Inside: Thinking of ditching book reports in junior high? Hold that thought! Book reports teach vital skills to teens. Learn how to quickly organize and effectively create comprehensive book reports by using my free book report template, a sample of my comprehensive The Ultimate Book Report Master Guide.
In elementary school, book reports are fun and creative. Just grab a book report template, and you’re ready to go. As students progress to middle and high school, the focus shifts towards deeper writing and analytical skills.
If you homeschool, you might think about skipping book reports. But don’t do that! These assignments are more than just a writing exercise, they are crucial for encouraging critical thinking, comprehension, and organizational skills.
The problem is not every student enjoys them. For kids like mine who dislike writing, or those who are more STEM-oriented and prefer literal thinking, book reports can feel overwhelming.
Recognizing that kids like Marc need a bit more guidance in writing and analyzing literature, I created The Ultimate Book Report Master Guide specifically to support him and other teens with organizing and writing comprehensive book reports.
The guide demystifies the book report process by breaking it down into easy steps. It begins with choosing an appropriate book and extends to writing a well-structured report. Each step is clearly outlined, ensuring kids understand what is expected at every stage.
What about kids who hate reading? They can still do book reports!
I believe that sharing read-alouds with teens is a great way to expose them to good literature even if they dislike reading. Don’t give up on the book reports either. Many times I read the books aloud to Marc so I could follow up with questions, delve deeper into the subject, and get him ready to think about book reports. It’s easier to do so when you know the story firsthand.
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Why book reports matter in middle school and beyond
When it comes to book reports in junior high, many of us (including myself) have felt the temptation to skip them altogether.
It’s a natural reaction, especially when we see our kids struggling with or dreading these assignments. But before deciding to leave book reports out, it’s worth considering the skills they bring to the table:
• Critical Thinking: Book reports challenge students to analyze a story’s plot, characters, themes, and messages. This kind of analysis fosters deeper thinking and it’s a skill that translates across subjects.
• Comprehension: Reports require students to not just read but engage with the text. This active involvement boosts their ability to comprehend and remember information, skills that are crucial for academic success in all subjects.
• Expression: By expressing their views on a book, students develop their ability to communicate effectively. This develops their communication skills both in written and oral form.
• Organization: Reports teach students how to structure their ideas logically. Organizing ideas in a book and getting out the essentials is extremely difficult and it takes time and patience to master. Book reports offer this opportunity.
• Resilience: By doing something that might appear difficult, teens are only building their resilience. Writing a book report is not something they can do in a couple of hours. It takes days of hard work from actively reading and taking notes, to organizing, planning, and editing their work to make it the best they can make it.
While the initial knee-jerk reaction for us this year was to quickly skim and skip over book reports, particularly since writing isn’t Marc’s favorite, I thought about these benefits and decided to model them as best as I could for him. That’s how my The Ultimate Book Report Master Guide was born.
The Ultimate Book Report Template for junior high
Ever felt stuck finding the right book report template for junior high? So did I! That’s why I rolled up my sleeves and created the Ultimate Book Report Master Guide.
Writing a book report in upper middle school or high school is challenging. It’s not just about summarizing a story. Students need to learn how to analyze books in depth, but often they don’t get enough guidance on how to do this and we expect them to magically formulate the perfect book report.
When I created this guide, I thought about all the questions and challenges students like my son might face. I wanted to address everything from the basics of writing to the more complex aspects of literary analysis. This guide helps students not only write and summarize but also critically analyze literature. It teaches them how to organize their ideas and express their understanding clearly in writing.
This template is more than just a basic structure for a book report, it is a master guide that teaches students how to analyze literature critically, organize their thoughts, and articulate their understanding in writing. It emphasizes critical thinking, comprehension of literary elements, and structured writing skills, making it a valuable resource for teens.
You can get my full guide on Amazon: Monkey and Mom Homeschool Ultimate Book Report Master Guide.
You can also get a 30+ pages free sample of this guide, including a full book report template, checklists, instructions, and examples by subscribing to my newsletter. Remember, this is just a small piece of the full book.
What are the 5 secret ingredients of comprehensive book reports?
What I like telling Marc is that there are almost always recipes for writing a certain assignment. You only need to analyze examples or the rubrics provided to get a sense of direction.
Writing a book report for junior high is not that difficult when kids know what’s expected. So what’s the secret recipe for writing a great book report?
1. Use advanced vocabulary
The main aspect of well-developed book reports and even essays is using advanced vocabulary. Encourage kids to start with simple words in the draft, then spice it up with stronger vocabulary during revisions.
Remind them that it’s not about using big words for the sake of it, but about choosing words that add clarity and depth to the writing
We all know how overused words can affect the level of a written paper. The writing program we use, Structure and Style for Students has special sections of “banned words” prompting kids to select other words instead. This has helped Marc be more creative in his writing and actually open up the thesaurus.
