12/9/97 11:24 AM
Fifty Alternatives to the Book Report
Students tire of responding to novels in the same ways. They want new ways to think about a piece of literature and new ways to dig into it. It is hoped that this diverse group of suggestions will whet the interest of students in exploring new directions and in responding with greater depth to the books they read.
1. Character astrology signs.
After reading brief descriptions of the astrology or sun signs, figure out which signs you think three of the main characters from your book were born under. Write an explanation of why you think they fit the sign, drawing on their actions, attitudes, and thoughts from the book.
2. Heroes and superheroes.
Select two or three people your character would think of as a hero or superhero. Describe the characteristics of the hero and why those characteristics would be important to your character. Also describe which characteristics your character would most want for himself/herself that the hero or superhero possesses.
3. Create a childhood for a character. If your main character is an adult, try to figure out what he or she would have been like as a child.
Write the story of his or her childhood in such a way that shows why he or she is the way he or she is in the novel.
4. Critique from the point of view of a specific organization. Select an organization that might have a lot to say about the actions or portrayals of characters in the novel you
read, and write a critique of the book from its point of view. For example the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals might have a lot to say about Lennie’s treatment of animals in Of Mice and Men, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on the portrayal of Crooks, and the National
Organization of Women on the portrayal of Curley’s wife and the fact that she was never given a name.
5. Social worker’s report. If the events in the novel merit it, write up a report as a social worker would on the conditions in the home and whether or not it’s a good environment for a child. For example, if a social worker went to the McNabs’ house in Maniac Magee by Jerry
Spinelli (1990, Little, Brown) how would she describe the home and parenting style of Mr. McNab? What would her recommendations be?
6. College application. Create the application that a character you have just read about could write and submit to a college. Use all the information you know about the character and infer and create the rest of it.
On the application include Name,
Academic Rank in Class, High School
Courses Taken and Grades, Extracurricular Activities and Personal Activi-
ties, and Work Experience. Choose one of the following questions to answer in a two-page essay from the character’s point of view: what experience, event, or person has had a significant impact on your life? Discuss a situation where you have made a difference. Describe your areas of interest, your personality, and how they relate to why you would like to attend this college.
7. School counselor’s recommendation letter. Write a summary appraisal from the school counselor’s point of view that assesses the character’s academic and personal qualities and promise for study in college.
The college is particularly interested in evidence about character, relative maturity, integrity, independence, values, special interest, and any noteworthy talents or qualities. Why do you feel this student would be well-suited to attend college?
8. Talk show invitation. Select a character, think about his or her involvements and experiences, then figure out which talk show would most want your character on as a guest. What would they want the character to talk about? Who else would they invite on the show to address the issues the character is involved in? Write up the correspondence between the talk show host and the character in which the host explains what the character should focus on while on