Bringing Books to Life

I learned today about a superb resource called Book Drum, thanks to Susan Davis, who wrote a wonderful post on the PLP network — Knocked Out of My Orbit: Becoming a 21st Century Educator.

Here’s the paragraph in Susan’s post that led me to Book Drum:

Meanwhile, through my professional learning network (PLN), I learned about a website called Book Drum, which broke down novels page by page and provided images and sounds for readers to better grasp the context of their reading. For example, the entry for To Kill a Mockingbird provides a photograph of a bowl of scuppernong grapes that might be unfamiliar to readers outside the South; another page offers a video of a Bobwhite issuing its distinctive call. Unfortunately, the site only allows participants 18 years of age and older to contribute. But why not, I thought, do this with poems, and in a Google Document? The result was an exhilarating week of co-constructed learning.

I’d love to see what Susan’s students came up with when they did the equivalent of Book Drum on their own. But for now, I’m excited that someone else is doing what I’ve been encouraging students to do for a long time when they come across an unfamiliar word — look it up online! (assuming they have a laptop, which my students had)

So here’s an example — let’s say you are reading To Kill A Mockingbird, and you come across this passage (I took a picture of the book):

Many middle school or high school students won’t know what a Model-T Ford is… but thanks to Book Drum they can find out:

Similarly, a few pages later, there’s a reference to a chiffarobe:

And when you get to that point in Book Drum, look what’s there for you, providing context:

To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorite novels.  I’ve read it several times.  But I never before had a true picture of what a chiffarobe looks like.  I pictured it as a basic dresser, but now I see that there’s more to it.

I love the concept of Book Drum

And I especially love what Susan had her students do — create their own version by bringing poetry to life in a Google Doc.

Here’s a neat idea — partner with another class and have them share in the Google Doc as well.  One class brings pages 1-50 to life, and the other class does the same with pages 51-100. Then, we share with each other and give each other feedback as we learn about and discuss a classic work of literature.

What a wonderful time to be a learner!

P.S.  Book Drum has more than just bookmarks — here’s the side menu:

If you choose setting, for example, here’s what you get for The Grapes of Wrath:

Not bad, but I just ran my own search and came up with what I think is a better picture:

Can’t you imagine class “A” finding the first image, and class “B” finding that second one.  Which is a better photo for empathizing with the family that the Grapes of Wrath describes? Why?

That’s the beauty of co-constructing meaning and bringing a text to life — we can have conversations like that. Thanks Susan, thanks PLP Network, and thanks Book Drum 🙂


About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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One Response to Bringing Books to Life

  1. Susan Davis says:

    Thanks for taking this and running with it! I love how you extend the assignment (and the learning). I have to really credit Alice McIntyre of Garrison Forest School, for sharing BookDrum with me initially (as part of my PLN at Powerful Learning Practice).

    You can see my students’ work here:
    Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:
    Pied Beauty:

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