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TITLE: BOOK REVIEW AUTHOR: Ginger Parker Stout GRADE LEVEL: 8-9 OVERVIEW: Most English teachers have a variety of ways to help students write about novels they read. I use this pre-writing activity, along with others, to help students fulfill the writing component in a contract reading unit. Usually the students are on about the 8th or 9th grade level and have fallen into the dismal habit of writing a book review which is an often times confusing re-telling of the entire story. This is an effort to help them identify and describe the bare bones of novel. OBJECTIVES: Students will be able to: 1. Write one sentence, using carefully chosen words, which describes the character, plot, setting, and mood of a novel. 2. Use, if they choose, that one sentence as a spring board for additional writing about the novel. 3. Identify (during discussion) plot, setting, mood, character. ACTIVITIES AND PROCEDURES: (THE STUDENTS HAVE ALL COMPLETED A FREE CHOICE NOVEL) 1. I ask the students to think carefully about their novels and choose a word which describes the main character's age and sex (man, woman, boy, girl) then choose one word which best describes the main character as a person. 2. The students choose two words which best describe another important character.3. The students choose two words which describe the setting of the novel. 4. The students choose three words which best describe the mood of the story. 5. The students choose ten words which describe the sequence of events in the novel. (I encourage them to leave out articles and conjunctions.) 6. The students take the nineteen words they have chosen and ten additional free words and write one long sentence or two shorter sentences which are, in essence, all the "important stuff" about their novels. 7. The students read their sentences aloud. 8. They have at their disposal a sentence which may be awkward and crying for revision, but handles the main idea of their novels and is a good starting point for further writing about reading. TYING IT ALL TOGETHER: I find that an element of mystery helps this pre-writing activity get off the ground. I don't announce what will happen with the words the students are choosing, in fact, I evade answering the obvious "why" questions. I name and define plot, setting, mood, and character as we choose words, which is generally review for most students. I do the exercise on the board along with the students using a book we have previously read as a class or one with which the students are familiar. When it is time for the students to write the sentence, I usually hear lots of groans, moans, and questions. I take the opportunity to circulate, help, commiserate, and laugh with the students as I also struggle with the word choices I have made on the board.