English Language Arts

Independent Book Report Project

Autonomy, creativity, and the freedom of choice are all aspects of this Independent Book Report Project that students value.

As adults, our pleasure reading is rarely chosen for us. We have the opportunity to choose books, articles, and texts on our own that interest us or that coincide with a hobby. Some of my favorite books to read are mysteries, romantic comedies, and historical fiction with women as the main characters. 

As adults, the notion of choice is all around us. If we want to eat chocolate cake at midnight, we can. If we want to stay up until three am, we can. We might not feel the greatest the next day, but at least we get to choose that! The biggest complaint my students have about childhood is that they don’t get to choose a lot of things. As a teacher, I wanted to change that. 

Does some of your students gravitate to film?

The books our students read are chosen by teachers, curriculum designers, school boards, principals, and the list goes on and on. About four years ago, I realized that students need the autonomy and trust to choose their own books. They should have the opportunity to choose a book that interests them, that they can connect to, that they can relate with, and that makes them excited to read.

Because teachers are always trying to squeeze in so much curriculum and standards, I found it challenging to incorporate an Independent Book Unit. A couple of years ago, I had the idea of assigning an Independent Book Unit as an at-home project completed throughout a couple of months. 

It was met with a lot of excitement. The only requirement was that students had to choose a book with 150 pages or longer. This was the guideline I set for middle school classrooms. They had to inform me of their book choice within a week and then get to reading.

Once finished, they had a list of 10 projects they could choose from. I am a huge believer that there are eight different types of learners: 

  • Auditory and musical learner. …
  • Visual and spatial learner. …
  • Verbal learner. …
  • Naturalistic learner. …
  • Logical and mathematical learner. …
  • Physical or kinesthetic learner. …
  • Social and interpersonal learner. …
  • Solitary and intrapersonal learner. …

By giving students a choice in their book selection and then the choice in their project, they were able to select an activity that played to their strengths and interests. The students were able to choose an activity based on what type of learner they were, even if they knew about diverse learning traits or not.

Are other students attracted toward art?

I had so many artistic students get excited about painting a scene from their book. Other students, who are flourishing writers, chose to write an extra chapter to their novel. Musical students composed a song or rap and performed it. Some students who loved acting put a video together of a scene in the book. Logical, kinesthetic, and mathematical students loved putting together a board game. Intrapersonal learners chose the scrapbook project or the journal one. I tried to incorporate as many diverse learning traits into my projects as possible. 

I loved to see what each student decided to do. I was able to get to know my students even better as their talents and interests shone through their project and their book selection.

After students read their book, it was up to them to manage their time to then complete their project at home. I chose to do this in the 4th quarter as a way to wind down the school year. 

Do your students love board games, maybe creating them?

I have completed this project with students in the classroom before, as opposed to an at-home assignment. Students would independently read their books for a week to two weeks and then, afterward, work on their project for a week. When completing it in the classroom, we set individual goals for each student. Students would take the total number of pages that were in their book, divide by the number of class periods I gave them to read their book and, strive for that goal. Any pages not finished within that period during the day would be homework in the evening. Some students excelled under this goal-setting challenge.

Then, they also had to manage their time while working on their project. They set mini goals and whatever was not accomplished was finished over the weekend, and we would present that Monday. I’ve done it both ways and each way has worked out well. 

Do you have that one student that you know will become an author one day?

After my class presented their projects, I had them write a paragraph about a book they heard about during the presentations that interested them and that they wanted to read. They had to write why it seemed interesting to them. Some students even exchanged books right then and there. I even learned about some new novels I had not heard of that would be great additions to the classroom library.

Each year as I do the Independent Book Project, I am finding that I love it more and more. Autonomy, creativity, independence are all aspects of this project that students value. Reading is promoted and students have fun! What more could you ask for? If you’re interested in the exact project list and rubric I did with my classes, please click the link attached to each photo distributed throughout this blog.