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Digital Writing and the Book Response

The following blog post is excerpted from Beyond the Book Response: Digital Writing and Reflection for Deeper Engagement, an article by Troy Hicks in the latest issue of Voices from the Middle.

digitalwriting“Book reports have come a long way since I was in elementary school, and for that I am thankful…

As new websites and apps are introduced each day, and as digital writing has become more and more prevalent in K–12 classrooms, so too have the types of projects that student readers can produce. For instance, there are some digital compositions that move well beyond the types of basic responses I described previously. Digital book trailers, such as those available from the Digital Book Talk website or Michelle Harclerode’s Book Trailers for Readers site, are one such option for integrating digital literacy and reading engagement. By creating short films that describe characters, plot, setting, and conflict, a potential reader views the digital book trailer in much the same manner as a moviegoer would watch previews at the theater…

Still, is making a book response in the form of a podcast, digital video, website, or online poster… an adequate indicator of what our students know about a book? I argue that, without reflection and self-evaluation, it is only a step in the right direction, but not nearly far enough. With so many sources available for finding information about a book—including official book trailers produced by publishers, online study guides, and many other students’ projects—I fear that clever students could create decent book trailers, podcasts, or websites demonstrating that they have skimmed or even read the book in a cursory manner, while not having really engaged with it. Thus, reflection and self-evaluation are critical to the process of moving beyond a book response….

To move students beyond the book response, and to help them think about this task as digital writers, I encourage teachers to turn to the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing (2011). This framework—developed by the Council of Writing Program Administrators, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Writing Project—describes the “habits of mind,” which are “ways of approaching learning that are both intellectual and practical and that will support students’ success in a variety of fields and disciplines.” This framework documents eight habits, though I will focus in on just three that are, I believe, especially important to deepening students’ reading experience: “engagement,” “creativity,” and “metacognition.”

  • Engagement—a sense of investment and involvement in learning.
  • Creativity—the ability to use novel approaches for generating, investigating, and representing ideas.
  • Metacognition—the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking as well as on the individual and cultural processes used to structure knowledge.

As digital writers, teachers can offer an opportunity for students to engage with books through textual, visual, and oral communication… this requires metacognition and an awareness of the book that a superficial reading or mere summary would allow a student to produce.”

We encourage you to read Troy’s full article in which he explores a Glogster and video his daughter made employing these habits of mind while creating a book commercial for . In this video he talks with her about her process:

Looking for more book report ideas? Check out these resources from ReadWriteThink.org: