Thursday, 10 March 2016

How to Write an Awesome Review

English teachers are often looking for authentic reading and writing contexts for their students - how would a writer or a reader in the "real world" approach this situation?  One example of writing for an authentic audience is writing a review.  There are people who make a living from writing book, play, restaurant or movie reviews.  People seek out these reviews before making a decision as to how they will spend their leisure time.  Student reviews can be posted in a school setting or online so that students in your class are writing for a real audience and not just their teacher.

I write quick book reviews on this blog, and to be honest I know that they aren't my best writing.  I struggle with giving a review that doesn't give away too many plot points.  I could certainly take my own lessons to improve those reviews!  I might ask students to review a film or book that we have studied in class, or I might ask them to choose something independently to review.  I have even had students review the cafeteria food - luckily our school cafeteria was fantastic and earned raves from the student critics.  Here are the instructions that I give my students when writing any review:

1. How will you draw the reader in?  Like any kind of writing, you need the reader to be interested in what you have to say.  If you are struggling with that first hook, I often tell my kids to ask a thought provoking question or to think of a surprising fact related to the review.

2. What are you reviewing?  This is where you need to describe the reviewed "thing," and this is where I struggle to not give away too much.  What kind of food do they serve at the restaurant?  What is the book or movie about?  The reader needs to know if this is a "thing" that they are interested in learning more about.

3. What did you think?  It isn't enough to say that it was good or bad.  Why?  Maybe you didn't like this book, but you think that a certain audience would.  Show, don't tell, what led you to your final judgement.

*Note- sometimes it is helpful in step 2 and/or 3 to compare your "reviewed thing" to something similar or to contrast it against something dissimilar.  For example, "if you like John Green, you will love Rainbow Rowell."

And that's it - three simple steps to help students to write for an authentic audience.

Food for Thought... Have you ever had students write reviews?  What did they review and how did it go?

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