I find it interesting that I could not keep up with the idea I had about teaching a novel by modeling the process by which one actually engages the content for the first time. I have not picked up the book again. The book is interesting, but the way it was being taught was not, even to me!
In the past few weeks, one of the newsletters I received contained a link to a blog post that challenged teachers to teach novels as a whole. I did not read the article on purpose because I wanted to come up with my own plan to teach novels as a whole. After writing this post, it might be time to read the article. I haven’t decided yet, however.
Here are the things that would change.
Pre-Reading Activity: The 5Ws Related to This Unit
- Who: All of us! We are in this together. I haven’t even read this book yet, so I’m in the same place you are. We have the same background knowledge of the setting of this book. We will all have questions that, hopefully, others of us can answer. We will also have reactions that first-time readers of a novel have that we can share.
- What: What’s the point? This is what is called an authentic learning experience.
- When: The novel is short, so about two weeks is a good amount of time to finish the novel. There will be another week allowed for assessment.
- Where: We’ll allot fifteen minutes a day for reading in class, but expect to read for at least fifteen more on your own time.
- When: We start today!
- Why: The hope is that some of you will start to read for pleasure and exploration more often after this experience. Give it a chance!
Post-Background Knowledge Checkpoint: The Reading Schedule
As a class, we would work out a schedule for reading and reflecting. This schedule would go onto a calendar (digital and paper) that would serve as a graphic organizer of sorts for the students. Many students carry agenda books with them these days, so it would be a perfect opportunity for them to use them for something other than going to the lav.
More importantly, however, students would feel more included in the planning process if they were to give input as to the schedule and activities. Fostering self-directed and self-regulated learning is a huge part of this unit plan; explaining that learning objective would be very important. The students should know it’s not just about the content, but also about the process and skills practiced that should transfer to their lives outside school.
Time for Reading in Class
Fifteen minutes a day would be allotted to reading in class and we would expect every student to spend fifteen more reading at home. In class, we would read aloud and students could even take certain parts if they wanted to. When we finished reading, we would agree on what page to stop reading when reading at home, so everyone stays on the same page. I would check with students to see if they were spending more than fifteen minutes reading at home because we were assigning too many pages and encourage students who were struggling to come see me and discuss their issues. This would give me a chance to differentiate instruction, help them with their reading skills, and get to know them better as people.
Time for Reflection in Class
Ten minutes would be dedicated to small-group reflection, much like a book club meeting, but spread out over the school days. Book clubs usually have discussion guides, so I would like to come up with a guide that does not require the writer of the guide to know the book. I need to revisit this idea. I could also post questions for discussion on the board based on the reading completed overnight and during the in class reading. OR, I could ask the students for discussion questions in addition to the ones I come up with. All interesting ideas that would all take a bit of practice to get right. Isn’t that the point? Modeling the behavior that you want your students to adopt?
When we are finished reading the novel, I would ask the students to do a project of their choice to demonstrate their understanding of the novel. I will write more about that later after I’ve had time to think about the types of projects I would like them to complete.
Now I want to finish the book! Interesting, isn’t it?