So many of my ELA colleagues start out the school year excited, full of energy, with extra enthusiasm for teaching the pleasures of reading. But over the first couple months, I notice that our textbooks that teach reading often drain our passion for reading and teaching reading.
There is another way.
Instead of saving our novel studies for the end of the year after we’ve taught all the foundational skills and before all the standardized testing, do the opposite. Use a novel study as a comprehensive introduction to the core skills needed in reading.
Here’s why this works:
- Reference. We teach theme, plot, character, setting, and story structure all one at a time. I know it’s essential to teach only one skill at a time, but nothing says to have to teach them all first, before you introduce a long work. The novel study also allows you to model the use of text-based evidence, writing essays of response, and to build vocabulary.
- Relevance. As the whole class reads the same work at the same pace, disparate reading levels come together. We teachers can avoid digging for what we think the students know as we try to create meaning. We can stop asking searching questions like “what movies have you seen lately?” or “what television shows do you watch?” With a novel study, we’re all on the same page, referring back to the theme, or plot, or other specific example of a concept.
- Fun. How many of you can’t wait to teach a novel at the end of the year? If you love to read, you love teaching novel studies. If you can’t imagine any other reason to teach a novel at the beginning of the year, start your year with fun for you and your kiddos; that’s reason enough.
If you’re still not convinced, I’ve made it easy for you. Here are some wonderful, standards-based novel studies listed below, with resources from Teachers Pay Teachers.
I’m excited my fifth grade team will be teaching “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl to begin the year. I seriously can’t wait to get my kids in the classroom so we can read it together.
As always, when you’re happy, your students are happy. Get started now!