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Why Should You Use Novel Studies in Your Classroom?

Why Should You Use Novel Studies in Your Classroom?

The funny thing about educational research is if you look hard enough you can usually find studies to support both sides of an issue. Very rarely do you find a straight yes or no answer to what is a good or bad theory or practice. Generally, it boils down to the common sense of the teacher in regards to his/her individual students and the level of freedom the teacher is given by the administration.

Sadly in today’s standardized test-heavy climate teachers are given less and less freedom to choose what is best for their students. So many curriculum guidelines have become so rigid that teachers are not able to modify or enrich with their own lessons and materials.

I struggled with this myself while teaching 4th grade. I taught in a high-poverty, low-scoring school. Most of my 4th graders could read at a 1st-2nd-grade level. Very few came to me over the years reading on grade level. The biggest challenge I had as a reading teacher was to get kids excited about reading. They saw it as such a challenge and our district used a basal series for reading instruction that was unrelatable and very boring! The students saw no reward for their challenge of getting through a story because the stories were so uninspiring and they had no emotional connection. I knew if I could “turn them on” to a book they would see more value in reading and see a “payback” so to speak.

Fortunately, I was blessed with a principal that valued my knowledge as a teacher and let me teach as I saw best for my students. I started with a read aloud time where the kids would get comfortable and I would read to them. Kids in the upper elementary grades don’t get read to enough in my opinion. It is reserved for the emergent readers of the primary grades. I chose high-interest, generally humorous books that the kids could just enjoy. I didn’t strive for any deep thinking for this activity. I just wanted the kids to experience reading as enjoyable. This turned into a favorite part of the school day for the students and for me.

Once I got my feet wet a bit in the classroom I started to develop novel studies for books where a short excerpt had been made in the basal. It is only common sense that reading the whole book is more enjoyable and leads to a much greater understanding by the student. Of course, I was careful to incorporate the skills taught in the basal in my units. I started teaching these novel units alongside the basal stories and the change between reading the basal versus the novel was amazing. I had kids who were reading at a 2nd-grade level actually focused and challenging themselves reading the chapter books that were at a 4th-grade reading level. They actually wanted to read them versus just getting through some worksheet assignment from the basal. More and more these lower-level readers were chiming in on class discussions about the books and picking up age-appropriate books by choice in their free time. As a teacher, I found it easier to use Bloom’s higher-order questions using a novel instead of a short excerpt because you could really dive so much farther into the story and the characters.

I see similar experiences with my own children when they are allowed to read a “real” book vs. a text-based short story. They’ve never come home from school excited about something they read in a basal, but they have many times come home and we’ve had lengthy discussions about novels that they are reading!

As for the sought-after test scores, I didn’t do any formal research on the subject but my student’s scores certainly did not drop and their love of reading soared! Sadly this is not a statistic that is looked at often enough.

Another huge benefit to novel study-based reading instruction is the ability to really enhance the student’s critical thinking skills by diving deep into character and plot development. Sadly, we are seeing fewer and less critical thinking-focused activities in the current “test-prep” atmosphere in schools today.

Maybe the most beneficial reason of all to use novels in the classroom is to really tap into the empathy and awareness that books can bring to students. By reading books, like Wonder and El Deafo students can learn about different disabilities and how people learn to live with and excel despite their disabilities. Books such as Number the Stars and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes can be a great introduction to the Holocaust and the bombing of Hiroshima for elementary students. Hatchet and Esperanza Rising are great books to dive in with a character that faces and survives insurmountable odds. The One and Only Ivan helps students empathize and think about the impact that we humans have on the planet as a whole. These are just a few examples of how a novel can get students thinking deeply about issues that can motivate them to enact positive change in our world.

Using novel studies in the classroom can provide numerous benefits for students and can be a great way to enhance their learning experiences. The benefits of incorporating novel studies into your curriculum are:

  • Improved Reading Skills: By reading and analyzing a novel, students can develop and improve their reading skills, including comprehension, critical thinking, and vocabulary.
  • Cultural Awareness: Novels often reflect the culture and values of a specific time and place, allowing students to gain a better understanding of different perspectives and worldviews.
  • Enhance Writing Skills: By writing essays and participating in class discussions, students can improve their writing and speaking skills.
  • Encourage Empathy: By reading about and analyzing characters, students can develop empathy and learn to understand and relate to the experiences and perspectives of others.
  • Promote Engagement: Novel studies can be a fun and engaging way for students to learn and can help foster a love of reading.

Incorporating novel studies into your curriculum can provide a multitude of benefits for your students and can enhance their learning experiences in many ways.


Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank

 

The Whimsy of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

The Whimsy of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume is a classic children’s novel that is beloved by millions of young readers. I started every 4th-grade school year with Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing as our first novel unit. It is such a humorous book and opens up many discussions and activities tied to the curriculum and standards. Children relate to the main character, Peter Hatcher, and his struggles to get through the everyday life of a typical 4th grader. Throw in the antics of his younger brother, Fudge, and you are in for a treat! I have never had a child tell me they didn’t enjoy this book. Most students are fighting over who gets to read the sequel, Superfudge, as soon as we finish the unit!

 

 

Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing is one of my favorite novels. I loved it as a child and I still love it as an adult. I so enjoyed sharing this story with my students and my own kids. There are so many ways that kids can identify with the main character, Peter Hatcher. Peter seems to have that streak of bad luck that hits us all, at one time or another. Anyone who has a younger sibling (or a toddler of their own) can completely identify with the challenges that Peter’s brother Fudge, creates for the family.

Some elements of the story can be a bit dated, copyright 1972, but this does not seem to bother my students in the least bit! Being from Omaha, this book opens up discussions about living in a metropolis like New York City. My students always enjoy discussing how Peter’s life compares to theirs, which I am sure is even more pronounced for students in more rural areas.

I highly recommend using Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing in your classroom. Not only is it an informative book, but it is also fun! Students will love reading this book and sharing the humor.

See what people are saying about the Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing Novel Study by The Teaching Bank!

Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing is an excellent choice for a novel study.
  • Age-Appropriate: This novel is written for children aged 8-12, making it a perfect fit for fourth-grade students.
  • Humorous and Relatable: The book is filled with humor and relatable situations that children can easily connect with, making it a great tool for building reading comprehension and engagement.
  • Develops Empathy: The novel follows the struggles of the main character, Peter, as he deals with a new baby brother who gets all the attention. This helps students develop empathy and understand different perspectives.
  • Increases Vocabulary: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing uses simple language, making it accessible for young readers, but also introduces new vocabulary words that can be taught and discussed in class.
  • Supports Character Development: The novel explores themes of family, jealousy, and responsibility, which can lead to valuable discussions and lessons on character development.

Try a free sample of the novel study for Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing 

I am a big advocate for using humorous books to spark a love of reading, especially with boys. Students can extend their love of Peter and Fudge by reading the sequels Superfudge, Fudge-A-Mania, and Double Fudge.

Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing is an excellent novel for a fourth-grade novel study. It’s age-appropriate, relatable, humorous, and educational, making it a great choice for building reading comprehension and character development.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

You can purchase this novel study at the following locations:



Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank


*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

 

Follow the Race with Stone Fox!

Follow the Race with Stone Fox!

As a teacher, finding the perfect novel to use in your classroom can be a daunting task. You want something that will capture your students’ attention, teach valuable life lessons, and align with your curriculum. One novel that fits all of these criteria is Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner.

 

Stone Fox tells the story of a young boy named Willy who lives on a farm with his grandfather. When Willy’s grandfather falls ill, Willy must find a way to save the farm and pay off their taxes. Along the way, he faces many challenges and learns valuable lessons about determination, perseverance, and the importance of family.

One of the reasons Stone Fox is such a great novel to use in the classroom is its relatable characters. Willy is a character that students can easily connect with, and his struggles and triumphs will resonate with them. Additionally, the novel’s themes of family, hard work, and determination are universal and can be applied to many different life situations.

Stone Fox touches on themes of farming, small-town life, and the importance of community, which can be used to supplement lessons in social studies and science. Additionally, the novel’s themes of determination and perseverance can be used to help teach valuable life skills and to foster positive character traits in students.

Stone Fox is a relatively short novel, making it a great choice for classroom use. It is easy to read and understand, and its engaging storyline will keep students’ attention. It also features a strong plot which makes it ideal for classroom discussions and debates.

I offer a novel study to use to help you use this book in your classroom.

See what people are saying about the Stone Fox Novel Study by The Teaching Bank!

Try a free sample of the novel study for Stone Fox 

 

This is a great book to read in the spring during the Iditarod. Students can follow along with the race in real-time as they read the book.

I used this novel study every year in my 4th-grade class. My students always enjoyed the book with its heartfelt story, action, adventure, and lessons on courage and perseverance. It is a great book to draw in reluctant readers.”Stone Fox” is a novel that is perfect for use in the classroom. Its relatable characters, universal themes, and alignment with the curriculum make it an ideal choice for teachers. Additionally, the short length and engaging storyline make it easy for students to read and understand. If you are looking for a novel that will captivate your students’ attention and teach valuable life lessons, Stone Fox” is a wonderful choice.