The trick here is not to overdo it, and never encourage them to use words they don’t understand.
2. Master literary analysis
A junior high level book report goes beyond mentioning the author and summary of the book. As the requirements keep increasing, it’s essential to start explaining literary terms to kids and encourage them to start using these terms.
While this is a part of literature, book reports present the perfect opportunity to start using these terms. If your kids only know a few of these, or they are just learning literary analysis, encourage them to only use the terms they know. This not only makes the report sound better, but it also cements the information they have about literary terms.
Literary analysis isn’t easy, but you can help kids to start using terms like ‘narrative’ instead of story, ‘character development/evolution’, or ‘plot’. Their sentences will automatically sound better with a few tweaks.
As always, it’s important kids understand what these all mean and how to integrate them seamlessly into their reports, that’s why I included the most important terms for literary analysis in my Ultimate Book Report Master Guide.
A great way to learn how to use these in context is by exposing kids to literary critiques or advanced book reports. Modeling is still very important even in junior high years when kids are transitioning to more advanced requirements. To help, I included both beginner and advanced examples for book reports in my book.
Encourage kids to create a list of expressions and words they like when they see these used in the examples provided. They can refer back to the list when they are writing their own reports to see if they can incorporate them.
3. Start with the rubrics
If you have rubrics or guidelines, start there before planning the book report or using any book report template. There are various requirements for structure and what needs to be included, depending on the school or curriculum you use. Make sure kids know exactly what the requirements are before starting to plan their report.
I included teacher and student rubrics in my book, but use these only if your curriculum or school didn’t provide any.
If the requirements are different, make sure to adapt the book report template I included and change the sections that need to have different information.
4. Critical thinking
Great book reports include personal points of view, connections with other works, and recommendations that are backed up with evidence.
One critical step to make sure your kids have all that included is to ask them to take notes of the way they feel while reading certain sections of the book. This doesn’t have to be extensive.
Also, especially when reading nonfiction, ask kids to dig a little information about the author and the context in which the book was written. They can later use this while reading the book to see if the context influenced the views presented in the book in any way.
Encourage them to think of other similar works, or books written by the same author, or even connect the book with the movie if they’ve seen it and include brief comparisons and parallels between these.
5. Active reading
Maybe the most important prerequisite of a great book report is the act of active reading.
Encourage kids to keep a notebook close while they read and use sticky notes and sticky highlighters to mark pages that impressed them or seemed important to them.
Also, encourage them to take out any quotes that they found memorable. They can use these as evidence when writing their report to back up any claims they make. That’s what makes a great critique.
Active reading is a great way to stay focused and pay attention to what happens in the narrative.
Planning the perfect book report
Creating a standout book report involves a few key stages – before, during, and after reading the book. Let’s walk through each phase to ensure kids are fully prepared to tackle their book report assignments:
Encourage kids to pick a book that really interests them, not just because it’s short or easy. It’s important they feel connected to the book to stay engaged in the project. For inspiration, we often turn to BookShark‘s historical fiction reading lists – they’re full of engaging and adventurous choices.
Ask kids to think about the setting, characters, plot, and themes of the book while they are reading. They should write down any ideas they have on these while they read.
If they have any questions or parts they don’t understand they should note those questions down as well.
Encourage even younger readers to take a moment to think about the kind of language the author uses. Do they notice anything special about it? Can they use this in their report?
Once they finished reading, encourage them to think about the book as a whole. How do they feel about it? What are the highlights of the book and what do they remember most vividly? Did the book change their perspective on anything? Did they learn something new?
After this thinking exercise, it’s time to plan the actual book report, making use of any rubrics, book report templates, and requirements.
In my Ultimate Book Report Master Guide, I broke down every paragraph in a book report to show kids what needs to be included in each. I also added examples of well-structured paragraphs for each part. Depending on the assignment, you might only choose to do part of these.
Here are the main paragraphs:
1. Strong introduction
A good book report has a strong introduction that grabs the reader’s attention. If kids don’t know how to write strong hooks, make sure you cover this with them before asking them to write it.
The introduction should also cover the basics of the book, like title, author, and genre as well as a very condensed summary in 1-2 sentences that outlines the main theme or content of the book.
The introduction should then end with a thesis statement that clearly outlines all the topics that the book report will cover.
2. Body paragraphs
Each body paragraph should focus on a single topic that was included in the thesis statement. These usually include (but aren’t limited to) the summary, setting, characters, and theme. Kids can also be asked to analyze an author’s intent, analyze the mood or tone of a story, and more.
Whenever they craft a paragraph kids should remember to use a topic sentence and then supportive examples. Ask them to think if they can go further by using concrete examples or important quotes to help underline their points.
One trap some kids fall into is they go into too much detail. Remind them they have to choose only the most important and relevant aspects of the story to mention in the book report.
