being a teacher, books, Literacy, picture books, Reading, Student Engagement

12 Word Book Summaries – A Great Way to End our Book Clubs

Once in a while I get a surprise package of books at my house.  It honestly feels like Christmas.  And while I love my chapter books as I try to figure out who the Global Read Aloud contenders should be, when picture books show up it is an even bigger celebration.  So imagine my delight when Chronicle Books sent me 4 of their Cozy Classics.

While they are meant to be baby board books, I immediately saw great potential for them as a tool in the classroom.  Having just finished their self-selected book clubs, I wanted my students to somehow wrap up their projects while also doing some deeper analysis of the stories they had read and discussed.  Summarizing and analyzing are both skills we work on throughout the year, as is our public speaking skills.  Yet I did not want them to write a paper about their books, since I had had them do other writing throughout.  So this is exactly why the Cozy Classics were perfect; would my students be able to succinctly summarize their entire book in just 12 words?

This week I read War and Peace to my students and once their excitement died down I set them on their task; create a 12 word book summary that summarizes the entire book and then perform it for the class.  Throughout the week they would get a few blocks of 5 to  10 minute times and today they performed them.  The results were fantastic; students clearly had not only given a lot of thought to which words would best describe their stories, but also in how they should perform them for the class.

Here is one group performing their summary for Jennifer A. Nielsen’s A Night Divided, which by the way is a wonderful book to have in your classroom library.

Sometimes it is the smallest ideas that can have the greatest impact.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

23 thoughts on “12 Word Book Summaries – A Great Way to End our Book Clubs”

  1. The thing I am perhaps most impressed by is the lack of extraneous giggling. Whenever my kids do things like this, no matter how good the concepts and preparation are, they seem to spend most of the time hysterically giggling.

  2. My students wrote a 12 word summary for The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, inspired by watching your students. It was a great process to listen to them talk about the book, brainstorm and narrow their choices to 12 words. Thank you for the inspiration!

  3. Out of curiosity, would you mind sharing the targeted learning standard for this activity? This seems like it was an amazing learning exercise! Thanks for sharing.

  4. What grade are your students? I would like to use this 12-word summary, as I am finishing up a Book Club so it would be a good project, and I am trying to impress upon them the idea that LONGER writing is not always better (they are 7th and 8th grade advanced ELA and some think when you sign a 2 pg paper, a 9 pager is an automatic A) 🙂

  5. Hey there! I did this project pre covid and it was really awesome. I didn’t record any of them, which I’m really regretting. I was wondering if you have any examples to show the kids to give them an idea of what it can look like?

  6. Hi there – the video is still private. I would love to be able to show this to my class as an example, as I have done in previous years. Thank you!

  7. Hello! I love this format of then vs. now. I love the self reflection and the rationale for why and how you changed things. I’m wondering if you could share more about the literary elements activity you have your students complete independently. What does that look like? If you’re will to share, that would be fantastic.

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