How to Teach Novel Studies Part 5: Assessment

How to Teach Novel Studies Part 5: Assessment

Some of my most vivid childhood memories of school were the novel studies I read for various subjects. It was my favorite way to learn skills, history, and any topic! I love books, and being allowed to read an entire book from cover to cover as a school assignment put me in heaven! I am sure this is a major reason why, as a teacher, my passion is to create and teach novel studies! I love introducing new books to my class, and as a community, being immersed in the book together. I love it when a student pulls us off the schedule with a question or comment from something they read and leads the class into a lively discussion. That’s where the real memorable learning takes place, after all!

I create novel studies more than any other product line simply because I like to focus on what I love. I want to work with my passion! I often get questions from readers asking how I would set up novel studies in my classroom. I decided to write a small series explaining my methods. For the most part, my novel studies include comprehension questions, vocabulary/grammar skill work, extension activities, and assessments.

Today’s post, part 5, is the conclusion of the series dealing with the assessment aspect of using novel studies. You can read Part 1Part 2,  Part 3, and Part 4 here.

Novel Studies Part 5: Assessment

Assessment of a novel study can be a tricky thing to handle. My main objective, in addition to hitting skills, is to hook the student on the enjoyment of reading a good book. Too much assessment can kill that joy, but we need some way to assess that the skills are met. It’s a delicate balance.

I often get questions from potential buyers asking if there are assessments after every chapter of my novel studies. I kind of cringe when I get these questions because I can only imagine the dread the students must have if they are tested after every chapter! Testing is not the only way to assess if a student has read and understood. In my experience, class discussions and the writing in the comprehension answers are more than sufficient evidence of learning and understanding by the student. It is imperative when using novel studies not to lose focus and kill the joy of reading for your students! Your goal is for them to voluntarily pick up another book to read when a novel study is over, not run as far as they can from books!

I understand that assessments are helpful and necessary, but they should be appropriate and not overwhelming. For many of my novel studies, I have split the book into logical sections and have an assessment after each section. For example, you’ll find my Wonder, Projekt 1065, and Tuck Everlasting novel studies in this format.

For some, I only offer assessments after completion of the book for comprehension, vocabulary, and longer paragraph-writing essay questions. The end-of-the-novel comprehension quiz includes both a multiple-choice and a short answer format for differentiation. A multiple-choice quiz for vocabulary and a paragraph-writing assessment is included with each novel study. You can see an example of this from my Turtle in Paradise Novel Study.

All of my novel studies offer a Google Drive™ format, in addition to the printable format, shown above, to use with your students. This allows you to use novel studies in a 1:1 classroom, save paper, and easily engage students who are absent. The assessments are included as multiple-choice questions in a Google Forms™ format so that they are self-grading. Here’s an example page from the  Google Drive™ format of my A Wrinkle in Time Novel Study.

The key, in my opinion, is not to overdo the testing. You need to be able to assess the students’ understanding of what they are reading, which can be done in many different ways that aren’t paper and pencil testing. Don’t kill the love the student is developing for the book you are reading!

I hope this series has been helpful to you in planning to use novels in your classroom. I promise you will not be sorry, you may just be the spark that takes your student on a lifetime love of reading!

You can find  Where the Red Fern Grows Novel StudyWonder Novel Study, Hatchet Novel Study, Tuck Everlasting Novel Study, Projekt 1065 Novel Study, and A Wrinkle in Time Novel Study that are mentioned above here in my store or at my TpT store. I also offer over 100 titles ranging from grades 1 to 8 where I am sure you’ll find something to engage your class in some deep reading.


To read Part 1: Comprehension

To read Part 2: Vocabulary

Part 3: Pacing

Part 4: Extras!





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’s Most Frequently Asked Questions-FAQ

The Teaching Bank’s Most Frequently Asked Questions-FAQ

Here are a few of the most frequent questions that I am asked from buyers, and potential buyers, about my resources. Hopefully, you will find these answers helpful.

