Bible Teaching Methods: Methodology for Sunday School & Other Bible Teachers

This Month's Bible Teaching Method:

Book Reports / Reviews

One or more students read a book and give the class a summary of the book including the main thesis or argument of the book. The report may include the reader's interpretation or assessment of what has been read in which case it becomes not just a book report but a book review. A book report is informational or factual. A book review is analytical or subjective.

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Group size 
Book reports or reviews can be used with any size group unless you are having everyone in the class read and report. Due to the time involved when everyone reports, you will probably not want to do that with a large group.

Resources needed 
The reader(s) will need access to the book. It would be good if you can either build a library with these books or pull the books from an already existing church library to make the books accessible to others whose interest is sparked as a result of the report. Depending on how the report is being presented, you may also need handouts, props, or costumes.

Objective targeted 
The primary objective of using book reports or reviews is to present information or knowledge.

Use modeled 
Book reports and reviews are typically used in the regular school setting, especially in grade school. It is not as common of a teaching method within the church. However, with so many good books in the Christian market and with so little time for people to read, using this method in the church may be quite beneficial to your people. Scripture certainly supports input from a variety of sources. Proverbs 15:22 says "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." All input, however, needs to be run through the grid of Scripture. We are exhorted to be discerning (Phil. 1:9-11; Prov. 17:24).

Proximity of others 
The noise level with this method is generally no more than normal so proximity of other classes should not be an issue.

Finances needed 
Books will need to be purchased unless they are already available in a church's library or in the teacher's personal library. If all students are being asked to read a book, the cost could be high for the church. You may need to ask students to purchase the book or to contribute part of the cost. Always be sensitive to those students for whom this would be a hardship.

Age level 
This method may be used with grade school, high school, or adult students. Be careful, however, with school age students to use this method sparingly and creatively as it will probably feel too much like school to them.

Book reports and reviews are expressional methods in that they allow the students to do something. The actual presentation of the report to the class would be one-way, that of the reporting student to the class. If you allow for questions to be asked, it will become two-way communication.

Time required 
Generally a report may be limited to 10 - 30 minutes. The shorter times will usually be used for a younger age level, for when more than one person will be reporting, or for when your class time is short. Grade school children may only use up to 5 minutes to do their reports. Besides the class time for reports, the student(s) will also need outside time to read the book and prepare the presentation of the report. The teacher, in many cases, should make the time to preview the book prior to making assignments.

Openness of group 
Because book reports remind people of school, children and youth may resist the idea. Even with adults you may find students who are not motivated to read or who are unwilling to take the time to read. You may also find some students who do not like to speak before the whole class. To counter this resistance, you may provide options for reporting like having them write out their report and having someone else read it.

Room size 
Any size room can be used for this methodology. Generally a book report or review will take up no more space than a normal class session.

Skills needed 

Most of the teacher's work in using book reports and reviews as a teaching method is wrapped up in choices that must be made.
Choosing the books

  • Work in advance to choose the books that are to be read. You must give your students sufficient time to read it and to prepare their reports.
  • Work at being purposeful in the choice of books to be read. This means you must know upcoming topics so you can search for books that will fit the theme. While you can use book reports and reviews solely for the sake of informing students of books in the Christian market, how much more impacting if the reading is related to the theme you are studying.

Choosing the readers

  • Be sensitive to the time schedules, personalities, and learning styles of your students. For some, doing a book report would be a stress producer due to already overtaxed schedules. For some, doing a book report would be overwhelming due to discomfort in talking before a group. For some, doing a book report would be frustrating due to their aversion to reading.
  • Be sure to communicate your expectations. Set deadlines. Discuss time limits and means of presenting their reports.

Choosing the extra mile

  • Extend yourself to be available to students who need help organizing the information or deciding how to present it.
  • Extend yourself to hold students accountable for making progress toward the completion of their reading and report. You can establish formal check up dates or you can casually ask them how it is going.

Choosing the presentation

  • Relieve students from the pressure they feel in speaking before a group. Allow them to be conversational. Allow them to sit or stand based on what is most comfortable to them.
  • Relieve students from the demotivation they may have in doing a book report. Allow them to have some choices. Perhaps the choice will be in which book they read. Perhaps the choice will be in the way they present their report or review.
  • Relieve students from the boredom that can accompany book reports. Allow them to have some fun with this. Get creative. Vary the format in which it is presented, especially if you wish to use book reports regularly. Here are some ideas:
    • verbally communicating it like a lecture (traditional way)
    • writing out the report either to be read or to be used as a handout for all the students (paragraph or outline form)
    • interviewing the student using questions about the book
    • reading a designated number of short excerpts from the book that were most meaningful
    • listing the top ten truths found in the book
    • asking several students to read the same book and to be prepared to report on different sections/themes or to take part in a panel discussion on the book
    • dressing the part or holding up an object that symbolizes something about the author or the era if the book is either an autobiography or a historical book
    • giving the report in the first person as though the student is the author or the main character
    • using visual aids to enhance interest like maps, illustrations, timelines, pictures, etc.
    • acting out scenes or presenting scenes in a puppet show if the book is a story
    • having a number of students each read a different book on the same theme so multiple views can be presented and then debated
    • reading the book together in class chapter or section at a time and then giving a summary or analysis of it (If you don't have enough books for all students, be sure to choose a good reader. If you do have enough books for all students, sometimes you could have them read silently and then summarize or answer questions.)
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(Last updated 4/01/17)