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10 Technology Enhanced Alternatives to Book Reports

Traditional book reports can kill the love of reading, keep your students motivated and still assess their understanding with these 10 technology enhanced alternatives that I wrote for http://theapple.com.   Kelly Tenkely | TheApple.com The most dreaded word in school reading for students: book reports. Teachers assign them, viewing them as a necessary component of assessing reading comprehension. Book reports can be a contributing factor to ‘readicide’. “Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.” http://stenhouse.com/html/readicide.htm. So, how can we as teachers continue to monitor our students understanding of reading material without killing the love of reading? Enter technology. Technology can help bring some excitement and creativity to the traditional book report while still displaying students understanding of reading. 1. Let students create a cartoon version of the book they have just finished. Use a tool like Creaza http://creaza.com, Piki Kids http://pikikids.com, or Kerpoof http://kerpoof.com to inject a little fun into the book report. Students can create a short cartoon or comic strip summarizing the book they just read. Encourage students to include key characters from the book as well as the problem and solution. If there are no appropriate background templates to fit the book they have just finished, students can tell the story in the form of an interview between two characters or choose a cartoon character to review the book. This alternative to book reports is particularly appealing to boys who are already excited about graphic novels. 2. Let students create a short video clip about the book. Creaza http://creaza.com, Kerpoof http://kerpoof.com, and Xtra normal text to movie http://xtranormal.com are all great online tools that allow students to create short movie clips. Students can create an interview type show where they interview characters in the book, create a short movie trailer for the book, or actually have characters act out portions of the book. 3. Create a virtual poster advertising the book. Think about movie posters, they give just enough information to give you a taste of what the movie will be about. They also contain information such as the title of the movie, the major actors, and a rating. Students can use Glogster http://glogster.edu to create an online book poster that acts as an advertisement for the book they just read. Students should include the title and author of the book, key characters, use pictures that support the story line, and create a tag line that will make others want to read the book. 4. Encourage students to create their own virtual bookshelves with Shelfari http://shelfari.com. Shelfari is not only a great alternative to book reports, it is also a nice alternative to reading logs. Shelfari allows students to display books that they have read on a virtual bookshelf. This site enables students to connect with other students and teachers, sharing book recommendations and reading reviews. Shelfari provides the ability to create online book clubs and discussions. Inspire students with similar interests to start a book club where they read and discuss together. When students finish reading a book they can add it to their bookshelf, rate the book, and write a short review of the book for others to read. The collaborative component makes it easy to keep up with what students are reading and to measure understanding. It also allows teachers to recommend books to students based on what they are currently reading. This is a great way to keep your students engaged in their reading and ensures they will always have great suggestions for new books to keep them reading. 5. Book Adventure http://bookadventure.org is an online reading motivation program. Teachers create student accounts on Book Adventure. In the student account students can research books based on their reading level, age, and interests. They get a convenient printable list of books that match their level and interests. The list includes the ISBN, Title, and author. This makes it easy for students to head to the library and hunt down new reading material. After students have read a book, they can log onto their Book Adventure account and take a 10 question multiple choice quiz based on the book they read. Students can take each quiz multiple times and must get 8 or more questions correct to earn points to purchase prizes from the Book Adventure store. Each students score is automatically sent to the Book Adventure teacher gradebook along with the number of times the quiz was taken. Students earn and save up quiz points to purchase fun goodies from the Book Adventure store. Students can get everything from a 6 month subscription to Highlights magazine to a chocolate bar from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. This is a completely FREE program for students and schools to participate in. Book Adventure has a great teacher area with ideas for encouraging reading as well as certificates to print out to recognize good readers and notes for parents with the students latest reading progress. 6. Bookcasting is a recorded audio podcast about a book. A bookcast is a movie trailer-like audio review of a book that students can create and share with one another. Free online tools such as Audacity http://audacity.com, G Cast http://gcast.com, or Pod Bean http://podbean.com make recording audio and sharing simple. Bookcasts let students be creative and provide them with a great sense of audience. It has the added benefit of acting as a book review to excite other students about reading. Before students create their own bookcast, find some radio movie trailers of current kids movies online for students to listen to as an example. 7. Allow students to create a timeline of events in the story they just read in an online timeline. Capzles http://capzles.com is an interactive timeline creator. Students can add photos, video, audio and text to their timeline to support telling the story sequentially. Themes, colors, backgrounds, and background music can be added to further personalize the timeline. Timelines have the ability to be shared with other students and teachers. 8. Wikis are an excellent place for students to share book reviews. Wetpaint http://wetpaint.com, PBWorks http://pbworks.com, and Zoho Wiki http://zoho.com/wiki are outstanding online wikis where students can write reviews about books they have read and share them with other students. Create a classroom book review wiki where all students can logon and add books that they are reading with reviews. The wiki could act like a classroom review column for books. Students can both contribute and read book reviews. By the end of the school year you will have a wiki full of great book reviews! Before students contribute to the book review wiki, read some movie reviews from the local newspaper. Encourage students to point out key elements of a good review. 9. Excite and motivate students to read with Book Wink http://bookwink.com. This incredible website motivates students in 3rd to 8th grade to read using fun podcasts and web videos. The video book talks range from 3-4 min. in length and introduce students to a topic or genre and the books that exhibit the topic well. Students can watch a video and then search books by grade, subject, author, or title. After students read a book, they can create their own book talk using a web cam or video camera. The student book talks could be shared on websites like Viddler http://viddler.com or Fliggo http://fliggo.com so that other students can watch and comment on the book or topic. 10. Voice Thread http://voicethread.com is an amazing site that allows students to create web 2.0 slide shows that become interactive and collaborative. This is a great place for students to discuss common genres and books online. Students can create a slideshow summary of their book with pictures, audio, and text. Other students can leave text, audio, or drawn comments on the book reviews. Voice Thread would be a great place to begin online classroom book clubs. Technology brings interest back into reading and helps students continue to find reading that they enjoy while providing the teacher with feedback about student reading comprehension. These are great alternatives to book reports that will keep your students from ‘readicide’. Most of the above tools have the added benefit of being able to be embedded into a classroom blog, website, or wiki. All student projects can be collected, organized, and viewed in one place. It doesn’t get better than this!

