This year, instead of choosing a curriculum for comprehension, I discussed with our teacher and decided that we would do book reports instead.
She helped us choose 4 books and we picked:
- Around the World in 80 Days (from Bookdepository- our version is not available anymore)
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (from Bookdepository)
- Charlotte’s Web (from Bookdepository)
- Lincoln and His Boys (from Bookdepository)
*These books all ship FREE worldwide from Bookdepository.
M doesn’t like writing and composition is hard for him- so book reports aren’t one of his strong points yet, even though he is a capable reader and his comprehension is great.
I was a bit confused as to what a book report entailed until our teacher sent us some samples, and I managed to create a “process” that works for us which enabled me to “hold his hand” and make sure he gets the most out of it. Here’s how we do it.
1. Read the book
The first step is obviously reading the book. I planned the year so he would read a long and a shorter book per semester. We started with “Around the World in 80 Days” because it was the longest. Moreover, it was full of descriptions in Jules Verne style that tired M after a while, but he managed to finish it and (un)surprisingly he liked it so much that he listened to the audiobook versions of all Jules Verne’s famous books! (less trouble for me in finding him new audiobooks).
To avoid reading fatigue, I split the book into bits, asking him to read 3 chapters per week. This worked great because he didn’t need to do much at once. I did that for all the books, but if he wants to read them faster, I am ok with that, too. He finished Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH in a week.
Ideally, I would have asked him questions after every chapter or I would have given him small writing assignments every few chapters, but because this was the first year we were doing it and I didn’t want it to be overwhelming (or push him into hating reading), I just let him read as he pleased.
2. Listen to the audiobook and see the movie (if available)
I’ve gotten this idea because I stumbled upon the Audible Audiobooks for some of the books we needed to read. We played them in the night, as bedtime stories.
They are so worth it! Here’s a list of the ones available:
- Around the World in 80 Days – on Audible. If you want to listen to this book, buy this version! It was a delight to listen to, with all the characters coming to life.
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – on Audible. Another beautiful audiobook, unabridged.
- Charlotte’s Web – on Audible. You have to get this version narrated by Meryl Streep, we LOVED IT!
I also rented the movies I could find from Amazon Prime. You can either rent them, buy them or buy the DVDs depending where you are in the world.
- Around the World in 80 Days – you can buy the DVDs from Amazon or, if you have a USA card, you can rent the movie.
- The Secret of NIMH – Amazon DVD or Prime.
- Charlotte’s Web – DVDs or Prime video from Amazon
By listening to the audiobooks and watching the movies after reading the original book, we could discuss about the differences in them. It was a great exercise for M and I used this opportunity to tell him never to judge a book by its movie.
3. Make an outline of your book reports
The third step actually meant that I would get more involved. We usually start with diagramming and writing down the main idea and supporting details.
I used some teacher guides to help me, and M wither filled them in or I just asked some questions to see his comprehension. The best ones for our books were:
- Around the World in 80 Days Guide– FREE pdf
- Lincoln and His Boys Guide – FREE pdf
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH Guide – Amazon (I got the Kindle version)
- Charlotte’s Web Guide – from Amazon OR
Charlotte’s Web Guide from Bookdepository.
Then, I take a piece of paper and start asking him step by step questions and as he answers them, I write them down for him. After we are done, we read it together, make tweaks and bring it to a final form.
This is the step where I help him the most and I hope that in time he will get used to creating his own outlines and first drafts.
4. Book reports – final form
The second one is a typed one. This one takes forever to type because M is still not used to all the keys, but I saw it as a good opportunity to use the computer in a practical way and let him learn things freely, as we go.
He is learning how to research information about the author online, how to extract it and reword it, how to look for and save images, how to edit a text on a computer, how to print, and more.
5. Grading and presentation
I am required to use a rubric for grading his reports, and our teacher from Bridgeway Academy was kind enough to send me one. We just love how helpful she is!
At this point, I am checking for comprehension, ability to remember details, and ability to detect the main idea. I am less concerned about him being able to put it all together because I realize it’s a long process that we will continue over the years and he will get better at it by seeing it modeled.
I would have liked to make him present the whole project to us, but I felt like it would bee too much. Maybe from next year we will start working on this aspect as well.
I am also planning to incorporate Teaching the Classics for literature starting from next year. I will be back with an in-depth review of it once I finish the course.
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