Giving the kids a personal touchstone on diary or journal writing is the objective of the warm up. Although the idea of a diary may seem obvious to adults, kids are living in a far different world when it comes to recording their experiences. It used to be common for kids to write in diaries, but when I polled my class I found out that it really isn't the case anymore. They're apt to plug bits of information into cell phones they don't want to forget or simply share everything on Instagram or the like. For this reason, before explaining the book report I want to relate diary writing to something I know they do on a regular basis.
In my classroom the students write Reflection Letters each Friday. The kids decide the most significant events from the week and have a quiet class period to reflect and compose writing reflection letters. I send them home, parents read them, and they (hopefully) return to class on Monday where they'll be bound into a spiral book at the end of the year. Although this is not exactly a diary, it's a jumping off point in introducing the idea of personal reflection.
We discuss why someone would keep a diary or journal, and I ask for a show of hands of anyone who now, or has in the past, kept one that was not required in school. Over the years, the number has definitely dwindled. Some kids equated diary writing with blogging, but I point out the privacy in a diary that is certainly not there on social media.
There are a few different components included in this book report. The students will write diary entries, create a plot line, and draw a map. Here is an example of The Breadwinner Diary, Map, and Plot Line My objective is to see a complete picture of my student through the three parts. With the diary entries I evaluate their reading comprehension; the plot line indicates their ability level in structuring the story; and I continue social studies integration of Historical Fiction by requiring them to create a map with specific details.
The kids must be encouraged to pick a historical novel that really interests them. There are so many fascinating events in history that something will appeal to everyone. My experience is that when a student selects a book "just to have a book" they don't get as much out of the experience and it's almost painful for them to identify with the character enough to write journal entries.
The diary they will write for their historical fiction book report Historical Fiction Book Celebration rubric will include the date, significant event from the book, and feelings about the event from the main character's point of view. There must be at least three entries of at least two paragraphs in this diary. In addition to their diary, they will need to complete a plot line that chronicles events. Here is an example of a Charley Skedaddle Plot Line.
We've explored plot lines at different points throughout the year. A map will also be included to show where the story took place. As they have done with geography assignments and the like, they must include a compass rose, legend, and a few surrounding locations. Here is a Diary and Map student example Bull Run Diary Entries/Map
Many kids will get into the presentation of this book report because it really lends itself to dressing up and acting the part. Five diary entries of two paragraphs a piece can get really lengthy, so I typically ask them to cut it down to their favorite one or two entries.
I want everyone to see the different plot lines and fabulous maps. Sometimes, these turn out better than the diaries because there isn't as much worry about using someone else's voice (the main character.) I love displaying the parts of this book report because the interesting colors and creativity really shine.
For the most part, the students do well with completing this book report. Although it contains multiple tasks, they're up for it. When we have extra time in the classroom or during library, I encourage them draw the map or write a few diary entries. Most will say they're working on it at home, which is fine, but I like to emphasize the importance of using time wisely. Also, if it's a student with known procrastination tendencies, I send a friendly email to the parents to ask if they're aware of the project. There are still students who show up presentation day with incomplete book reports containing one or two of the required tasks. This significantly impacts their grade, and I give them that extra day with a loss of points. The result is usually a rushed product that doesn't garner a good evaluation, but sometimes it's a wake up call- and I'm pleasantly surprised.