I never had the opportunity to do creative book projects as a middle school student, so I did a whole lot of fake reading. I would sit at my desk during silent reading time and look like I was completely absorbed in a book, but I can’t tell you how many of my library books went completely unread past chapter 1, or, better yet, page 1. While I could read, it wasn’t something I enjoyed or felt compelled to do.
We also never did any whole-class read-alouds, literature circles, or student-selected reading. Perhaps all of those things took place and existed when I was in middle school, but I can’t remember them. I do remember getting to perform a reader’s theater of Alice in Wonderland, where I got to be Alice, however. Fourth grade, Mrs. Cavanaugh! I adored her!
As a reformed “book unfinisher,” I want my students to have a completely different experience with books. I want them to look forward to their trips to the library each week so they can find that “just right” or “best fit book.” I want them to feel excited about the books they get to share and read in literature circles, and for our class read alouds. I want them to grab that eye-catching book off the shelf and find a comfy spot on the carpet to read it ASAP. And most importantly, I want them to feel a sense of joy, pride, and accomplishment when they navigate a text independently from cover to cover.
One way I have found success with my students is to offer a wide array of different book projects. I want to give my students the opportunity to share and reflect on their reading while giving them a purpose.
While reading a book is so much more than completing a book project at the end, I have found that students truly enjoy the opportunity to showcase what they have read about and their learning. They want to create, they want to discuss, and they want to share. If you are looking for inspiration, here is what I have created to make self-selected reading more focused each month:
Three reasons your students won’t hate book projects:
#1: Book projects give students a purpose for reading.
Not all students LOVE reading. For example, my own son will read books, but he struggles to navigate books if he has nothing to show for his reading. At this stage in his 5th grade life, he needs to have a purpose for his reading. I recognize this in my own students, who would not tackle books unless they had a purpose, so a fun project with choices is one way to encourage consistent reading.
#2: Book projects provide a creative outlet.
Our school day is jam-packed with instruction and work expectations that students are not necessarily in charge of. Because I like to offer two different book project options, students get to determine which project intrigues them the most, and how they want to complete it. They get to utilize different supplies and make a creation that is all their own.
#3: Book projects encourage problem-solving.
A book project encourages students to navigate a text and then do some planning and organizing to showcase their learning. We need to find ways to encourage students to plan ahead and manage their time to complete a finished product. Book projects enable that process to take place.
If you are trying to find a way to encourage self-selected reading while holding students accountable for their work, give monthly book projects a try. Your students will AMAZE you with their creations.
Click the image to preview my Book Projects of the Month: A Year-Long Bundle for Grades 4-6
Except for January, each month allows students to choose between two different book projects that focus on the same literature or informational text skill. I give my students choice because it gives them the opportunity to select the option that is most suitable for their self selected reading book.
Each of the monthly projects comes with its own specific evaluation. I focus on the major components and give a point value between 4 and 1 based on what skills the student demonstrated. Out of the total points I give a percentage grade, which gets added into my gradebook.
Feel free to create your own project evaluation using the editable version. My ultimate goal is to encourage my students as readers. I want them to share their thoughts about the books they have read and be able to have thoughtful conversation about the elements of their books.