6 Tips For Book Report Success & Beyond

When my son first entered middle school, one of the requirements in his language arts class was writing a monthly book report. While he enjoyed reading, inwardly I cringed at the thought of him struggling with this assignment – learning how to craft a book report can be a daunting task for any student, and if your child has an attention deficit as mine does, it can prove 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 a frustrating endeavor for a kid with executive function difficulties. Through the hazy fog of middle age, I reflected back to my school days and thought about the strategies that worked for me. So after some tears, trial and error, I put together this game plan for book report writing success. These tips can be helpful even if your child doesn’t have an attention deficit.

Select a properly leveled book to read

Pick a book that is not only engaging but also 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 and fun to read, this might not be a problem.

Take notes 

While it’s fresh in his mind, encourage your child to take notes on the material he’s just read.  Have him jot down plot points, characters or events that captured his interest and discuss them with you.

Keep a dictionary handy

If your child does happen to come across a word he is unfamiliar with during reading, encourage him to look it up.  It could help reinforce a connection to the material that’s just been read, with the additional benefit of learning a new vocabulary word.

Read the book along with your child

I know this is adding yet another morsel to an already full plate, but if you can, try to familiarize yourself with the book as much as possible. Being able to discuss the book with your child can help him make connections and give you a sense of how much content your child is absorbing.

Rough drafting and editing

When it’s time to start writing, have your child do a rough draft first. This helps 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’ll admit that my son was less than thrilled using these techniques at first. To him, it just seemed like a lot of extra work – and it was. But when the grade on his second book report increased by a full twenty points, he was so proud of himself, and that inspired him to continue using the techniques until they became second nature. The rough draft technique has also proven especially helpful in completing homework and answering essay questions in other subjects. As he ends his middle school years on the honor roll and enters high school in September, he’s come to terms with the fact that although he may have to work harder and it may take him longer, he’s certainly capable of being successful in school, and that the extra effort is well worth it.

What tips or strategies have you employed to help your child with book reports or homework?  What has worked for you?  Let me know in the comments!

Texts From The Edge Of Tweendom

With 2013 drawing to a close, my son is taking great delight in declaring 2014 ‘his year’.  It’s the year that the label of tween gets retired and he launches into full-blown teenager status.  I don’t know what he thinks is going to happen when he turns 13 – it’s not like he can start dating (not yet!!!!) or go to a bar or vote.

And he definitely can’t drive a car, as evidenced by the majority of texts exchanged between us.  Like I’d ever NOT pick him up, but it’s always nice to be asked. . . .

polite text editedAnd in a few short years when he gets his driver’s license this too will end, and I wonder what he’ll be asking me for then – but I hope I still get an occasional one of these. . . .

i love you text

Wishing everyone a happy and blessed 2014!

The Substitute

On Saturday morning I took my son to the neighborhood barber for a desperately needed haircut.  After much protesting and eye-rolling, he agreed that his curly hair was out of control.  Two weeks of wrangling with it unsuccessfully was enough to get him in the chair and see if the barber could reach that happy medium between messy and controlled – messy enough for him to think it’s cool and controlled enough for me to resist the urge to blow on his head like a dandelion and have all the overgrown hair magically fly away.

We walked into the barbershop and he sat in the chair and told the barber what he wanted – long on top and short on the sides and back.  The barber (with a wink to me) suggested taking an inch off the top just to clean it up a bit, to which my son agreed as I wisely kept my mouth shut.  Sitting there I recalled a conversation my son and I had some years back, when, as a decidedly less snarky six-year-old, he told me he might want to be a “haircutter” when he grew up, among other occupations.

The list at that time also included being a musician, an astronaut, a ninja warrior, a preschool teacher, and a chocolate factory owner.  The more his world expanded around him, the more interested he became in what folks did for a living, and whenever he learned about a new occupation, he would declare that that’s exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up .

One day, perhaps overwhelmed by all the myriad employment options in the world, he told me that when he grew up, he wanted to be a substitute.

“A substitute teacher?” I remember asking him.  “No mom, just a substitute.  Like, when a grown up gets sick and can’t do their job, I’ll go in and do it for them.  Like on Monday I can be a rock star, on Tuesday I can be a chef, on Wednesday I can drive a school bus. . .”  Well, I figured with this plan he would certainly never be bored or unemployed.  I remember smiling and telling him that he would have to know about a lot of different things to do all those different jobs.  How would he learn them all?

And with that beaming bundle of confidence only a six-year-old can possess, he said very seriously and matter-of-factly, “well I don’t know, but I know I can do them all.”  As far as he was concerned, it was a foregone conclusion.  How could I possibly have any doubts?  Sitting in the barbershop and thinking about that exchange reminded me of the inspiring and magical ability children possess to believe that all things are possible and within reach.  As adults, to be dusted with a bit of that magic every day is a blessing.

Currently the 11-year-old’s list still includes musician but filmmaker has also entered the fray.  As his mom, of course I believe he can do anything he sets his mind to.  And as far as I can tell, he hasn’t stopped believing that either.  I’m sure if I remind him of this conversation now he would just sigh and tell me to stop embarrassing him.  But if I did that, then I wouldn’t be doing my job. :)

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Proud contributor to:

time for mom button