If you cannot find the answer to your question. Please email me directly.Email The Teaching Bank

The Teaching Bank PDF FAQs5 The Teaching Bank PDF FAQs6


If you still have questions, please email me directly.Email The Teaching Bank

The Overuse and Negative Impact of Standardized Testing

The Overuse and Negative Impact of Standardized Testing

In the world of education, standardized tests have become the be-all and end-all. The purpose of these tests is to measure students’ knowledge, skills, and abilities in various subjects. However, the overuse of standardized testing is causing more harm than good and oftentimes, doesn’t measure what we are looking for.

The negative impact of the overuse of standardized testing and the need for a change in the current education system.
  • Impact on Student Well-Being: One of the most significant negative impacts of standardized testing is the pressure it places on students. The pressure to perform well on these tests can lead to anxiety, stress, and even depression. This stress can take a toll on students’ mental and emotional health, affecting their overall well-being. Moreover, students may feel that their worth is solely determined by their test scores, leading to a lack of confidence and a negative self-image. This stress can be felt on the teacher side as well, with the burden of the outcome on their shoulders, when they have very little impact on the overall results.
  • Narrowing of the Curriculum: The overreliance on standardized testing can lead to a narrowing of the curriculum. Teachers may feel pressure to focus their lessons solely on what will be covered on the tests (teaching to the test), rather than allowing for a broad and comprehensive education. This narrow focus on test preparation can limit students’ exposure to a wide range of subjects and learning experiences, leading to a lack of creativity and critical thinking skills.
  • Inaccurate Representation of Student Ability: Standardized tests are meant to measure student knowledge, but they often fall short of accurately representing a student’s abilities. These tests are limited in scope and do not take into account factors such as cultural background, learning styles, and life experiences. Some kids have test anxiety and are just not good “test-takers”. As a result, many students may score poorly on standardized tests but have a wealth of knowledge and skills in other areas.
  • Lack of Diversity in Education: The overuse of standardized testing can also lead to a lack of diversity in education. Tests are often designed to measure a narrow range of knowledge and skills, failing to recognize and accommodate diverse learning styles and cultural backgrounds. This can lead to a one-size-fits-all approach to education, leaving many students feeling disengaged and uninspired.

The overuse of standardized testing is having a negative impact on education. It is time for a change in the current system, focusing on a more well-rounded and comprehensive approach to education. This change should include a reduction in the reliance on standardized tests and an emphasis on creativity, critical thinking, and a diversity of learning experiences. Our students are failing, our schools are failing, and standardized tests are just not the answer.

Multiple Choice Questioning: Pros and Cons for Effective Assessment

Multiple Choice Questioning: Pros and Cons for Effective Assessment

Multiple-choice questioning is a popular form of assessment that has been widely used in educational settings for decades. While multiple-choice questions are easy to grade and score, they also have cons, making them suitable for some types of assessments and not for others.

Pros of Multiple Choice Questioning:

  • Ease of Grading: One of the biggest advantages of multiple-choice questions is that they are easy to grade and score. Since the options are pre-determined, the answer can be quickly checked against the correct response. This is especially useful in large classrooms where a teacher may not have enough time to grade each answer individually.
  • Objectivity: Multiple choice questions are considered to be more objective than other types of questions. This is because the answer is pre-determined, reducing the potential for subjective grading.
  • Versatility: Multiple choice questions can be used to assess a wide range of topics, making them suitable for many different types of assessments. Whether it is a science test or a history exam, multiple-choice questions can be tailored to suit the subject matter.
  • Time-Saving: Multiple choice questions can be completed relatively quickly, making them ideal for time-sensitive assessments. This is particularly useful for exams where time constraints are a factor.

