At the start of the school year, I promise my parents that I will not be assigning at-home book reports. They look surprised and then relieved.
I was not always this way. When I first started teaching, I was excited to assign book reports. I did them as a child and so it seemed natural that my children would do them as well. So I assigned the “report” that the rest of my team was assigning. This was not like any report I had even completed. It was more of an art project than anything else. And here is what happened…
I received no less than twenty questions about the report from parents. I was sending daily answers and reminders regarding the report. On the due date, two students didn’t bring a report at all. Twenty students brought reports that looked professionally done. And four sweeties brought in hand-written, crayon colored, done by themselves reports. As the students presented their reports for what seemed like an eternity, my heart broke for the four who did the report themselves and therefore didn’t have the fancy project to share. They had probably learned the most, but I would be the only one to know this.
Later, we displayed our reports for parents to see at an open house. Parents had already seen them though. So they went from desk to desk checking out what other parents had done. I am certain they were comparing their work to all the others. I could almost here them thinking “Wow! I did so much better than this kid’s mom! They didn’t even use glitter!”
After the open house, I spent hours grading the projects with a rubric. Could I even use these grades? I mean, how much had the students completed on their own? As I walked the room, I was asking myself “Did they learn anything about literature?” “Did they enjoy reading the book?” And to be completely honest…I wasn’t sure I could say “yes” to either of those questions.
I had worked hard. Parents had worked hard. My four sweeties, who completed the project on their own, worked hard. But I don’t feel much learning happened. Why work so hard for so few results? I realized that what I really wanted was for my kids to love reading. The book report was not the answer. If anything, it took time away that they could have spent reading. Not ok!
I never assigned another at-home book report. My parents didn’t complain. My kids didn’t complain. My class passed their reading standardized testing. They passed the third grade. Nothing detrimental happened because they didn’t have crazy book projects to complete at home.
Instead, I have them complete SIMPLE book reports in class after we finish a book in our literature circles. Right now, my class is making a brochure for the book they just read. I am giving them a little bit of class time to complete it. They are happy and I am able to observe as they write about characters and setting.
When my kiddos go home they will have more time to be kids. More time to read, dance, play the piano, ride bikes and be with their families.
And that is why I don’t assign at-home book reports.