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Making Novel Studies Engaging

Novel studies are a great way to teach reading in the upper elementary grades.  However, they can also make or break a reader.  If you, as the teacher, build engagement and enthusiasm amongst your students, a novel study can be an amazing experience.  Here are a few tips to making the most of it.

Interaction with peers
Especially in the upper grades, students LOVE to talk - so let them!  I have found that they retain so much more from the novel when they have a chance to discuss it with their classmates.  We use whole-class discussions, partner chats and even group meetings to share our thinking on a chapter.  
When working with partners, I often let them choose their own partner so that their conversation is more natural and not forced.  A student can be more restrained if they do not know their partner well.  I do keep a close eye on each pair, though, to ensure that they are staying on track.  

Oftentimes, I'll have students work as a pair and then come together as a whole group to share out.  This allows my more introverted students to have a chance to share their thinking first, without always speaking out in front of all their peers.

Less focus on the comprehension questions and vocabulary
When I first thought of novel studies, my mind immediately went to comprehension questions and vocabulary for each chapter.  I'm not going to lie, this can get pretty boring and mundane after a while.  I've found that this is when I started to lose my students.  They were no longer interested in the book, but were focused on just "getting it done."  AND their love for reading completely plummeted.  Not what I wanted as their teacher.
Yes, comprehension questions and vocabulary can be a vital tool to understanding the novel and shouldn't be thrown out completely.  Try switching it up!  Put them on task cards, so that students can move around the room.  Use them as discussion questions, so that students are actively thinking about the answers and working cooperatively with their peers.

I do still use them (and include them in my novel studies), but I aim to use them as much more than a basic questions packet.

All Hands On
This is one is my absolute favorite.  Get your students engaged!  Build excitement for your novel and keep up the enthusiasm as you continue to read.  Incorporate science, art, music, food into your lessons to make the novel interactive.  

Create projects for students to show their understanding.  If done correctly, this will have a much more lasting impression on your students than just a multiple choice test.  

To help you out, I created a free Novel Study Handbook with an extensive list of engaging activities for any novel.  Just click here to grab it.
Also, check out the book Teach Like a Pirate for a plethora of ideas to get your students actively engaged in their learning. 

Bring it Home
Figure out a way to bridge a gap between your reading and something that provides a connection to your students.  Relate the story to current events in either the world or close to their hometown.  Explain why reading the novel matters.  How does it have an affect on their own lives?

Creating a novel study can be overwhelming, especially if you have never taught one before (I've been there!).  I created a free Novel Study Handbook to guide you as you create a truly engaging experience for your students.

Not ready to start planning your own yet?  I've got them planned for you!  Check out my selection of Novel Studies here.

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