Characters, Part II: R.I.P. Boring Book Reports

Bring Books to Life with a Wax Museum!

This is part two in a multi-part series. For part one, click here.

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(Ideal for 3rd-7th grades, but could be adapted for older or younger students)

Gone are the days of dry, dull, coma-inducing oral book reports. Why assign boring rote assignments when you could foster excitement and build positive associations with reading by just making a few creative tweaks? The Wax Museum, for example, has all the great qualities of a traditional oral report–responding to literature, writing a summary, practicing public speaking–but without the drudgery. And it will have parents (not to mention your principal) singing your praises. In fact, the local paper might even show up (it did for ours!).

Here are the easy steps to pull off this super impressive book response:

1. This project works best as the culmination of a biography unit. The students begin by selecting an on-grade level biography or autobiography to read.You will probably want to approve the students’ choices, to ensure they’re appropriate. It also works best if students select different people, but if you end up with four Harriet Tubmans, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, sometimes students can pair up when appropriate (Orville and Wilbur Wright, for example).

2. Allow time in class and outside of class for students to read their biographies. (Mini-lessons might include characterization, author language, non-fiction writing conventions, flashback, plot, setting, or proper nouns, point-of-view.)

3. Use modeling to teach students how to write a slam-dunk summary of their subject’s life– in first person point-of-view! (You might also introduce timelines as a good pre-writing activity). Be sure to include a catchy intro, sound middle, and interesting conclusion. Paragraphs should be around seven to 10 sentences long for third-grade and higher.

4. Students can use the writing process to write their summaries, and then they can begin to work on memorizing them.

5. Help students brainstorm costumes and simple props…because they’re about to become their subjects!

6. Practice, practice, practice. Give students plenty of time to read and recite their paragraphs in front of your class.

7. Pick a date for the museum and announce the event to the school. Invite parents and younger classes to tour your museum (younger students get a total KICK out of seeing George Washington come to life!) See if you can hold the event in the school’s gym or another large room, to allow for enough space.

8. On the big day, arrange your students in a ring around the room, with as much space in between each student as possible. Have them make a “button” (construction paper) with their subject’s name on it. Instruct them to freeze (in a realistically maintaibable pose…or with their arms at their sides, looking down at the floor). When the guests enter the room, they will walk around and tap the “button” with their feet. The “wax” students will then come to life, recite their life summary, and then refreeze when done.

Voila! You just made reading exciting and memorable for your students…with absolutely no yawn factor!

Next Post in this Series: How to Assess the Wax Museum


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One response to “Characters, Part II: R.I.P. Boring Book Reports

  1. Pingback: Part III: Assessing Your Wax Museum « A Learning Experience