Cereal Box Book Report

Cereal box book reports produced by Mandy’s students
Source: Mandeep Somal

In post-secondary, students are often required to work on culminating projects comprised of various assignments submitted at different deadlines throughout the term. My teaching partner and I wanted to bring the experience of a post-secondary culminating project into our classroom, but in a way that was both manageable and meaningful to our LINC students.

When doing major projects, my teaching partner and I are always looking for ways to optimize Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) for all four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). As we focus on teaching our students English to prepare them for post-secondary education and the workplace, we find ourselves utilizing creative ways to incorporate PBLA with scaffolded learning. Thus, we came up with the idea of a cereal box book report.

What did students do?

           We asked students to read an ESL novel of their choice that was appropriate for their Canadian Level Benchmark (CLB). Students then completed several assignments for different competency areas (CA) in all four skills.

Components of the Culminating Project

      In eight weeks, students completed the project which was broken down into five assignments:

  1. Novel Selection – Students chose a popular literary novel that was re-written for ESL students.
  2. Reading Notes (reading CA iv / writing CA ii, iv) – Students had three weeks to read their novel and write notes about its contents. Notes on the novel identified items such as author, copyright date, setting, genre, protagonist, plot/conflict, favourite quote, and new vocabulary learned.
  3. Rough Draft of Cereal Box Book Report (reading CA ii / writing CA iv) – After reviewing students’ reading notes and checking for accuracy of content, students took teacher feedback to type their notes into MS Word. Students were also required to write their opinion of the novel with key details to support their point of view. The assignment handout required students to read and follow detailed instructions on how to format their document in MS Word using APA guidelines.
  4. Final Cereal Box Book Report (listening CA i, iv / speaking CA i, iv / reading CA ii) – Students then took information from their previous assignments and displayed it on a cereal box. The purpose of this task was not only for students to follow instructions on how to design their cereal box, but also prepare a book report in a visually creative manner that would be a conversation piece for others. Students then showcased their cereal box book reports at an exhibit to their peers in the LINC program. The exhibit allowed for discussion of the novels to promote and encourage other students in the program to read the literary works.
  5. Book Report Oral Presentation (listening CA iv / speaking CA iv) – Finally, students did oral presentations for the class using PowerPoint to summarize the contents of their novels and their experiences of the culminating project.

What books did students read?

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • Billy Elliot by Melvin Burgess
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah

     Some class time was given, but most of the assignments were completed by students in their own time. As a result, students had to manage their time carefully to meet deadlines and work independently. Detailed assignment handouts with skill-using and assessment rubrics were given to students to help guide them in their learning. Teachers also modelled their expectations for assignments with samples of work for their own ESL novel.

Students Thoughts on the Project

           At first, students were a bit overwhelmed with the idea of reading a book on their own and completing such a big project. However, as they worked on the assignments bit by bit, they started to see the different things they were learning and the skills they were developing:

  • time management and meeting deadlines
  • English communication skills
  • MS Office, keyboarding, and computer skills
  • understanding academic honesty, plagiarism, and APA formatting

           Of course, a project of this capacity can easily be shortened or extended, while learning tasks/assignments and competency areas can be easily adjusted for your LINC students!

Hello, I’m Mandeep Somal! I’m a working mom of two little cuties. They keep me on my toes as I go through the joys and challenges of parenting. I am graduate of Brock University with B.A. in Business Communications and M.Ed in Teaching, Learning, and Development. I started my ESL adventure in 2005 in Osaka, Japan where I taught EFL for 5 years at a foreign language institute, Mukogawa Women’s University, and the corporate level. During this time, I also backpacked to 12 amazing countries including Thailand, Cambodia, China, Germany, Spain, Ghana, Colombia, and Costa Rica. In Canada, I have taught post-secondary academic and workplace reading/writing courses at Humber College, and LINC and EAP at Mohawk College. Currently, I team teach in LINC for Youth Video Project at Mohawk. This program is designed for newcomer youth to help them develop their English skills with the creation of collaborative video projects.


4 thoughts on “Cereal Box Book Report”

  1. Mandeep and Mandy,
    Love your project (which I would see as close to PBL – Project Based Learning).
    It made me long for the days (pre PBLA/Portfolio Based Language Assessment protocol) when we had class sets of Penguin Readers and used to have activities such as DROP EVERYTHING AND READ – and/or, yes, Book Reports…I still have copies of Anne of Green Gables – with a tape…(Penguin Reader Level Three). I try to play the first four chapters once a session…(LINC classes 4-7, and now my LINC 5/6) A handful of student fell in love with Anne, wanted to know more – and went to the library to take the book out. Two even went on to read the book in the original! I do do book report displays occasionally – e.g. for Black Heritage Month – children’s books l like “The story if Ruby Bridges”, or “Teammates”..I do not use book reports to collect PBLA artefacts but I guess I could…Comfort with, and Love of reading English is what I want to develop….

    I wondered what CLBs your students were at, and whether you made this mandatory or learners had a choice…I wondered about the artefacts created for the Inventory lists…photos? Rubrics? PBLA is so time greedy…how did you manage to work this in?

    The cereal box presentation is cool and catchy!…“Food for Thought”. When my daughter was in Grade Three her class designed cereal boxes – they were exploring “advertising” and food choices…. I’ve thought of doing that with my class…(We did 3-D “towers” once for Earth Day (2 “towers” of cardboard boxes covered with items that were recyclable -Tower 1 -and not recyclable -Tower 2. There is a lot we can do to engage learners, give them ways to encounter authentic language – and get turned on and motivated.
    I’m thinking you must have very open minded and supportive management. Good on them!!!

    Bravo all!

    1. Hello Claudie!

      Thank you for your insightful comments. There are so many wonderful things we can do with books! Our department has a great collection of novels adapted for ESL learners. I dare not let them sit on the shelves when they are rich with adventure, romance, mystery, vocabulary, ideas, and enjoyment for students!

      The class I teach is CLB 4-5 and students often do PBL in pairs or groups. However, for this project my teaching partner and I wanted students to work individually to complete the different components of the project so that they could get an idea of some of the expectations they would experience at the post-secondary level. I tried to build up on students’ previous learning and knowledge when making up assignments and rubrics. For example, students had already done note-taking several times before for other modules. Therefore this time around, I adapted a previous rubric on note-taking so that it was relevant to note-taking when reading an ESL novel.

      You are right! PBLA can be “time greedy” and I am still trying to figure out how to be more “efficient” with creating PBLA tasks and rubrics. This project took quite a bit of time for my teaching partner and I to put together, but now we have something for our “PBLA bank” that can be used in the future either for a similar project or altered for something else.

      The ESL department I teach in is very open, creative, and supportive. I am fortunate to work with ESL professionals who want to collaborate and try different things to help students achieve their goals!

  2. Hello Mandeep
    Where do you find novels re-written for esl students? I teach adults and they often ask me for book recommendations.

    1. Hello Frances!

      The coordinator of our LINC department orders English graded readers from publishers such as Oxford University Press, Penguin Random House, and Pearson. They have a great selection of books that can be targeted for the various CLB levels.

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