After experimenting with various ideas of what to focus on with my novel studies (There are so many possibilities!), I finally decided to concentrate on a few key elements: common core skills, using text based evidence, and higher level thinking/reading skills. Now I have a format that I really like, and in fact I think that my novel studies were one of my best ideas this past year!
Two of the elements that I include – using text based evidence and using higher level thinking/reading skills – can be difficult to write questions for on the quick, and I thought that good novel studies with plenty of these types of questions would be the most useful for busy teachers. And from comments that I’ve received, it seems that other teachers think so too – always great to hear!
Here is how I combined these elements for each set of chapter questions:
Key Ideas and Details
Getting key ideas and details correct is at the top of the list in several grades’ reading/literature standards, so I wanted to be sure to include questions and activities about those elements. With novels, that means making sure that students get the story elements correct, and straight from the text. Characterization, setting, plot elements, themes – students need to be clear about these before they can go on to more complex, inferential questions. And when they can back up their answers with details from the text, they know they’re getting them right.
Context clues are another great place to start kid looking for text based evidence. Whether they are working on practice exercises or vocabulary from a novel, as kids learn to look for and use more types of context clues, they get more out of what they read. Kids can go back to the text of a novel to define important story vocabulary, to choose among multiple meanings of a word, to decide why an author chose a particular word to describe a character, or to complete a cloze exercise such as a chapter summary.
Making inferences is the biggie, the complex reading skill that kids can improve on throughout their years in school. It’s the basis for coming up with really good responses for many comprehension activities such as predicting, answering the harder chapter questions, determining character traits, stating themes, summarizing, and evaluating. Requiring kids to provide text based evidence for their inferences gets them in the habit of using evidence for all of their inferences later on even when they may not always have to spell out the evidence.
In my novel studies, I now include all three of these sections – Key Ideas and Details, Context Clues, and Inferences – in every set of chapter questions. These types of questions keep kids thinking and referring back to the text, and hopefully they make these novel studies a good resource for their teachers.
In addition, I also include separate activities in each of these three areas, for use after reading the novel or whenever a more comprehensive review seems appropriate.
I now also make two “side items” every time a do a new novel study. These are two smaller resources that I list separately in my store. One is usually an I Have . . .Who Has . . ? game. These little whole-class activities make a nice quick review of the “facts” before testing or other final activities for the novel.
The second thing I like to make separately is a little freebie, something that just seems to go with the specific novel. For example, for the football-themed novel CRASH, my freebie is a yearbook activity. For the novel SCHOOLED, it’s an activity about metaphors in the novel. You can find the freebies for each of my novel studies in the novel study section of my Teachers pay Teachers Store.
So what’s next? Next year I’ll probably try out a few new types of resources, and for sure I want to do more novel studies. Now I just have to decide which novel to work on next. Any suggestions?
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