KMMS classroom puts a different spin on the book report
The book report has been a necessary evil for middle school students and teachers for decades. The concept is a simple one in which a student reads a book and is assigned to describe the story to their teacher to show comprehension. In most cases, the book report is a cut and dry assignment that comes and goes, but in one Kasson-Mantorville Middle School classroom, they decided to take that a little bit further.
It started when fifth grade teacher Katie Wohlfiel attended the First Institute with the rest of the district at the beginning of the year. During that conference, one of the keynote speakers introduced the idea of the RSA animate in which students display their comprehension through drawings that are recorded on video with a voice over.
“I just remember writing it down and thinking I should do this,” Wohlfiel recalled. “Then the start of the school year came and at the end of the quarter the students do a book report. In the past, I had given them a menu of 15 different options and then they would do it. It was good, but I was starting to get bored with it. I could just see them slacking off a bit and pulling everything together in one day. So, I wanted them to work on something a little bit more.”
Wohlfiel got the ball rolling by sending some e-mails and got a positive response initially, but something kept holding back the idea from truly getting going.
“I kept putting it on my to-do list and I kept putting it off because it was going to be so much work,” Wohlfiel said. “I almost didn’t do it. Then one night, I stayed here until six or seven and just did one and had papers all over the place just to see what it was going to be like.”
After doing one of her own examples on the Gary Paulsen novel Hatchet, Wohlfiel gave the idea the green light and introduced it to her class. Even though it was plenty of work to draw, record and edit their projects, Wohlfiel’s students engaged in ways that she had never seen before.
“They really took off and ran with it,” Wohlfiel said. “It changed a lot from my original idea and the process, but they kind of showed all of these other ideas and I was all for it.”
Wohlfiel’s students would read for about 15-20 minutes daily and picked out a book that they were interested in. Once finishing the reading, students would draw pictures to map out the story and explain it through a voice over. When that is done, the video is sped up to match the voiceover to display a storyboard that not only was posted on Wohlfiel’s YouTube account, but also decorates the hall outside of her classroom.
“They went above and beyond,” Wohlfiel said of the finished product. “I remember getting up at 3 a.m. the day after they turned it in and I got on my YouTube channel and just watched them all. I didn’t grade. I just watched them and I thought that this was a lot of work, but it’s worth it.’”
In the end, the RSA projects were something that Wohlfiel hopes that her students continue to use not just in book reports, but in other classes as well. To her credit, her class is eager to point out RSAs when she uses them in her own teachings and are willing to use them for their next project.
“I have never seen engagement like this,” Wohlfiel said. “I really wanted it to be something they could use in the future for other projects for social studies and other classes. It’s a little bit more than what a power point or poster can do.”