Reviews are some of the most widely read – and widely written – texts in the world. The explosion of the Web has led to a proliferation of reviews of all types, ranging from trash talking in comments on Amazon.com to insightful critiques by professionals, academics, and members of the public. For today’s media-savvy young people, personal recommendations carry more weight than corporate advertising. As the Social Web grows in importance, this trend will only continue.
As a part of their development as writers, students should develop a good structural and functional understanding of reviews and reviewing. As they progress, they should be producing reviews that engage more directly with the themes and issues raised in the text, eventually evolving into more complete critiques.
Insideadog provides an avenue for students to write and share their reviews and critiques in an open but still supervised forum, honing their own writing, and observing and commenting on the reviews of others.
One of the best ways to learn is of course, by doing. Posting reviews to insideadog is a simple process for registered users. Reading and reflecting on the reviews of others is another important learning process that is a major feature of this site.
A popular feature of the old Inside a Dog site was the prompt questions on the review submission form. These questions were designed to help reluctant writers structure their thoughts and ideas when writing a review. These questions are not a part of the struicture of the new site, but the questions themselves are available in Word format below.
Students may be hesitant to post a negative review of a book. It is important to reinforce the notion of constructive feedback, rather than positive feedback, being the most important thing when writing reviews or commenting.
Reviews and Critiques
There is much debate of the definition of reviews and critiques, and even if there is a difference between the two. In general, reviews are more straightforward, and critiques look deeper at the work. One way of conceiving the distinction is that a review is written as a reader: it is primarily concerned with the experience of the work, while a critique is written as a writer: it should really look at the mechanics and the context of the work in more detail.
As students move into senior school, their written reviews should become more complex and thorough assessments of the work itself, the themes it addresses, the author, and the context in which it was produced. Use or adapt the critiques sheet to guide writing critiques.
Class use/lesson ideas
Use or adapt the book reviews handout to guide students in writing their reviews. As they gain in confidence, they can adapt these basic guidelines to their own needs. Students will soon internalise the basics required for any review.
Use or adapt the review assessment sheet and use it as a structured class activity to encourage students to read other reviews. After each student has read assessed a few reviews, lead a class discussion on what makes a review effective. Engaging with the question of what makes a good review will have a positive effect when they next write a review.
Select and read together some negative reviews. Workshop as a class why negative reviews can still be useful and important.
Students can write book reviews as a part of a wide reading programme. Set a target per term for the number of reviews to write, and if desired, the number of comments to make on reviews written by others. By accessing the students’ personal page at the end of the reporting period, it is simple to assess their work completion.
Reluctant readers and students who have trouble selecting books to read can use the recommendation feature to find other books they might enjoy. Locate a book that the student has in the past read and liked, or books they might be interested in. From there, they can follow the recommendations left by other users to discover new books. Book clubs can also serve as a guide here.
|Book review writing tips for students||50.5 KB|