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Death in Rome

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Evaluate, History, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 20-10-2010

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What it is: Death in Rome is an interactive history experience from the BBC.  The game takes place in the year 80AD where Tiberius Claudius Eutychus is found dead in his apartment.  Students must put their sleuth skills to work as they investigate clues scattered around the room to solve the mystery.  They have until dawn to crack the case.  In addition to clues in the room, students can “talk” to modern-day experts for additional information, and interrogate witnesses.

How to integrate Death in Rome into your curriculum: Death in Rome is a fantastic exercise in critical thinking, reasoning, and deduction.  Students will learn about ancient Rome, using clues to solve a mystery, and find out how engaging and interesting history can be.  Death in Rome would make a great partner activity.  Students can work together in teams to solve the crime.  When each team has cracked the case, they can share the strategy they used and the clues that tipped them off to the solution.  If you don’t have access to a lab setting, solve the case as a class using a projector or interactive whiteboard.  Students can take turns at the board acting as investigators and leading the investigation.  As the game progresses, those students at their seats can make note of the clues and offer conjectures as to what the clues reveal about the death.

Tips: Because of the subject matter, this game probably isn’t appropriate for students under the age of 10.  I recommend playing through the game yourself to decide if it is appropriate for your age group.  Older students will enjoy playing investigator!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Death in Rome in your classroom!

Comments (2)

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelly S Terrell, ktenkely, Beth O'Connor, Thomas Baker, Teresa Heithaus and others. Teresa Heithaus said: @ktenkely Thank-you for the link on Death in Rome. Has my wheels turning! http://bit.ly/9oM1KQ [...]

[...] iLearn Technology suggest ways in which the game might be integrated into your teaching: “Death in Rome is a fantastic exercise in critical thinking, reasoning, and deduction.  Students will learn about ancient Rome, using clues to solve a mystery, and find out how engaging and interesting history can be.  Death in Rome would make a great partner activity.  Students can work together in teams to solve the crime.  When each team has cracked the case, they can share the strategy they used and the clues that tipped them off to the solution.  If you don’t have access to a lab setting, solve the case as a class using a projector or interactive whiteboard.  Students can take turns at the board acting as investigators and leading the investigation.  As the game progresses, those students at their seats can make note of the clues and offer conjectures as to what the clues reveal about the death.” [...]

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