Cons of Multiple Choice Questioning:

  • Limited Assessment Capabilities: Multiple-choice questions are limited in their ability to assess a student’s understanding of a subject. Since the answer is pre-determined, students are not able to elaborate on their thoughts or provide a more in-depth explanation of their knowledge.
  • Potential for Guesswork: Multiple-choice questions can encourage guesswork, especially when students are unsure of the answer. This can result in inaccurate results and a misleading representation of the student’s understanding of the material.
  • One-Dimensional: Multiple-choice questions are one-dimensional, meaning that they only assess one aspect of a student’s understanding of the material. This can result in a limited understanding of the student’s overall grasp of the subject.
  • Memorization vs. Understanding: Multiple-choice questions can also encourage memorization rather than true understanding of the material. This is because students may be able to correctly answer a question without truly understanding the concepts behind it.

I have a strong feeling about multiple-choice, more of a hate/love relationship. I feel it can encourage too much guessing and doesn’t give enough valid data on what a student has truly learned. I saw this in my classroom, usually with the students who struggle the most.

Students who were secure in their knowledge of the subject area will do fine, no matter the questioning format. I see this so much with my own son’s struggles in school. When given a multiple-choice test, more often than not, he’ll just make a guess, sometimes not even bothering to read the questions! In creating work for him, I always avoid using multiple choice, except in limited situations. When given a short answer question, he is much more apt to look for the answer using context or work the problem out for himself. If the option to guess is there, he’ll always choose it, and he’ll keep guessing until he’s eliminated the three wrong answers. Yes, he’ll eventually get the correct answer, but does that show he knew the content or was just successful at guessing?

I know multiple choice can be a huge time saver for the teacher. It is much quicker and easier to correct papers with multiple choice rather than written answers, but is it the right choice? What is our ultimate objective? To know the student understood and learned what we were teaching, right? How can we be sure that the objective was met with multiple-choice? Was the answer from retained knowledge or a lucky guess?

There are some cases (when done correctly) where I think M/C is fine. In a math problem for instance:

The problem on the left is wrong because the most common mistake a student will make in this instance is the misuse of PEDMA. The student will work the problem from left to right and end up with 6 for the answer. If this is one of the answer options, they will choose it and move on, not having any idea that they made a mistake. If they worked the problem in this manner, and 6 was not an option, they would know a mistake was made and go back to check their work. Of course, the guesser, who doesn’t even work out the problem, could guess in either case, but usually, a student will stop to take a closer look. I am not an advocate for tricking students. and in this example, that is exactly what is happening. It’s much less discouraging to a child to rework to find a correct answer than to get a test back that they failed due to being tricked!

One of the primary resources I offer is novel studies.  In my novel studies, there are only two places where you will find multiple-choice options. First, the vocabulary quiz, where the sentence including the targeted word is given, along with four choices for students to choose the definition. Again, there are the guessers who will guess anything, but most students will be able to decipher the correct definition of the word used in context after the successful completion of the novel study activities.

The other multiple-choice option I offer is parts of a comprehension quiz. I try to balance multiple-choice and short-answer questions to best gauge students’ understanding of the novel and to address higher-order thinking questioning for rigor.

I only use short-answer questions in the daily comprehension portion of the novel study itself. I feel very strongly that while reading the book, the student should be thinking deeply about what they’re reading. Using multiple-choice for comprehension during the reading of the novel encourages the student to skim the text for the answer. It also means most of your questioning will be recall level, the lowest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I use novel studies to get away from the more superficial reading that students encounter with basal series activities. My goal in using novel studies is to get my student engaged in a novel, to think deeply about the character’s motives, make inferences, point of view, plot, foreshadowing, etc. I don’t believe this can be accomplished by using multiple-choice questions. I feel this adds rigor and integrity to my novel studies. I know there are some buyers who are disappointed in this stance, and I know that some buy from my competitors looking for something quick and easy, but it’s a core value that I feel very strongly about.

Multiple-choice questioning can be an effective method of assessment when used correctly and in the proper context. However, this style of questioning should not be relied upon as the sole method of assessment due to its limitations. To achieve a well-rounded understanding of a student’s knowledge and abilities, a combination of different types of questioning should be used, including open-ended questions and essay-style assessments.

