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 1, deals with the comprehension aspect of the novel studies.
Novel Studies Part 1: Comprehension
One of the most compelling reasons to use whole novels in your reading instruction is to boost comprehension skills. A complete novel allows the student to delve deep into the characters’ minds and work through the plot from a detailed beginning to an end. You can’t achieve this level of deep understanding and thinking using short passages only. Students should be exposed to all methods of reading instruction, and complete novel studies fulfill a critical piece of the puzzle.
For students to dig deep into comprehension, they need 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 think at the higher levels of the analysis and evaluation levels 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 questions are 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 what the character is thinking and put themselves into the character’s shoes. This type of questioning will take the student to the highest levels of both the cognitive and affective domains of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
You can also see that there are only five questions for the chapter. The questioning I use in my novel studies is usually only 1-6 questions per chapter. Students shouldn’t be inundated with questions in order to dig deep and show an 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, sometimes it is not necessary to assign a question just for the sake of assigning work if the chapter is too short.
Another reason for not overburdening the students with questions is to minimize the disruptions as they read. The more often 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, 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. Here’s an example page from the Google Drive™ format of my Esperanza Rising Novel Study.
Going through a story in this manner in regard to comprehension has worked very well for me. It forces those reluctant readers to put forth the effort to let themselves read deeply. The non-reluctant readers will 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 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.
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!