Archive for November 15th, 2008

Amazon Book Reviews

As I looked at my students’ proficiency levels at the beginning of this school year, I noticed that most of my students struggled with their writing.  My district requires quarterly assessments, and again, they were unsatisfactory or partially proficient in writing.  I didn’t just want them to write for class, but I wanted an audience and for them to publish it as often as possible.

I was surfing Amazon and it finally connected for me – my students could post book reviews online.  I decided to find a way for them to use this site to publish their writing.  As I looked further into the site, I discovered that they could post their reviews as “A Kid’s Review.”  This was perfect as I don’t want them to put up their names or locations.  They will log in under my name, type their reviews, and post it as a kids’ review.

Earlier in the year I showed my students amazon.com (most of them had never visited the site or heard of it) and how to search for books and read book reviews.  So that was where I started.  With a borrowed laptop and LCD projector, my students and I search the site, looking specifically at book reviews.  We pulled up reviews on books that they were reading.  They were shocked that people wrote reviews about books that they didn’t like and that people didn’t necessarily like the books that they loved.  They were also concerned that the authors would read the reviews and see that people didn’t necessarily love their book.  We made sure that we previewed some of the reviews before class so that we could specifically show them some examples where the reviewer had a lot of voice and was creative.  One of my students wanted to post a review about his favorite book right there, so we did.  He dictated what he wanted to say, read it over, edited it, and then we posted it.  It takes about 48 hours for a review to post, so I checked back a couple of days later, and there it was.  I showed it to him, but he said that he had already looked online and seen it.  

My next step was to have my students start breaking apart reviews and looking for the “must haves.”  I created a PowerPoint presentation to show students the various parts of a book review.

 

Pod area set up ready for class.

Pod area set up ready for class.

 

After going through the example, students worked in groups to highlight the major parts of their book review.

 

 

Students highlighting book reviews.

Students highlighting book reviews.

 

Groups working.

Groups working.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I discovered that it was difficult for them to tell the difference between opinions and plot.  I can tell that we are going to have to work on this as they begin writing their own reviews – which will be next week.

If you would like to see or use the PowerPoint, it is uploaded at:  http://www.slideboom.com/people/ellclassroom

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Genre Wall

This year, I have especially noticed that my students struggle identifying genre related to literature.  They can identify fiction or nonfiction, but they have been unable to identify specific genres within each.  I decided to develop an interactive way for them to begin to explore different types of genre.

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I decided to begin with five main genre types:  realistic fiction, science fiction, mystery, fantasy, and historical fiction.  In addition to the board I created, I also found a descriptive chart that students can read through to find the genre type.  I made sure that I put picture examples of genre under each heading so that students could have a visual image that would help them decide what genre a book fits into.

Whenever a student finishes a book that they rate a 9 or 10, they can fill out the pieces of paper that you see on the board for extra credit (5 points).  This serves as an advertisement for other students and a way for them to figure out genre.  The information that they place on the paper are:  title, author, reviewer (their name), rating, and location (where someone else can find the book).

I have found that students enjoy sharing their favorite books in this way.  They also use the pictures to help them figure out the genre.  

I plan on adding other genres over the course of the year.

I have been incredibly pleased with these results.  My students are really starting to use these tools to help place books into different genres.