Teaching Whole Class Novels

In today's teaching pedagogy, many teachers are abandoning whole class novels for small group novel studies, but whole class novels are still beneficial for today's students. Click to read about novel selection and engaging assignments you can use in your classroom tomorrow from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.
Whole class novels are still an important part of an English curriculum. In today’s teaching pedagogy, many teachers are abandoning whole class novels for small group novel studies. I personally love whole class novels and feel that they can definitely be a part of English class in addition to other text selections.
Whole class novels should not make up your entire English curriculum, as students benefit from a variety of instructional methods, and working in small groups with other students, but whole class novels are still beneficial for today’s students.
In this #2ndaryELA Twitter chat, teachers discussed their favourite novels to teach by grade level as well as their favourite assignments. Read the curated Twitter chat below to discover some new ideas to use in your classroom tomorrow.

Q1: What whole class novels do you usually teach? Include a grade level. 

  • Recently added novels to my honors curriculum – A Long Walk to Water and currently The Outsiders
  • Grade 9 – Night (req), Lord of the Flies, We Were Liars
  • Grade 8 – Curious Incident, The Giver, The Pearl, Bronx Masquerade
  • Crucible, Frederick Douglass, Gatsby, Catcher, Macbeth
    Grade 12: Glass Castle, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Persepolis/Maus
  • Flowers for Algernon and Anne Frank the play. Have taught Mississippi Trial. 
  • Grade 9-10 ELA in NY. IB curriculum: of mice and men, to kill a mockingbird, Catcher in the rye, non-negotiable 
  • Grade 11: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Big Fish, The Great Gatsby, Autobiography of Malcolm X, Into the Wild 
  • This year I’m teaching Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt and The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti 
  • Grade 7/8 – Hoot, Moon Bear, Holes, Coraline, Sing Down the Moon, Code Talker, Hatchet, The Egypt Game, Eight Tales of Terror 
  • Grade 7 – The Giver, Fish in a Tree
  • Grade 8 – The Outsiders 
  • Grade 12 Honours: The Little Prince, Othello, Slaughterhouse Five, The Metamorphosis
  • I’m currently teaching The Pearl. I’ve taught Lord of the Flies, I Am The Cheese, and The Outsiders
  • Grade 9 – TKAM and OMAM for novels, R&J and Into the Wild for other full-length texts 
  • We also read the short story version of Flowers for Algernon and the play version of The Diary of Anne Frank in 8th grade 
  • Grade 9 Purple Hibiscus, Grendel, Siddhartha, Bless Me Ultima, Frankenstein, Bordertown, No. 1 Ladies Detective Club 
  • We read Maniac Magee and Watson’s go to Birmingham whole class – 6th grade.
  • For high school remedial class I teach The Outsiders, the Pearl, and The Boy in the Striped PJs
  • We’re considering adding Into the Wild to English 11 for next year
  • Grade 7 is finishing up The Giver and 8th is starting The Outsiders now
  • As an IC I assist with LOTF and Whale Talk (9th); Bleachers (10th);The Giver (6th); The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (7th) 

Q2: Are your novels read as a whole class? In literature circles or book clubs? In class? Or for homework? 

  • We read 3 novels per year together and students read 1-2 novels per quarter independently. We have time for silent sustained reading in class
  • Whole class and literature circles, class time 
  • Students read novels in class, in book club groups and self select independent reading novels
  • Information about book clubs https://www.2peasandadog.com/2016/12/online-book-clubs-for-middle-and-high.html 
  • Mix of whole group and lit. circles; one of each a semester. Time to read in class with deadlines either for roles or daily
  • As a class
  • We read them as a class. I’ll read to them or we listen to the audio version. For the plays we pick parts! 
  • Full-class. Have done independent reading projects in the past, but no co-ordinated texts/groups separately other than summer reading
  • In 6th grade language arts, we tried book clubs. Students were given choices based on Lexile level. We had 11 books options to choose from 
  • Whole class. Same kids do work regardless of format. Should change it up. Believe in reading entire novel, avoid homework reading
  • For middle school I teach as lit circles,- reading as homework.
  • For high school remedial as whole class and most of it is read-aloud
  • Novels are whole class and read partially in class and partially for homework
  • Summer is from a list, most novels are read at home (or not), while we read Shakespeare, self-selected 
  • Combination of all. In class with most complex texts, some small group, independent reading through Google classroom 

Q3: What are the most important skills for you to cover when reading a whole class novel?

