This activity can be modified to suit all language levels. Beginners will read an English translation, advanced students will read the original.
- Provide a selection of short stories, excerpts or book titles for the students to choose from
- Write a short review of one of these to serve as an example
- Students will read the work of their choosing and write a review in the target language on an index card (you may or may not choose to provide these)
- Give the class time to circulate around the room and read the reviews
- Based on the recommendations, the students will choose one more piece to read, submitting a second review to you for grading
Ask students if they’ve ever been to a bookstore that provided reviews of books written by the staff (Strand, Albertine, etc.). Did these reviews help give them an idea about the book and orient their choice/purchase?
For my French 102 students, reading in the original was not an option, yet I still wished them to be able to look at and consult the original. This is why I decided to assign a bilingual collection of short stories. I chose La Fontaine’s fables and made it available at the library on reserve.
They were told to choose one fable and to write a short review of it. This should include the title, a brief summary, their reaction to it, if they would recommend it and the number of stars they give. Remind students that using Google Translate is not allowed. Before transferring their review to the index cards I provided for uniformity, they are asked to bring their review to one of the French tutors available on campus. I included this step to ensure that the reviews are comprehensible for the rest of the class.
If the students were given a list of books to choose from, ask them to bring the books to class to place with their index cards. This will add to the bookstore feel. Instruct students that they are reading the reviews in order to choose a second fable or book to read and write about. This lends purpose to the task of browsing the reviews. The response they write for the second reading should simply be turned into you.
The French version of the assignment instructions below:
À la librairie– La littérature française
Choisissez une fable de La Fontaine. Essayez de lire la version française ou lisez simplement la version anglaise. Ecrivez un court compte-rendu (review) de 100 à 200 mots, en français. Il faut montrer votre compte-rendu à un tuteur/une tutrice avant de le rendre. Écrivez la version finale sur une fiche (index card). Incluez le titre, une courte description, ce que vous pensez de la fable et si vous la recommandez ou pas. Si vous employez des mots nouveaux, inconnus (unknown) par vos camarades, incluez la traduction entre parenthèses. Combien d’étoiles (stars) lui donnez-vous? Il est interdit (forbidden) d’utiliser Google translate. Vous avez seulement le droit (the right) d’utiliser un dictionnaire. Nous allons circuler et lire les compte-rendus de tout le monde. Utilisez les comptes-rendus de vos camarades pour choisir une deuxième fable à lire. Écrivez un nouveau compte rendu et rendez-le dans une semaine.
By Rebecca Raitses
With special thanks to Alberto Gelmi