There are many ways to assess a student’s understanding, comprehension and critical response to text. In middle and high school, students begin to learn about creating arguments and using evidence from the text to support said arguments. There is always room to practice foundational writing. Book reviews and reports are essential assessments, each offering teachers different analyses of how students are reading and comprehending.
Book reports are tried and true. It’s an opportunity for students to practice writing while teachers can assess comprehension. Teachers can design book report requirements to follow specific guided questions or they might prefer to let the students choose which direction to go. The key is encouraging students to think, analyze, interpret and relate to what they read. A book report doesn’t necessarily require critical arguments, but it does provide valuable writing practice that prepares students for future writing assignments. They also serve as a way to celebrate books, which helps nurture life-long readers.
Conversely, book reviews encourage deeper connections and analyses of texts. While a review might include a brief summary of events from the novel, the focus is forming opinions about the content of the book by thinking critically. Personal response leads to forming a critical argument that can be proven and backed up by citing others’ published critical responses. It’s important for students to identify their own reactions and responses to the novel before they seek evidence to back up their argument. A book review engages students’ thought processes to read actively and note their emotional and critical responses. These are the first steps towards critical thinking and response which they will need as they advance in education.
Whether you assign students a book review or a book report, remember the key component to either assignment is reading. Encouraging and inciting kids to want to read novels will always be a challenge, as evolving technologies create more and more distractions. These assignments are designed to have students read actively and learn the foundations of analysis. In the end, it will benefit their reading and comprehension skills.