After finishing a novel reading, whether whole group or individual, it’s great to have an activity to wrap up. While book reports and other retelling projects, are a common choice, especially when dealing with multiple or student selected books, they don’t provide the higher level thinking that is preferred in secondary classrooms. Instead, push students towards going beyond the text to predict, analyze, create and evaluate.
Here are some fun, flexible projects to use:
- Write Friendly-Letter(s): Students write a friendly letter from a character in the story. Expand the activity by having students respond to the letter, either responding to their own letter or to a classmates. Students can explore and address characterization, explore point of view, and evaluate importance of events.
- Design a Tattoo or Tee Shirt: students examine the story for theme or other literary elements and design a tattoo or tee shirt to depict it. Draw free-hand or provide templates.
- Create a How-to Brochure: students will analyze a task or lesson from the story. Then, using details from the text, they will create a how-to brochure. Good way to evaluate one or more choices of characters, as well as re-read the text for information.
- Write a Sequel: Students predict what could happen next based on details of the original text. Challenge students to keep true to the original characters to practice point of view exploration.
- Write a Prequel: Students examine key events and characterization of the story in order to write a prequel. Prequels explain why the character or events in the original text are they way they are. It’s a fun creative endeavor that’s rooted in details of the original text.
- Design a Book Cover: students examine the text for images, symbols, and motifs to design a catchy book cover. Fun creative project that doesn’t take much time.
- Design a Movie Poster: This project addresses application of medium– in this case film– as compared to text. Students consider how to depict the concept of the story in visual format, including images or symbols. Students can research actors and actress to play the roles, requiring examination of the characters and their roles.
- Create a Soundtrack for the Text: Students will find (or write!) songs to fit select parts of the story. Music in a soundtrack reflects or enhances the mood of the scene, so students will need to analyze the mood of the scene and of the music selected.
- Write Your Own: this project has students identify themes and major elements of the story to apply to their own version. Students will be challenged to not just retell the story, but to create a new version. Similar, in a way, to how Hollywood may “re-imagine” a classic story, with a new twist.
- Write an Alternate Ending: Students apply understanding of elements of the story, including conflict and characterization. They’ll predict and explore the effects a change at a key event of the story. Student- or Teacher-selected event is chosen as the point to change, and students write a new ending.
Because the projects vary in content, they may not fit all books chosen. This issue can be addressed by offering students a choice in their project. I like to offer a variety of projects and let students chose– this may be accomplished with task cards, choice boards, or the old-school method of laying out stacks of photocopied assignment guidelines for students to choose from. Student choice is a great way to increase engagement, which is helpful in pushing students into that higher-level thinking.
Plus, if you ask me, it’s a lot more fun, as a teacher, to grade the different creative projects than to read multiple regurgitation of the novel. I’m frequently amazed and impressed by the creativity AND the level of depth I see in student projects. It’d make me all warm and fuzzy, if I was that sort of person.
That said, the Literary Analysis Essay is always a fitting approach to any story, as it requires analysis (it’s in the name, after all) and students can be directed to select their own topic.