Another trap is simply summarizing what happened in the story. Remind kids to stop and offer their insight into every paragraph they write. Is there anything they noticed that pertains to literary analysis and they can add to cement their topic sentence?
4. Evaluative paragraphs
These are still part of the body paragraphs, but since they are so important and relevant to book reports, I chose to highlight them separately.
Kids should write one or two paragraphs around their opinion about the book (whether they liked it or not) and recommendation (whom would they recommend the book to). This doesn’t always need to be positive but remind them it always needs to be supported by details and examples.
5. Reflective conclusion
A great conclusion will summarize everything covered in the book report. Kids should restate the thesis (preferably in different terms than in the introduction), and reflect the introduction.
Remind kids to also include a last sentence containing the essence of the report and book they read. They will use this at the end to craft a compelling title for their report.
6. Presentation (optional)
If they are required or want to, kids can illustrate the book report or choose to make a presentation, write a theme song, create a video, or include another creative outlet to accompany their report.
Our 7th grade book report choices
For 7th grade this year we are doing BookShark’s history curriculum, so we decided to choose some of the books we will read for history to do our book reports.
Our school, Bridgeway Academy asks 4 book reports per year, so we chose the following (click on the image to see the book on Amazon- affiliate links)
The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw:
- Recommended for: Students interested in historical fiction, ancient Egypt, and coming-of-age stories.
- Educational value: Offers insights into ancient Egyptian culture, history, and the life of a young protagonist.
- Reading level: Generally accessible to 7th graders with average reading skills.
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray:
- Recommended for: Students interested in historical fiction set in medieval England and adventure stories.
- Educational value: Provides a glimpse into medieval life and the challenges faced by a young minstrel.
- Reading level: Accessible to 7th graders, though it may require slightly advanced reading skills.
The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood:
- Recommended for: Students interested in historical fiction, theater, and mysteries.
- Educational value: Offers insights into Elizabethan England, the world of Shakespearean theater, and moral dilemmas.
- Reading level: Generally accessible to 7th graders, although some of the language may be challenging.
The Samurai’s Tale by Erik Christian Haugaard:
- Recommended for: Students interested in historical fiction set in feudal Japan, samurai culture, and coming-of-age stories.
- Educational value: Provides a rich portrayal of feudal Japan and explores themes of honor and loyalty.
- Reading level: Accessible to 7th graders, though some passages may require additional explanation due to cultural differences.
How we approach book reports in 7th grade
Since this year is the first year I introduced Marc to literary analysis, I will guide him every step of the way.
We are reading the four books together and I am using the Ultimate Book Report Master Guide to explain every section of a book report to him. He has done book reports in 4th grade, but this time I want him to go beyond merely using a book report template, and into actually writing it as an essay.
So far, we’ve covered The Golden Goblet. You can get the typed version of our book report with the freebie I am offering.
We used the included book report template from my book as an outline which Marc filled in himself. The questions helped guide him. Then I helped him craft a rough draft guiding him with questions and using the Ultimate Book Report Master Guide as a guide.
Once he was done with the rough draft, I encouraged him to change some expressions and words to more advanced ones from our list and I made him read it aloud to me. When we’re both happy, I dictated it to him to write by hand. The Egypt-inspired paper he wrote them on was from my Egypt Printable Writing Pack .
I don’t let him type these, because I intervene quite a bit while he is writing them.
He is capable of creating decent ones on his own, but I see these last two years until high school as perfect opportunities for more modeling. And great writing only happens through constant exposure and modeling.
There’s very slow growth if we allow kids to make the same mistakes over and over again because we fear interfering.
By showing him how a sentence can sound better, how he can replace some of his overused words with stronger ones, I model to him not only advanced writing, but also my whole thinking process.
And he is learning. He tells me a lot of times he wouldn’t have thought of that particular way of putting it and is impressed on how good it sounds. I’ve been doing this with him for years now and I noticed him picking on my habit of wanting to improve his writing with better words.
It’s no secret that writing book reports can feel overwhelming, especially if your kids are more inclined towards non-humanities subjects. It might even be tempting to skip them altogether. But let’s pause and reconsider.
Book reports are more than just assignments. They’re valuable tools in teaching our teens a range of skills. From building resilience to enhancing critical thinking, and from improving communication to honing organizational and writing abilities, book reports play a crucial role in a teen’s development.
I created the Ultimate Book Report Master Guide with the hope that it makes the journey less daunting for both you and your kids. My goal is to help you guide your children in crafting book reports they can be proud of, contributing to their growth as resilient, lifelong learners. Remember, these skills are built gradually, one step at a time.
So, before you decide to bypass book reports, think about their long-term benefits.
I’m curious to know your thoughts. Do you feel book reports in junior high are unnecessary? Are you relying solely on templates for book reports? Share your strategies and experiences in the comments below. Leave a comment below and let’s talk more.
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