The Electric Educator: Elementary Book Report Machine

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Elementary Book Report Machine

I am fortunate to be able to work with thousands of educators at hundreds of schools each year. Occasionally, I have the opportunity to help a school build something really cool.

My first project of 2016 was to help Kingsley elementary school, a small school in northern Michigan, build an elementary book report machine.

Writing reflectively is a key component of the common core standards (example). A book report is a tremendous way to help students practice reflective, informational writing, and to also encourage them to identify elements of literature such as genre, plot, and setting. As a bonus, they can share their writing with others!

The Kinglsey elementary team (Rich Rountree, Sean Selby, Sara Trowbridge, Kendra Bell, and Lynn Alford) decided to leverage their class set of Chromebooks and turn a paper book report assignment into a digital process using Google Forms and Docs.

One of the simplest ways to integrate technology into the classroom is to update an existing lesson or activity with modern tools and processes. As you do this, you will discover new possibilities and will likely end up modifying the assignment to make it even better!

We quickly put together a Google form which contained all of the required elements of the book report.

No one wants to read a book report in a spreadsheet, so we decided to use the AutoCrat Sheets add-on to generate a unique document for each form submission. To do this, we first created a template document with merge tags.

With these steps complete, we now have a system that generates a very nicely formatted Google Doc book report for each form submission. These documents are all safely stored in a Google Drive folder that is shared with the entire grade level team.

But wait, there is more!

Book reports are meant to be read! The final step of this process is to create a QR code for each book report which will be added to the inside cover of the book.

If a student sees a QR code in a book, they can scan it with their device and read the report written by a fellow student. This in turn encourages students to take pride and ownership in writing their own report.

This simple system helps teachers organize and curate large volumes of student work and gives students a wide audience.

The Kingsley elementary team has graciously allowed me to share their story and copies of the documents that you can use! Give it a try - use this link to try out the Book Report generator (hope you like mice and cookies!)

Build your own book report machine: 
  • Google Spreadsheet - We used the AutoCrat add-on to automatically generate docs from the form submission. Note: If you would like a copy of the form below, you will need to make a copy of this spreadsheet; the form comes along with it! 
  • Google Form - This is the final form; fill it out and press submit to see the system in action!
  • Google Doc Template - This is the document that determines the layout of the book reports. The merge tags (i.e. <>) are replaced with data from the sheet. 


  1. I attended one of your sessions yesterday at MACUL. This is a wonderful idea! I am a new technology trainer for my district and I am always looking for ways to help teachers take something old and make it new again! Thank you for sharing this.

  2. The elementary books are so good and it is really wonderful to get ideas. Essay writing service reviews


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