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How To Teach Novel Studies: Part 1 Comprehension

How To Teach Novel Studies: Part 1 Comprehension

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!

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

Take a Lit-Trip with Esperanza Rising!

Take a Lit-Trip with Esperanza Rising!

I came across a wonderful discovery, Google Lit Trips! 

This site is amazing to expand the background knowledge of a novel and to add a whole new dimension to the book. From the Google Lit Trip site:

What is a Google Lit Trip?

Lit Trips are downloadable files that mark the journeys of characters from famous literature on the surface of Google Earth. Along the way, placemarks with pop-up windows contain “just in time” resources including relevant media, thought-provoking discussion starters, and links to supplementary information about “real world” references in that portion of the story. The focus is on creating engaging and relevant literary experiences for students.

It is free to use for individual educators and classroom teachers. There is an option to sign up for a multi-user registration to use within a classroom. All you’ll need on your computer is to download Google Earth. The Google Lit Trip “Getting Started” page explains all you need to do.

One of the available titles for a Google Lit Trip is Esperanza Rising, by Pam Múnoz Ryan.

This Google Lit Trip maps Esperanza’s trip from her home in Mexico to California.


Along the way, you can make a stop and read about the location. This information can tie into the story and/or add background information to the reader to enhance the story using photos, videos, Google Earth visuals, and descriptive information.


If you are using my Esperanza Rising Novel Study, I highly recommend you check out this accompanying Lit Trip to enhance the learning and enjoyment of the novel for your students.

I can’t sing the praises of this Lit Trip highly enough. It is such a fantastic addition to using this novel in the classroom.


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 Inspiration of Esperanza Rising

The Inspiration of Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, is a wonderful book to use for a novel study or for literature circles in the classroom. Esperanza Rising was published in 2000 and has received numerous awards, including the Pura Belpré Award, an award honoring the excellent portrayal of Latino experience in children’s literature.

 

 

 

Summary of Esperanza Rising*: 
Esperanza believed her life would be wonderful forever. She would always live on her family’s ranch in Mexico. She would always have fancy dresses and a beautiful home filled with servants. papa and Abuelita would always be with her.

But a sudden tragedy shatters her world and forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California, where they settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for hard labor, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, and lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick, and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances – because Mama’s life and her own depend on it.

from the book jacket

This is a great Depression Era novel to use in the classroom to help students understand the struggles of the era, especially the plight of the Mexican farm workers as they struggle to adapt and survive in the United States. A great novel that shows how perseverance will overcome adversity.

This is a great novel to accompany a study of:

  • Mexican Repatriation and how the Mexican Immigration Policy has been dealt with by the U.S. government in the past and present day.
  • The Dust Bowl and migrant workers.
  • The role of unions in the American economy
  • Incorporate with a unit during Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-October 15)

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Esperanza Rising 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.

The book also leads to an in-depth exploration of the character study of Esperanza as she suddenly falls from her comfortable perch as the beloved child of a wealthy landowner surrounded by family and servants to quickly becoming a servant herself among an extended family of immigrant farm workers. The changes that Esperanza undergoes as she discovers herself and her strengths as she grows from a pampered child into a resourceful and responsible young woman are ripe for discussion and detailed study.

 


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.