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Book Report in a Bag

Teachers are always looking for ways to freshen up the traditional book report. Here is one that students enjoy.

Grades 4-8
Subjects Language Arts, Art, Math
Time Frame One or two weeks or longer.
Materials White paper bag with handles for each student; construction paper for work cards.

Students choose a book to read and report on.

Middle grade students could read a short chapter book. Be sure to have a selection of books at various reading levels, and to have more books than you have students.

In upper grades, have students choose from a set of books preselected by the teacher, or allow them to choose their own. You could further refine the project by having all students choose a certain genre (for example, science fiction), or have groups of five to six students each working on one genre. Following their individual work, the students who worked on each genre could put together a presentation for the class outlining features of the genre as well as a brief bibliography of the books they read.

Give each student a white paper bag with handles (approximately 8 by 10 inches / 20 by 25 cm or slightly smaller). On one side of the bag students will draw a cover for their book. On the other side they will create a collage featuring various aspects of the book.

Have students measure and cut out of construction paper a number of 5-by-5­inch / 13 x 13 cm cards. (This is the Math component of the project.) On these cards they will summarize various elements of the book. You will determine the number of cards according to the grade and ability level of the students. Basic topics for cards can include the following:

  1. Theme
  2. Plot
  3. Three Major Characters: for each character, students write the character's names, three words to describe their personality, three words to describe their physical appearance
  4. Favorite Character
  5. Book Facts: author, number of pages, genre, publisher, year of publication
  6. Problem / Resolution

The cards will then be placed into the decorated bag. Students will also include a handmade artifact related to the book in their bags. For example, a student who read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory created a homemade chocolate bar; another student who read Underground to Canada linked florist wire loops together to make a chain, representing the shackles worn by slaves. Once all the material has been created, the book report in a bag is handed in to the teacher.

This project works well for a variety of topics such as:

  • study of ancient Egypt (Egyptian characters)
  • native studies (totem poles)
  • novel studies (characters from the novel)
  • medieval studies (characters in period dress)

For upper grades, students can also complete a response journal entry about the book or use graphic organizers to summarize an aspect of the book. Or you can devise any other activity that suits your students, including giving them a free choice for one of the cards.

Printed with permission from Firefly Books Ltd.

Great Teacher Projects K-8 by Laura Mayne

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