Another reason I stay away from multiple-choice testing is it is far too similar to standardized testing, which I am not a fan! Mainly for all the reasons stated above. I want my students to be deep thinkers, not guessers. Of course, the whole topic of standardized testing is a post for another day! 😉

Using Google Classroom to Survive E-Learning Days

Using Google Classroom to Survive E-Learning Days

Having your students there in front of you is obviously the ideal way to monitor their understanding of a topic, to see the need for differentiating the instruction, etc. There are days, however, where this just might not be possible. With more and more students having access to laptops and other devices the “free” snow-days of the past are being turned into E-Learning days more frequently in order to avoid adding days to the end of the school year.

man clearing snow with a snowblower in a blizzard

Natural disasters are causing schools to close for short periods of time, for example, here in Nebraska many schools had to deal with flooding issues last spring and again in the fall which got a bit chaotic with school closings. Sometimes, it’s just the individual student missing out due to a short illness, to a student with an extended illness that prevents them from being in the classroom for a long period of time.

Another example is, homeschoolers might be using e-learning in their co-op groups/classes. There are many different reasons that we might not be able to be in front of our students in a literal way, but thanks to technology we can be in front of them in a virtual way during times of need.

As a curriculum writer, I try and incorporate as many choices and options as possible in my products. I know when I was teaching so many different things would come up and a simple textbook is just not designed to handle the changes and issues that come at you every day. My philosophy holds that ideally, a student will have that book in hand and be using as many of their senses to fully move that information from learning to knowledge. All of my products have a hands-on component that is printable and tangible that the student and teacher can work with together.

I also am a practical person and know that this ideal is not always possible so I have also added to almost all of my products a Google Drive format so the teacher has options. The Google Drive format covers all the same areas but can be done in a paperless environment using Google Drive (Slides and Forms).

The majority of my printable & Google format products are a mix of novel studies, social studies, and financial literacy materials. I also have a few ELA and Math centers that are interactive for Google Drive in addition to printable. In every download, you will find the full printable content as well as a page like this that contains links to add the Google format files to your Google Drive along with directions on how to do it.

Once you click that link your file will now appear in your Google Drive account. It is named “Copy of File Name”. You can easily change that to whatever you want it to be simply by clicking on the name box. From there you can assign the files to your students using Google Classroom.

How to use Novel Studies in an E-Learning Format?

For novel studies, your students will still need a copy of the novel to accompany the printable or Google Drive format of the novel study. With that copy, they can move through the novel study answering the comprehension questions, vocabulary activities, and extended writing activities all in the Google Slides, just as they can with the printable version. The teacher can monitor their progress in Google Classroom and I would suggest check-ins with small groups of students using platforms such as Google Talk (also known as Google Hangouts or Google Chat) or Zoom, to touch base with your students with a discussion of what they’ve read to make sure they are understanding the content and help them dig deeper in their understanding of the novel. This would be the same thing you would do with class discussions in the classroom, just using technology to cover the distance between you.

All of my novel studies contain assessments that can be completed in Google Forms. All of the multiple-choice comprehension and vocabulary assessments are self-grading which saves you a ton of time! The writing assessments can’t be in a self-grading format since they are not multiple choice in nature, but there are generally only one to two questions per assessment and can be turned in via Google Classroom for you to read and grade.

How to use Social Studies and Financial Literacy Activities in an E-Learning Format?

My social studies and financial literacy formats are very similar to the novel studies in Google format, however, there is no book or textbook needed to complete them. I include Webquest links for learning content and include slideshow presentations in all of my social studies materials to help the student gain the knowledge to complete the activities.

Again, Google Slides is used for the slideshows and for the completion of activities. Google Forms is incorporated in some of the financial literacy activities in the Escape Room activities to explore the content in addition to the Google Slides.

How to use ELA and Math Centers in an E-Learning Format?

All of the interactive ELA and Math Centers are completed in Google Slides. Students will manipulate the components to practice the skills. This can be monitored by the teacher in Google Classroom.

What can I do if my student doesn’t have access to equipment or the internet?

