Having a child who entered middle school this past September, I’ve found that completing those first middle school book reports can be a daunting task for any student, and if your child has an attention deficit as mine does, it can be even more challenging. Reading through the book, keeping the sequence of events in order, identifying the main ideas and conflicts, even formulating opinions about the story can be very difficult tasks. After some trial and error and, reflecting back to my own difficulties in this area, I found that employing the following strategies were essential to my child writing a successful book report. Perhaps these tips can be helpful even if your child doesn’t have an attention deficit.
Select a properly leveled book to read
Make sure the book is at the proper reading level for your child. A good rule of thumb that my son’s teacher follows is the “five finger rule” – if there are more than five words on the page that your reader is unfamiliar with, perhaps the material is too difficult and another book should be chosen. Ask the teacher for guidance if you are unsure.
Read the book twice
If time allows, have your child read the book through twice. I know, your child may balk at this idea (mine certainly did) but if the material is interesting enough, perhaps this won’t be a problem.
Encourage your child to take notes on the material he’s just read. Have him or her write down whatever captured their interest during their reading session and discuss it with them.
Keep a dictionary handy
If your child does happen to come across a word he or she is unfamiliar with during reading, encourage them to look it up. It could help reinforce what they’ve just read, plus they learn a new vocabulary word.
Read the book along with your child
I know this can be tough, but if time permits, read the book yourself also. This way, you can discuss with and help your child make connections and also get a sense of how much content your child is absorbing.
Rough drafting and editing
When it comes time to start writing, have your child do a rough draft first. This helps them organize their thoughts and review for those pesky grammar gremlins, like punctuation and sentence fragments, who love to steal precious points from reports. Reviewing and revising a rough draft also provides an opportunity to ensure that the questions being answered are the ones the teacher has asked.
I will admit that my child was less than thrilled using these techniques at first. To him, it just seemed like a lot of extra work. But when the grade on his second book report increased by a full twenty points, he was beaming and so proud of himself! He now uses the rough draft technique to answer even homework questions – not a bad return for a little extra effort.
What tips or strategies have you employed to help your child with book reports or homework? What has worked for you? I’d love to hear about it!