When I started off this school year, I was searching for a new way for my sixth graders to engage in independent reading. Aside from traditional book talks, discussions, and journal entries, I wanted more opportunities for collaboration. I previously used a Google Slides template with shelves to add the covers of books they had currently read, but I wanted something more. I looked into using GoodReads, a great solution for older students, but needed something to fit within my students’ ages. Then I found Bookopolis, a website that markets itself as a “community of young readers” where students can safely post comments, reviews, and share books in a confined space.
Bookopolis requires a teacher to sign up and create a class in order to activate the account. Teachers are required to provide their school name and their own information. An avatar can be chosen, but there are no real photographs allowed; instead stock-image options of animals, cartoon people, and other icons are provided.
When you are transported to the dashboard, you have the option to add classes. The only requirements are a class name, grade, and school year. You can also choose a range of grades if you teach multiple.
One of the nice features of Bookopolis is that students can sign up using a Google account instead of having the teacher manually add each student’s username and password. When a teacher creates their account, it automatically links any Google Classrooms associated with that email.
Clicking on “My World” shows the homepage as a reader. It provides a place for students to add books, a list of their classmates, and badges. When you click on “My Books,” it brings you to three book lists that students can use: “Reading it Now,” “I Read It,” “I Want to Read It.” Students can add books they are currently reading, they have read in the past year, or that interest them. On the left-hand side are Quick Actions, where you can add books to the list or search through books.
By clicking “Add to My Books,” you will be prompted to search for a book or search by genre. When you find the book you are looking for, you can select one of the three buttons under the title to add the book to one of the three lists.
Selecting the book opens a lot of information for the student. There is a grade level indicated, as well as a potential range of grades who would be interested in the book. A guided reading level is also offered for teachers looking to pair students in similar groups. The students can also read reviews from other users. If the user who reviewed the book is one of their classmates, the student’s username will appear. However, if the review comes from another student in a different class or school, Bookopolis protects anonymity by referring to the user simply as “Bookopolis Reader.”
The “Reviews” section is also the place where students can compose and post their own reviews. They give it a rating out of five stars and compose the review of the text. Students can also check off grade levels that might be interested in the book and recommendations for students who like different genres.
Other tabs on top of the recommendation page include “Book Buzz,” which allows the student to write short summaries of the book and their favorite moments, “Report,” which provides the student with three questions and three choices per question in which they can respond about the book. The final tab is “Recommend,” where students can actually send books directly to their classmates if they think the person might be interested in the book.
As students use Bookopolis, they become part of the gamification process. They receive badges for various tasks, including writing reviews and making recommendations.
Teachers can monitor student work through the “Monitor Classwork” sidebar to see student book reviews, popular books, or book buzzes and reports.
The last section, the Reading Log allows students to log their amount of time reading. Based on the discussion of the relevance of reading logs, it is up to the teacher to decide whether or not to utilize this feature.
Bookopolis provides a safe space for students to share recommendations and reviews and interact with their classmates. It is an engaging option to add to independent reading experiences, especially at the elementary and middle school level.
Don’t forget to register for the NJCTE 2018 Fall Conference: Approaches to Writing, K-12! Featuring keynote speaker NCTE President Jocelyn Chadwick, the conference will take place September 29 at Kenneth R. Olson Middle School in Tabernacle, NJ. Register today!