Most of us take for granted that we have access to computers/laptops and internet access at home. We know that there are some students where it is simply not accessible to them. In public schools, we have the obligation to provide equity for our students. If your school doesn’t have 1:1 capability or you have a student who does not have access at home again, all of my materials are also provided in a printable format within the same product download. All these activities are the same, just on paper instead of the computer. You can send these packets home with your students. To touch base you could try phone calls with those students or maybe something like Facetime or Skype if they have access to that via a parent cell phone. Again, the same content, just a different format.

Technology has given us so many options on how to work with our students. I am not an advocate for screentime for all learning as I feel very strongly that using all of our senses through reading, writing, manipulating, and discussing is the optimal way to learn, but there are times when this is not possible and I hope that my materials can help provide you with different options to utilize at various times when e-learning is called for.

Take a look at these free samples available in my store that contain both a printable and Google Drive™ format to help you get a feel for how it all works.

Sample from my Wonder Novel Study
Sample Social Studies Activity

You can find some tips in this post, Tips for Using Google Drive in Your Classroom, about how to more easily customize Google Drive products to better fit your individual needs.

How to Teach Grammar, Spelling, & Punctuation in the Language of Teens

How to Teach Grammar, Spelling, & Punctuation in the Language of Teens

I used the Daily Oral Language sentences for grammar, punctuation, and spelling practice in my classroom for years as bellwork. I saw a solid improvement in students’ everyday writing. The short morning lessons paid off and translated well to the standardized testing that the students would take during the year too. Even though I felt this method was very effective I have to admit it was fairly boring for both me and the students. I figured there had to be a better way!

In my quest I came across an article from the Los Angeles Times, about the effects of texting on the grammar skills of tween/teens:

YSK, teens 2 fluent in TXT

This particular quote caught my eye:
“Basically, kids aren’t able to “code switch” — shift between standard grammar and the abbreviations used in text messages, Sundar said. Those abbreviations have essentially become the words for them.

Adults not raised on text-friendly abbreviations in their formative years are able to shift between formal and informal language, Sundar said. Kids consuming a steady diet of “textual adaptations” aren’t.”

We all know that teens use “text speak” to communicate their ideas in the minimum of characters used. This wreaks havoc on conventional grammar, spelling, and punctuation! It is sometimes painful to read! Sadly teens are allowing this “text speak” to sneak into their everyday writing in the classroom. Students need to learn proper writing conventions for application to the real working world. How can we help our students learn to “code switch” so that they can utilize the convenience of texting but still be able to use the proper conventions of grammar, spelling, and punctuation?

I decided to combine the DOL-type practice with “text speak”. This way students get to do the practice in a way that seems more interesting and practical to them, in their “language” so to speak. At the same time they are learning that even though “text speak” has its place in casual texting conversations, conventional writing rules need to be applied in the school/work world situations. It was the best of both worlds!

The setup is the same that I used for DOL, approximately 2 sentences per day for bellwork. I have a weekly sheet with 10 sentences written in “text talk” that need to be corrected using the proper writing conventions. Each morning as bellwork the student will correct 2 sentences on their own and then as a class, we go over them as part of the morning routine.

For example:
Passage: n Aug he didnt nvr do gud

Answer: He didn’t do well in August.

As you can see it does look like some kind of Alien language! To tweens and teens, it is their language and a challenge to translate into proper English. It is almost like a puzzle to them to use the familiar text speak to get it back to regular English. It also reinforces the idea that their “text speak” is a valid form of communication and really should be acceptable among friends and casual acquaintances via texting but it is not appropriate for regular writing in school or most importantly, in the working world. This helps to clarify the difference between the two.

Try out a free sample here:

If you are looking for a practical, interesting, and dare I say, FUN way to give your middle/high school students some grammar, punctuation, and spelling practice, check out Alien Text Talk. The full product can be purchased by the quarter, the semester, or for an entire year! Each download includes a printable format, an interactive notebook format, or a digital format to use in Google Drive™!