I am always looking for ways to get students to respond to reading, to demonstrate that they have read the book or article or whatever. I have two new ideas to try with students in the fall.
As part of the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project‘s Advanced Institute this year, we each read a book that in some way used the journal format. (I read The Burn Journals, a scary but important book.) Then, we photocopied a page from the book and used that to talk about the book for five minutes. It was an interesting way to learn about 15 books in 75 minutes. (It really took closer to 90 minutes. Some of us like to talk!)
The other idea e from Scott McLeod’s post about his 140-Character Book Review Contest. Basically, he is asking people to submit 140-word book reviews for the chance of winning a mug. With students, writing a 140-character book review is something that has potential. First of all, the challenge of writing to such length limitations can make the writing process both more of a challenge and less intimidating, depending on the student.
Last semester I tried having my students write six sentence stories instead of our normal journaling. I got the idea from Six Sentences. For the students who never managed to write more than about 4 sentences in 10 minutes, the format seemed to free them to write more because knew how much they had to write. For the more proficient writers, the format allowed them to concentrate on the quality of their writing. It was successful enough that I am going to try it again.
I think the 140-character book review offers the same possibilities There is sufficient structure to make it less threatening to reluctant writers, but that same structure makes it more challenging for better writers. I don’t know that I would stick to the 140-character limit, but 25 or 50 words might work. Unless my students were used to Twitter or something else that forced them to think in characters, I think a word limit would make more sense than a character limit.
I want my students this fall to do independent reading. I think I will use both these techniques to monitor their reading. I’ll let you know how it goes.