Some of my most vivid childhood memories of school were the novel studies that we read for various subjects. It was my most favorite way to learn skills, history, any topic really! I am a lover of books and getting 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 is novel studies! I love to introduce new books to students and as a community, get immersed in the book together. I love for a student to pull us off the schedule with a question or comment from something they read that leads the class in a lively discussion. That’s where the real memorable learning takes place after all!
Novel studies are my largest 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, all of my novel studies include comprehension questions, vocabulary/grammar skill work, extension activities, and assessments. Today’s post, part 1, deals with the comprehension aspect of the novel studies.
Novel Studies Part 1: Comprehension
In my opinion, one of the most compelling reasons to use whole novels in your reading instruction is to boost the comprehension skills of your students. A complete novel allows the student to delve deep into the character’s minds and work through the plot from a detailed beginning to an end. You just can’t achieve this level of deep understanding and thinking using short passages only. Students need to be exposed to all methods of reading instruction and complete novel studies fulfill a critical piece of the puzzle.
In order for your student to dig deep into the comprehension, they need to be able to have the time to get lost in the narrative. Complete chapters will help them fall into the world of their book. The goal here is for students to be thinking at the higher levels of the cognitive domain and to immerse themselves in the affective domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
To achieve this I only use narrative questioning for my novel studies. The student needs to write out a complete statement in order to answer the question. Multiple-choice questioning for this is just not adequate to get the student to move beyond the lowest level of knowledge questioning of Bloom’s. You don’t want students doing quick guessing games to show what they’ve learned as they move through the book!
Here’s an example from chapter 1 of the comprehension questions from my Fish in a Tree Novel Study.
You can see that the questions will not allow the student to quick-skim the book. They can only answer if they’ve read and the questions force them to think through the thought processes of the character and to put themselves into the character’s shoes. This type of questioning will take the student into the highest levels of both the cognitive and affective domains of Bloom’s.
You can also see that there are only 5 questions for the chapter. The questioning I use in my novel studies generally is only 1-6 questions per chapter. Students don’t need to be inundated with questions to dig deep and to show understanding of what they’ve read. If the questioning is thorough only a few questions are needed. I try to have at least one question per chapter no matter how small it is. Of course, there are some exceptions where a chapter is so short that it’s not necessary to assign questions just for the sake of assigning work.
Another reason for not overburdening the students with questions is to minimize the disruptions as they read. The more they have to stop to answer questions the less likely they are to get lost in the story. You want them to go all in!
All of my novel studies offer a Google Drive™ format to use with your students in addition to the printable format that is shown above. This allows you to use novel studies in a 1:1 classroom, to save paper, and to easily engage students that are absent. Here’s an example page from the Google Drive™ format of my Esperanza Rising Novel Study.
Going through a story in this manner in regards to comprehension has worked very well for me. It forces those reluctant readers to put forth the effort in letting themselves read deeply. The non-reluctant readers will just be thrilled to be reading a complete book so you’ve already hooked them!
Join me for part 2 in my series to learn the methods I use to try to turn my students into book detectives with vocabulary/grammar skill work using novel studies.
You can find my Fish in a Tree Novel Study and Esperanza Rising Novel Study that are mentioned above in my store. I also offer over 90 titles ranging from grades 1 to 8 where I am sure you’ll find something to engage your class in some deep reading.
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!