Students are introduced to book reviews and act as book critics in the classroom.
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students will act as book critics, evaluating and expressing their opinions about the books they read. Students will learn to write book reviews and will use the reviews written by their classmates to guide their independent book choices.
- Evaluate and reflect upon the books that they are reading
- Write book reviews to reflect their attitudes about the books they read
- Read book reviews written by published book critics and student critics
- Participate in a community of readers who regularly discuss and evaluate literature
- Use public speaking to share their evaluations of books that they have read independently
- Chart paper and marker
- Pre-selected books that you have read aloud to your class to use as models
- Thumbs Up Poster
- Thumbs Down Poster
- Wallet size pictures of each student for Reader's Choice display in Part 1 (optional)
- Book Review Template (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare
- Create a Reader's Choice display in your classroom. (Part 1)
- Find book or movie reviews from magazines, newspapers, etc. that you can use as examples when introducing the idea of a critic. (Parts 1 and 2)
- Make copies of Book Review Template (PDF). (Part 2)
- Create a "Critic's Corner" Sign. (Part 2) (Optional)
- Create (draw or use clip art) a Thumbs Up poster and a Thumbs Down poster.
Part 1: Reader's Choice
Step 1: Explain to students that when books are published, movies are released, or music albums are made available to the public, they are always subject to criticism. Give an explanation of what it means to be a critic so that students are aware of what they will soon be doing as they read books in the classroom.
Step 2: Direct students' attention specifically to "Ebert and Roeper," the movie critics who once gave new films a "Thumbs Up" or a "Thumbs Down."
Step 3: Using chart paper, discuss the qualities of a book that might make it worthy of a "Thumbs Up" or a "Thumbs Down." Hang the "Thumbs Up vs. Thumbs Down" chart in a visible place in your classroom when it is completed.
Step 4: Choose a good picture book that you will invite all students to read throughout the month. (It should be a book that is at most students' independent reading level and one of which you can obtain multiples copies. It should also be a book that is fairly new or one that you know most students haven't already read.)
Step 5: Briefly introduce the book to your class and invite them to read the book during independent reading time at some point over the next month. Explain to your students that they will be using the "Thumbs Up vs. Thumbs Down" chart that the class created to give the book their evaluation after they have finished reading it.
Step 6: Draw students' attention to the Reader's Choice display in your classroom that you have created prior to this lesson. In order to create the display, you will need to have two signs: Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down. Between the two thumb signs, I place a color copy of the cover of the book that I have invited my students to read this month. I then print out small pictures of each student's face (you can also just use students' names) and place them below the book cover. As each student reads the book, they move their picture below the "Thumbs Up" sign or below the "Thumbs Down" sign according to their personal evaluation of the book. (The wall that I use for this display is magnetic.) I also use a separate basket to hold the multiple copies of the chosen book so that students can easily acquire the book when copies become available. (It's fun for students to observe the display throughout the month as they keep track of their classmates' votes for thumbs up or thumbs down.)
Step 7: At the end of the month, reread the book aloud to the class and follow it up with a discussion of the students' evaluation based on their final votes. Be sure students refer to the "Thumbs Up vs. Thumbs Down" chart to support their opinions of the book.
Part 2: Critic's Corner
Step 1: Revisit the idea of a book critic. Explain to students that critics often publish their critiques of books in the form of a book review.
Step 2: Read aloud to students book reviews that you have collected from newspapers, magazines, journals, etc. Follow up the reviews with a discussion of the types of things that critics include in their reviews. (Scholastic's Storyworks magazine includes book reviews each month.)
Step 3: Pass out a copy of the Book Review Template (PDF) to each student. (You may have your own form that you like better). Go through each part of the book review form so that students become familiar with what is included in a review. Be sure to point out that a review is different from a summary since it includes the reader's personal opinion and usually does not give away the ending.
Step 4: Using a book that you have previously read aloud to the class, model for students how to complete the book review form.
Step 5: Explain to students that they will begin writing book reviews for books that they read independently. (You will need to decide how many book reviews students will be required to write each month, or whether you will choose for it to be optional. I send home a monthly calendar with dates that specific students have book reviews due. Each student ends up writing one review each month. Depending on how many students you have in your classroom, you will probably have five or six students have book reviews due each week.)
Step 6: I always have the book reviews due on Friday, the day on which those students present their reviews to their classmates on our class talk show: Critic's Corner.
Step 7: To produce Critic's Corner, I hang a large "Critic's Corner" sign decorated with battery-operated Christmas lights behind a table, at which students take turns reading their book reviews to the class. (Parents are aware that the book reviews will be read aloud, so students are asked to practice presenting their reviews to their parents at home in preparation for the talk show in class.) I even use theme music and host the show to make it more authentic.
Step 8: All books reviewed on Critic's Corner are placed in a "Student Recommended Books" basket in our classroom library for easy access.
Supporting All Learners
Be sure to choose a picture book for the Reader's Choice activity in Part 1 that the majority of your class can read independently. You may also choose to use the book in a guided reading group to further support students who are not as capable of reading the book completely on their own. For those students who are well below grade level in reading, you may choose to send the book home to be read aloud by the students' parents, or you may choose to create a book on tape by recording your own voice reading the book. This will enable all students to take part in the "Thumbs Up" or ‘Thumbs Down" Reader's Choice activity every month.
- You may choose to videotape the Critic's Corner talk show segments and send home to tape each month for parents to enjoy.
- You may also choose to create a Critic's Corner newspaper where all students' book reviews are published each month for parents and students to read and enjoy.
I make sure to include parents in our reading community as much as possible. All book reviews are completed at home, so the parents often assist students with the written book review and the preparation for their oral presentation of the review on Critic's Corner.
I also invite parents to type up the reviews so that I can include them on my class website or create a Critic's Corner monthly newsletter. You could put together a Critic's Corner talk show tape and send it home as so that parents can hear all of the books reviewed each month and watch their child's performance.
All students are expected to complete one book review each month and present it to their classmates on Critic's Corner.
- Are the majority of my students able to read the book I chose for the Reader's Choice activity?
- Do I need to provide extra support for some students for the Reader's Choice book selection?
- Are all students able to complete the book reviews each month?
- Do I need to modify the book review form to accommodate my lower readers?
- Are students choosing to read the books reviewed by their classmates?
- Is Critic's Corner creating excitement and buzz about books in my classroom?
- Are the activities in this lesson strengthening my reading community?
All students are expected to read the Reader's Choice book every month and take part in the evaluation of the book by giving it a "Thumbs Up" or "Thumbs Down." Students are also expected to complete a book review each month. I use a rubric to assess both their written book review and their oral presentation to the class during Critic's Corner.