Creative Report Writing

SO I HAVE TO WRITE THIS REPORT . . . .

Report-writing may not be as common as it used to be in the old days (that is, when I was in school), but once in a while your teacher may ask you to unplug the PowerPoint and write a one-to-two-page book report, biographical sketch, or science-fair exposition. This is not an overwhelming challenge if you take time to organize your material and put it together in clear paragraphs. If you have trouble with that, check out Wordsmith Craftsman; organization and clarity are big subjects beyond the scope of this one little tip.

But let’s say you understand the basic principles of sentence and paragraph construction, and know how to make an outline and follow it. There’s still the possibility that your report will be less than stimulating (in a word, boring), both to write and to read.

boring reports

Frankly, teachers are accustomed to boring reports and will likely give you a good grade if you just make sense. But they’ll sit up and take notice if you add a spark of imagination to your reports–as long as the spark isn’t just fireworks to cover the fact that you don’t know what you’re writing about.

Some teachers like to give “creative” report assignments. But some don’t, leaving the choice up to you. Let’s say your next social studies assignment is to write a biographical sketch of Martin Luther King. You could begin with, “Martin Luther King was born . . .” etc.

OR, you could study a portrait or two contrasting news photos, and describe the character you see in that face. Back up your analysis by the three pivotal events of his life that shaped that character, and include the portrait or photos with your report.

You could open a report on the Constitutional Convention of 1787 with, “The first governing document of the United States was called the Articles of Confederation . . .”

OR you could take the point of view of a delegate summoned to Philadelphia and shut up in a stuffy room with other sweating delegates to draft a new governing document. A whole report written that way could easily end up being a novel, so limit yourself to a longish opening paragraph describing the room, the smells, the sounds, and a few of the famous delegates. This would set the scene and hook the reader.

In my seventh-grade Texas history class I wrote a paper titled “Sam Houston and I,” whereby I took a time-machine trip back to 1840 and interviewed the President of Texas. Is this an approach that might work for your next history project?

Here are some other ideas to keep in mind for those end-of-the-semester papers:

BOOK REPORTS (fiction)
· Describe the climax of the story from the antagonist’s, or villain’s, point of view.
· Interview the main character.
· Imagine a date with one of the main characters–where would you go? What would you talk about? How would he/she behave toward you?
· Insert yourself into the climax of the story as an additional character, and describe how you change the action.

SOCIAL STUDIES REPORTS
· Write a dialogue or debate between two historical characters who held opposing views.
· Write the history of an object seen in a museum.
· Write a newspaper “editorial” presenting one side of an historical issue.
· Take pictures or buy postcards at an historic site. Use them to illustrate your own brochure, with captions, quotes, and interesting facts (you can make up the captions and the quotes, but not the facts!)

SCIENCE REPORTS
· Interview a scientist who is famous but now dead.
· Write a radio play depicting functions of the nervous system, or the water cycle, or any other scientific process.
· Using the brochure example above, make and illustrate a brochure promoting travel on Jupiter, or “Black Hole Theme Park,” or a thrill ride through the circulatory system.

Some teachers love this kind of stuff; others might not, so use your judgment. You don’t have to get creative with every single school assignment, but once in a while, try going “alternative.” It’s not only more fun to read, it’s also more interesting to write.