  • Analyzing how particular elements interact
  • Elements of a novel i.e. plot, conflict, theme etc. also Literary Elements. We also read just to enjoy a good story
  • Plot peak, types of conflict, theme! My students struggle with theme vs topic. Want them to be able to make real world connections
  • Literary elements, close reading, reading skills like inference, using schema, figurative language especially with Steinbeck! 
  • Analysis of elements connection to self and world. If I had time to read in class I’d also focus on reading skills
  • Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text
  • Help students make connections to classic texts & structures. Recognizing character archetypes, literary devices, & author style 
  • Big proponent of authors choice/intent. Takes them away from standard comprehension, not one right answer, opens up predictions
  • Critical thinking, evaluating and analyzing conflict, characters, plot. Also work on inferencing or predictions
  • Mostly elements of a story, figurative language 
  • I also have students connect to the text. My students have six different ways to respond for our lit groups
  • For senior honors we focus a lot on literary theory 
  • Just five things: how to think, read, write, listen, and speak. All done through text analysis, synthesis, and evaluation 
  • Why an author chooses to write what he/she does
  • For reg. seniors, making connections between a text and the “big ideas.” Taking ideas from text to support collegial discussion… and writing with text evidence (synthesizing & citing) 
  • 9H, analysis of how devices contribute to theme, and analysis of text evidence over summary
  • We focused on characterization and narrator’s point of view. Students also summarized, led discussions, and searched for FL 

Q4: Describe the most engaging activities that accompany your whole class novel studies.

  • Last year, author chats with Suzanne Young (The Program) and Betsy Cornwell (Mechanica). Students prepped all questions & thank you cards. https://twitter.com/teachnouvelle/status/836747948549685248/photo/1
  • Students recently read a Biography and created a symbolic cardboard representation of their person
  • Group discussions – I’ll have students lead their own discussion and take the entire hour talking about their book
  • This year we had Brian Walls (Jeanette’s brother) come talk to us after Glass Castle
  • Students create a Watson’s go to Birmingham scrapbook based on the family road trip to Birmingham in 1963 
  • Anything real world, connecting with other classes via Skype, Breakout EDU, Goose Chase scavenger hunts, blogging 
  • Socratic Seminar, Fish Bowl, create a math equation/graph to represent a theme of the novel, write an epilogue/final chapter 
  • We read Orbiting Jupiter students wrote blog posts that students at other schools read & responded to – was part of the global read aloud
  • with TKM, argument writing on equality with Google doc feedback from my old friends who have more perspective/life experience 
  • Loving #BookSnaps from @TaraMartinEDU – 21st century annotating
  • Anything real world, connecting with other classes via Skype, Breakout EDU, Goose Chase scavenger hunts, blogging 
  • Online discussions (new for me this year), anticipation guides that get my students thinking about the big ideas, choice boards
  • Character silhouettes are awesome http://www.theliterarymaven.com/2014/12/character-activity-close-reading.html 
  • Maniac Magee caricatures of one of the characters and do an I am poem about that character

Q5: Share a resource for teaching a novel that you find invaluable (book, article, blog post, type of technology, etc.).

  • Google Cultural Institute!
  • I’ve also used @StoryboardThat for a lot of presentations – character traits, favorite scenes 
  • These are free reading placemats I made to help students capture their thinking during/after reading https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Book-Club-Discussion-Organizer-959660 
  • I love Critical Encounters in HS
  • Yes! We use Animoto for our independent reading books but would love to see how they differ with one text
  • Creating silent movies
  • As a book I like How to Read Literature Like a Professor (high school)
  • Shakespeare Set Free series, Mary Ellen Dakin books, @KellyGToGo
  • I’m considering using Note and Notice with our book clubs.
  • Google classroom and the whole suite of apps. Especially Google Drawing–really getting into that lately!
  • Oh! And @ctovani, Mosaic of Thought (can’t remember authors)
  • Google Apps are life changing!!! 
  • I used a Google Drive book club format I found on TpT. Some students are using Storyboard to explain plot for a final project 

Other Reading Resources:

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