Teaching Using a Class Novel

January 7, 2024

0 minute read

Muinteoir Valerie 16

Hello everyone ,

I have the worst case of the Sunday night fear ever here! I am just not ready to get back to reality yet. I know though that once tomorrow is done though I will be fine.

I am writing this blog post now about using a novel in the classroom, namely with the senior end of the school. I have always used novels when teaching the senior classes and even the younger classes too.This blog post is going to take me ages to write because I have so much to say on this topic! I’ll start with letting you know if you want to learn more and find out in more detail about how to use the class novel in the classroom then I am doing a webinar with Sligo Education Centre on Wednesday the 10th of January at 7pm.

So when I was a child all I did was read. We read books nonstop and I think that has played a role maybe in how I use novels in the classroom. I actually remember reading the novel Holes when I was in 6th class myself and I just loved it. I think it’s something that when used correctly, can be really valuable to children. Unfortunately all the signs are there that children aren’t reading enough or as much as they would have been in the past. It is apparent in terms of vocabulary, sentence structure and concentration in general and it’s just clear that phones have taken the place of books. I think there are so many reasons for using a class novel in English but one of the main ones is to improve vocabulary ,there is simply no replacement for a book when you want to work on vocabulary.

When I heard I was going to be teaching 6th class this year the first thing I thought was okay well that’s going to be a big change and the second thing I thought was that I was really excited about using class novels again, properly where you can really go in depth with them exploring the themes, character development etc. The first novel I chose was Wonder.   Wonder was a very pleasant novel to read but it was very simple. It was well written but quite simplistic in term of vocabulary. It has a great storyline and works on some very important themes but it wouldn’t really challenge the more able children in the class.

The second novel we read was I am David and this is one of my favourite books. It tied in well because we were learning about World War 2 in term one. It is very slow moving but the character development is excellent in it and it’s just such a great story. The children are enjoying it so we’ll be finishing that up now this week.

I feel like there’s just so many opportunities when using a class novel for teaching so many different aspects of the English curriculum. So with the new language curriculum obviously the basic fundamentals are the same as they always were but there’s a bit more to the planning than there used to be.  If you like planning in a more streamlined integrated manner then the class novel is a great way of achieving this. You can get your oral language done when you’re doing your literacy circles and describing the events which took place in the novel. You’re working on reading obviously and then of course writing and how you respond to the novel.

When I’m teaching a novel, I always break it down into pre reading activities , then activities you complete day-to-day in reading chapters, and then post reading activities and discussions as well.

The main thing to remember with the novel is that while the benefits are huge it is time consuming and it’s important that you plan what you’re going to do with your novel so that you’re not just drifting day-to-day reading it. It is important to do a spider map or plan of exactly what you want to pinpoint/ achieve when reading your novel. I use a novel as a teaching tool. We read the novel. we explore it, we dissect it, we critically analyse it and we respond to it. Other people use it just for pleasure , reading to the children for ten minutes at the end of each day. It depends what you’re using the novel for but in general before I start a novel, I would have a good idea of what exactly I’m targeting . I am David is brilliant because it ties in so well with history with World War 2, with geography as David makes his way through various European countries, and it ties in with art because there’s such rich descriptions of the areas he visits. In one part David visits a little Italian village and the author describes so vividly what it looks like and the setting and that’s something which you could get children to respond to through getting them to draw or paint this scene. It ties in with drama in many different ways.

I would also say to choose your novel wisely! I’m going to share a list of novels in the next blog post which I’d recommend for 6th class but for now I’m just going to share some ideas which may be helpful!

When pre-teaching about the novel, I would show the children the cover, the name of the author and the blurb. We would talk about the cover, what it looks like, the illustrations, the name of the book, and then we’ll read the blurb together and explore/predict what we think is going to happen in the book.

I would also do a research project on the author so if there’s any podcasts available or interviews with the author, I’d recommend listening to those with the children and then you can just research their life, what made them start writing etc. I would then read the first paragraph of the book and stop there, and ask the children to write or predict the next paragraph. I would then read them the next paragraph. It is really important to spend time on pre reading strategies and skills before you dive straight into the book.

  1. Chapter summaries
  2. Dictionary work
  3. Comic strips
  4. Interview the author
  5. Character analysis
  6. Theme analysis
  7. Favourite quotes
  8. Verb/adjective/adverb hunt
  9. Design a poster for the movie of the book
  10. Write an alternative ending for the book.

Novel studies available on my blog:

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