We worked together as a class to identify what a good book review looks like. We looked at professional reviews from The Horn Book and The Children's Book Review, and student-written book reviews at Reader Views Kids. But we were most impressed by the reviews from This Kid Reviews Books. Inspired by his format, my kids decided to write book reviews in two sections: a summary followed by their opinion.
|Altered books by Bryan Elementary students|
As the teacher, I led discussions about what made for a good book review. We read about writing book reviews and revising with a partner from the Writer's Express handbook. I wrote an example review using the format we chose as a class. I've offered suggestions on their Google Docs. Still, about a third of my students haven't written a quality book review yet.
Some of my kids' reviews lack detail. When I push for more, they say that more detail would result in giving spoilers. Other reviews lack specifics in the opinion section and just say "it was a good book," without giving examples of the things that made it shine.
Other students have written beautiful reviews that tell just enough about the book to entice a reader. The opinions include reasons why the characters or settings were just right and comparisons to other books. Those reviews are ready to publish and represent the type of work I expect from students in an advanced learning program.
I'm struggling with where to go from here. I know that we'll post the detailed reviews this week, but not the others. This year, I've been working at building a culture of going back to review and revise work until it is top quality. I'm not allowing students to get a low grade and move on. How do I continue to support those students to develop their writing? Where do I find the balance between pushing them to improve and motivating them to write?
Please let me know if you have some ideas. I want my 4th and 5th graders' writing to shine. I know we can get there with some more time and effort. And I'll keep you updated as I continue to experiment and refine...