You can purchase this novel study at the following locations:



Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank


*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

The Crazy, Silly Joy of Wayside School

The Crazy, Silly Joy of Wayside School

One of my favorite children’s authors is Louis Sachar. I love his quirky sense of humor, and even more, I love sharing this humor with my students and giggling right along with them! I have many “inside jokes” with my students where the humor brings us together as a community. I am a big advocate for humor in children’s literature because it draws out those reluctant readers and shows them how truly enjoyable reading can be. Often this spark gets these students exploring other forms of literature and leads them on a journey of a lifelong love of reading.

One of my favorite Louis Sachar books is Sideways Stories From Wayside School. Even though I have read this book, and the two sequels, more times than I can count, I still get a chuckle each and every time. The Wayside School series is the great for a class read-aloud or to use as a novel study.


Sideways Stories is told from the point of view of Louis the Yard Teacher, which Louis Sachar based on himself. He spent a college semester working as an aid in an elementary school and spent some of that time as “Louis the Yard Teacher”. Sachar also based most of his characters from the book on students he worked with during that time. Sideways Stories was Louis Sachar’s first book, published in 1978, but it took several years to gain widespread popularity.

Wayside School was an architectural mistake. It was mistakenly built 30 stories tall with only one classroom per story. The story revolves around the class on the 30th story. The book begins by telling us the story of the teacher on the 30th story, Mrs. Gorf. Mrs. Gorf has a special talent that leads to her demise and is replaced by Mrs. Jewls in chapter 2. Mrs. Jewls is a sweet but somewhat naive teacher, which leads to big laughs. A lot of humor comes from Mrs. Jewls’ seemingly lack of common sense. The other teacher discussed in the last chapter is Louis the Yard Teacher. All the rest of the chapters (there are 30, of course!) detail a student. Each student is unique in some ironic, humorous way.

I have used this book in several different ways in my classroom. First, I have used it as a read-aloud to spark a sense of community. Reading, discussing, and laughing together brings a class together. I can read this at the beginning of the year and still have kids quoting it or bringing up a joke at the end of the year. I have yet to find a child who did not thoroughly enjoy this book.

I have used this book as a whole class novel unit as well as a small literature circle group unit. I have also used this book as an independent study unit for students. I created a unit to accompany Sideways Stories From Wayside School and each of the sequels, Wayside School is Falling Down and Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger.

See what people are saying about the Wayside School Novel Studies by The Teaching Bank!

Reasons to Use the Wayside School Series for Novel Studies
  • Engaging storytelling: The Wayside School series is full of humor and unique storytelling that keeps students engaged and entertained.

  • Relevant themes: The books explore themes such as friendship, perseverance, and individuality that are relatable to students and promote important life lessons.

  • Easy-to-follow narrative: The books are written in a simple and straightforward style, making them accessible to students of all reading levels.

  • Diverse characters: The series features a diverse cast of characters, offering students the opportunity to see themselves and others represented in literature.

  • Cross-curricular connections: The Wayside School series can be used to connect with other subjects, such as history, mathematics, and social studies, making it a versatile tool for teachers.

Try a free sample of the novel study for Sideways Stories from Wayside School 

 

Whether you use these books for the whole class, small group, or individual instruction, you will find your students laughing and truly enjoying reading. Even if you don’t use these units in your class, include them in a class library for your students to read or read as a class read-aloud. Whatever you do, make sure your students have access to these books! They are so much fun and really open up the reading world for those reluctant readers!

You can purchase this novel study which contains both a printable and a Google Drive™ format at the following locations:

                                                                       

                                                                       

                                                                         

You can also buy all three units together in a discounted bundle!



Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank


*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

Wishtree in your Classroom!

Wishtree in your Classroom!

A friend recently suggested a new book to me, Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. Katherine Applegate is the author of the beloved book, The One and Only Ivan, which I absolutely adore so I went straight to Amazon to purchase and I am so glad I did!

You first realize this book is narrated by a tree. A tree? Doesn’t sound super exciting, but it really is. The story is written in such a beautifully poetic way and how the author ties current events is mesmerizing and thought-provoking. The reader is left with a lot to contemplate about how we treat others, especially those that are different than ourselves.

Click the book photo to learn more about this book and to read an excerpt.

These lessons are so needed in classrooms today. This book is sure to hook any reader and make them think and philosophize. I highly recommend using this in your classroom!

See what people are saying about the Wishtree Novel Study by The Teaching Bank!

 

Wishtree is a novel that can serve as a valuable novel study resource.
  • Wishtree promotes empathy and encourages readers to see the world from different perspectives.
  • Wishtree tackles important social issues such as discrimination and tolerance, making it an educational tool for teaching these concepts.
  • Wishtree is written in a captivating and engaging style that holds the reader’s attention and keeps them invested in the story. 
  • Using Wishtree as a novel study will help improve reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.

 

Try a free sample of the novel study for Wishtree 

 

You can purchase this novel study which contains both a printable and a Google Drive™ format at the following locations:



Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank


*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.