difficulty understanding “how” and “why” questions, you need to start on a basic level. Teach them about problem and solution. Even your preschoolers can do this. Fold a paper into fourths. Write “problem” in one box and “solution” in another. Then choose two other things you want your kids to share. Perhaps, “one funny part” and “my favorite part” or “a scary part” and “two characters.” If your child has writing difficulty or can’t write well yet because of his age, let him draw the answers. Ta-da! You just did a book report on the simplest level.
Here’s a fun activity: let your child make a commercial or news report! With the plethora of technology available to non-techy people, you could record this project. This will inspire your more creative kids who hate pen and paper projects. You can even let them dress up like a news reporter talking about the book.
Interview your child as a character. Adjust the level of interview question difficulty based on your child’s cognitive ability. If your child seems confused by a question, ask it in a different way. Let your child dress up as the character if they like dress up, and then you can ask them questions that would help you see how they understood what they read.
Create a Diorama
Though you may have hated dioramas as a child, your student may love them! Of course, it doesn’t have to be limited to a picture in a box. Your child may want to build a scene (or multiple scenes!) with Legos or some other building toy. Assign younger children a single scene and talk through what has been displayed. For older children, require several scenes. Have them put the scenes in the proper sequential order, explain what they designed, and give tidbits of information to connect the scenes.
Create a Poster
Do you have an artsy kid on your hands who hates the writing process? Get some posterboard, some paints or markers, and let him or her loose. Require multiple scenes for older children, and make sure each scene can be explained or described clearly and coherently.
Small paper sacks or old socks, markers, and googly eyes can be combined to create fun puppets. Add some posterboard for scenery, and you are ready for a fun puppet show. Have your child create a couple of puppets (or more if siblings are willing to get involved) representing favorite characters from the book and use them to give a summary of the story.
Several great children’s books have also been made into movies. Choose one of those titles for your child to read, then watch the movie as a family. Before the movie starts, divide a piece paper into two columns and write COMPARE on one side and CONTRAST on the other. When your child sees something that’s the same as the book, have him or her write it in the COMPARE column. When something shows up that is different, it can go in the CONTRAST column.
Kids are not automatically book-report ready at specific ages. You need to see where your child is and help him or her move step by step. It’s okay to do just a piece of a book report and practice that for a while. It’s also okay to walk your child through the process and do it with him. Think out loud and let him see and hear what you’re thinking.
When it does come time to start actually writing book reports, make sure to provide templates to help guide the process. Create prompts for each paragraph, find templates online, or create specific questions for your child to answer. Allow simple answers at first, then encourage more advanced thinking as your child grows older.