One of my goals for blogging with my students was for them to share book recommendations. My fifth grade gifted students read a lot, and some are always looking for something new to read. Once they read a book they love, they now have a place to share it with other students. They can also read other students’ reviews, make comments, and find a new book. I find that some of my introverts comment the most on the blog when they wouldn’t share their thoughts in a class discussion.
In order for student recommendations to work, I needed to create criteria for what makes a good book review. I didn’t require a long post, but it needed to include the title, the author, a short summary with no spoilers, and where to find the book. I also gave my students a checklist for writing conventions.
We have had several discussions about spoilers in class. There are some books we study together as a class and when students read ahead and reveal secrets, it takes the fun away from others who wanted to discover it for themselves. We discuss what events are important to the story line and what events or characters add to the story, but aren’t as critical. This is a good way to determine importance in fiction and learn how the elements of story contribute to the big ideas.
I wanted students to share where they found the book so other students would know if we had a copy in the school or classroom library. Some students bring their books from home and are willing to share with others, and they can advertise this fact within the post. Our local library is walking distance from our school and caters to our students. In fact, the children’s librarian visits our schools once or twice a year to share new books and resources with our students.
My checklist for the book review is half a page. I use it to introduce the assignment, have students peer edit, and give students feedback on their reviews. I include writing conventions – capital letters, punctuation, and spelling. I found when I first started blogging with my students, they wrote poorly. I needed to remind them that this is a class assignment and I expect them to spell words out and use correct grammar, etc. I will not accept texting lingo.
By creating a place for students to share their reading recommendations, I am no longer the only one in the room trying to connect students with books. I require that each student writes one book review a month. Every student easily meets this goal. Because other students are reading and responding, there is a deeper accountability than the traditional book report.