I have just created my first book bento box – and it was great fun to do. An alternative way to express a response to literature that will excite students with its combination of personal expression, visual arts, technology, creativity and hands on compilation of the bento box contents.
Having just finished Mallee Boys by Charlie Archbold, I really wanted to express some ideas about this wonderfully deeply rooted Australian novel set in the Australian wheat belt. It would have made a great winner of the 2018 CBCA Book if the Year Award – more than an honour book in my opinion.
Anyway, back to book bento boxes. Bento is a Japanese term of single serve take away meal that is served in a box – traditionally lacquered wood – with separate sections for different portions. Applying this structure to a literature response strategy results in book bento boxes. Here are some great examples to get you inspired. You will see that the box structure can be somewhat flexible in this strategy and most do not have compartments for different portions.
After reading some useful instructions developed by two English teachers and with a fantastic book to focus on – I was hell bent on having a go. Unfortunately, the interactive buttons have not transferred into WordPress. Click on the link in the caption to read the commentary on the contents.
This is a highly adaptable reader response strategy that goes well beyond the English classroom. With a guiding question on a story that connects to History, Geography, Health or other area students could demonstrate understanding of significant events or objects that shape their interpretation of subject matter. It also provides a great starting point for a teacher librarian before reading a book. Preparing a book bento box in advance with significant objects to get students to predict relevance and then at the conclusion of the reading to evaluate their initial thoughts, and perhaps suggest alternative objects to include. The latter would provide a wonderful insight into how students perceive the books that we read aloud and identify what is most significant in their eyes.
I created my bento box on the spur of the moment – oops – no box to hand! I collected “free to use” images online and from my personal image collection and compiled them in a Word document to look like they were sitting in a box. Some basic image manipulation skills were required to adjust layout, group images, apply transparency etc, to make a cohesive whole to be saved and uploaded into Thinglink a program that allows you to add text, hyperlinks and buttons to places on your image.
The principle of creating a collection and saving as an image is quite straightforward. Adding written annotations works seamlessly with Thinglink but could be tackled with different software. Prezi could work well, with a pathway and supporting text to each element. For younger students, a simple slide presentation and animated text boxes attached to each image could also work. There are not doubt other apps out there that would work too. If you read this and have suggestions please feel free to add a comment. I would love some further suggestions to experiment with.