"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

14 March 2014

Posting Reviews

I love the library I work in. I love my giant circulation desk with all of its counter space, the huge windows that let me see the sun shining through the trees, the birds chirping outside (except the one time a bird came in the library, but that's a story for another day), and all the space my students have to work or play games or read.  The one thing I don't particularly love, though, is the giant support beam that sits right in front of my desk.  It's pretty clear that the space my library's in was intended to be two separate classrooms at one point, and that this beam would normally be hidden in the wall, but when I sit at my desk, if I don't focus on the trees outside the windows or the shelves of books, I see a post.

One of the first things I did this year as I was cleaning and organizing the library and working on making it welcoming and inviting for my students was to consider this post.  It was just so ugly, and it's right in the middle of my space, so it's ugly and obvious.  I tried to figure out what I could do with it to make it both useful and more pleasing to look at, when it hit me: I could use this post for student book reviews.  The students could write short reviews of books they've read, and I could post them on the post (see what I did there?).

I created a short review form.  I wanted it to be short so the students wouldn't view it as an assignment and so that the students who are not strong in writing skills or who are learning English as their second language could also complete the form. Also, I wanted there to be room for lots of reviews on the post, so the paper needed to be small.  I created a form that fits four-to-a-page and looks like this:

I then printed this form on brightly colored paper, cut each paper into fourths, and made use of some leftover office supplies to display it like this:

The first day these sat out on my desk, I had four students ask what they were.  When they found out that they could write reviews for a book - any book - and that I would post the review, even if they didn't like the book, they were sold.  They all took one sheet of each color, sat down, and wrote reviews for me. Pretty soon other students were curious, too, because the pole was becoming colorful and eye-catching instead of being an eyesore. Some teachers requested copies of the review form to use as an extra credit assignment in their classes. Some students took review papers and used them as bookmarks, then filled them out when they were finished reading their books.

The students really enjoyed reading each other's reviews, looking for their own reviews on the post, and choosing books based on their classmates' recommendations.  I think they also appreciated that there was no pressure with these review papers. I didn't check them for grammar or spelling, and I didn't mind if multiple reviews were written for one book.

I have had to reprint the review forms on several occasions because they are so popular.  Now, when students tell me they don't know what to read, in addition to traditional reader's advisory (which I truly enjoy doing), I can also point them to the review post and suggest that they look for a good book there.

The review post is very full, to the point where I have had to overlap review forms because there simply isn't room.  The students have asked when I plan to pull down all the reviews so we can start over. For now, I'm planning on leaving all the reviews up until the end of the school year, and in the fall we can start redecorating the post.  Now when I sit at my desk, I don't mind if the post blocks my view of the sun-dappled trees outside; it's giving me a chance to see what my students are reading.

As always, if you wish for a copy of my review form, I am more than willing to share!  You can download an editable copy of this form here


ctr said...

Love this idea, Jenni!
What about keeping the newest 15 - 20 reviews on the pole and making a binder for the older ones, maybe organized by genre or title or recommended grade level. You could keep the binder of reviews right on the circulation desk or in the fiction section. That way every review would be accessible and the pole would not be too crowded for the reviews on it to be read.

Christi Cota said...

Love this idea! thanks so much for the form, you saved me so much time!

Sonequa Reeves said...

I cannot seem to download this form. Could I get some assistance? Would love to use this tomorrow

Kathi Rakes said...

Just found your post. This is an awesome idea. Thank you for sharing both the idea and your book review template.

Unknown said...

Fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing it.