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I require book reports from my students each month. These are projects that are done at home, but could just as easily be done in class. Before school starts I assign a book genre to each month. The crop of kids I have determines the format for the book. This year I happen to have a lot of active boys and an overall kinesthetic group of kids. So most of the projects I have chosen are very hands-on.

Our latest book report was due recently, and I loved seeing these projects roll in. March was the month I chose for kids to do biographies. We have covered many Americans through our social studies units who have made a huge difference in our country. I wanted the kids to have some exposure to these people before assigning a project, so I waited until close to the end of the year to explore this genre. The format I chose for our biographies was a time capsule.

I explained what a time capsule is and had already pulled a large selection of biographies from our library for the kids to choose from. Since I have a multi-level classroom I split the books according to reading levels. I let the kids select the biography they were interested in and made a note of their choice.

At the beginning of the year I enclosed a book report form with the book for the kids to fill out. Since we are at the end of the year and my students have had a ton of experience writing and know the components of a book report I instructed them in a written handout to write an actual report that included the title, author, illustrator, birth and death dates, background history of the person, what the person was most known for, how this person made a significant impact on the United States and the student’s opinion of the book. Then each student had to find twelve items that had to do with that person or the person’s lifetime to put in a time capsule. Each item needed a card explaining what the item was and why it was important. I gave the students four weeks to complete this project.

On the day the projects were due each student drew a number to see when he or she would present his or her project. I limited the presentations to six each day until everyone had presented. Each student read their report and then showed the items, explaining the significance of each. I then had the students place their time capsule on our display table. After those six reports were given I had the presenters stand by their time capsules and allowed the rest of the class to go look at all of the items and ask questions to the presenter.

I developed a rubric to record grades with. The rubric consisted of six components I was looking for: oral presentation, a point for each component in the written report, inclusion of all twelve items, neatness, grammar and ability to answer questions. I love to do projects like this that allow not only the coverage of several objectives, but also get the kids involved in the application of skills and allowing them to share their knowledge of a topic with others. It’s just a bonus that the kids enjoy these projects!

Paula has a Masters degree in education with an emphasis on child development and child behavior....

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