Why Should You Teach Novel Studies?

by Missy the Dirt Road Teacher

Novel studies are a traditional, yet sometimes controversial, classroom practice. Why should teachers do novel studies in their classrooms? There are several reasons why I believe it is important to incorporate novel studies, but first, let me tell you when and why I became adamant that novel studies would be an important part of my daily classroom routine!

Why I Believe in the Power of Novel Studies

I use novel studies for whole group reading, book clubs, and guided reading. Find out why it's so important for your students and how I make the most out of it in this blog post!

I taught first grade for many years. My favorite part of the day was the morning read aloud and book discussions. I love reading to students and engaging them in wonderful stories. Then I was moved to second grade, and I had trouble selecting stories that they probably had not heard repeatedly. Although there is a great benefit in hearing the stories repeatedly, we all know that we enjoy that first reading much more.

After just two years in second, I was moved to third grade! The DREADED testing year! My principal told me from the beginning that this was the year that made kids HATE to read! And once I got into the curriculum, I could see why!!! All the testing and boring short stories and passages…. ICK!!!!

I quickly decided that I would strive to engage my students in wonderful novels and series in which they would become hooked on characters, experience emotions, and thrive on the suspense. Since that time, I have been creating novel studies for my students that I use in a variety of ways.

I use novel studies for whole group reading, book clubs, and guided reading. Find out why it's so important for your students and how I make the most out of it in this blog post!

My students have been welcomed into third grade and comforted by the story of Suds in Third Grade Angels. They experienced his emotion as he strived to be perfect, fell short of the goal, and accepted the outcome without giving up. This novel helped build community in the classroom and establish a growth mindset as well.

Currently, my students are experiencing the sheer joy of life that Wilbur has as he builds friendships in Mr. Zuckerman’s barn. They are left in suspense at the end of almost every chapter, eager to learn about the next adventure or the next word that Charlotte will craft for her dear friend. My students are also building vocabulary and learning to use context clues for decoding… and they enjoy it in the novel study!

When you see students enjoy books like this, and even ask to take the book home to read on ahead, you know you are doing the right thing!

Why do whole group novel studies?

There are educators who don’t approve of the whole group novel study, as it is cumbersome and they believe that “for students who struggle with reading, it doesn’t help them be more confident. For those that do not struggle, it limits their reading experience in school.” However as noted, “there is powerful learning—academic, social, and personal—that can happen when a community of students experiences the world of a novel together and studies it” says Ariel Sacks on EdWeek. I believe in that powerful learning of the whole group novel study and harness it periodically throughout the year.


Boom Learning aside: One of our accelerated readers would read an advanced book and listen to the novel study. The other would draw and listen. Both expanded their reading choices through exposure to genres they would not have chosen themselves. 


The most important teaching strategy with whole group novels is that you provide the right level of support for each student. In the beginning of the year, I just read the novel to the students and have them follow along. We do the questions as a group while I teach them to refer back to the text for answers. After that, I would have students who are independent with that book level read it on their own, readers who are instructional with that level would meet briefly with me for any needed clarification and to summarize for me, while readers who would greatly struggle at that level would require me reading it to them. There would be no round robin reading in the whole group setting!

Benefits of Novel Studies:

  1. Builds community in the classroom.
  2. Engaging characters and plots keep students interested in reading.
  3. Develops vocabulary and decoding skills.
  4. Helps build stamina.
  5. Improve fluency
  6. Improve comprehension
  7. Expose students to different emotions, experiences, and environments to build compassion and background knowledge.
  8. Develops writing skills by studying the author’s craft.

Can novel studies be used in guided reading?

Incorporating novels as part of your guided reading is another way to help establish a love of reading. Using novels, instead of basals, passages, or leveled readers, keeps your students interested and wanting to read more. Debbie Diller suggests that teachers “choose a book for small group that is at students’ instructional level.”

In the guided reading model, you create small groups based on ability and choose a text at their instructional level. The teacher introduces the novel and then listens to individuals read from their copy of the text, prompting students to integrate their reading processes. Finally, the teacher will engage students in a discussion about the text. When using a novel, my small groups read one chapter or an average of about ten pages in one sitting.

Making the Most of Your Novel Study

  1. My novel studies are planned in advance with Boom Cards questions ready to go.
  2. You can easily check student progress and monitor comprehension with the Boom Learning teacher dashboard.
  3. Students enjoy the digital platform and the Boom Cards moveable pieces keep students engaged and focused, rather than just clicking an answer and going on.
  4. Students earn coins, gems, and pulses for correct answers. Teachers can develop a reward system for the points earned playing Boom Cards novel studies.
  5. There are six comprehension questions for each chapter (short chapters are sometimes combined) that provide vocabulary, context clue, and comprehension skill practice.
  6. The questions are text dependent, rigorous, and common core standard based.
  7. The questions are great practice for end-of-year standardized testing.

How to Start with Novel Studies

I use novel studies for whole group reading, book clubs, and guided reading. Find out why it's so important for your students and how I make the most out of it in this blog post!

If you are ready to start using novel studies in your classroom, I would definitely start with just one, whole group, novel study. An excellent choice is Third Grade Angels or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing at the beginning of the year. Otherwise, I suggest Charlotte’s Web or Shiloh.

In the beginning of the year, I use these novels as read alouds and let the students follow along. I do the first one or two Boom Cards decks with them following each chapter so that they understand the format, and so that I can teach them how to search the text for answers. Try out the first deck for Charlottes’ Web FREE!

Once I have done some beginning of the year testing, I have student reading levels and am able to group them. Then I select a novel at their instructional level. See my reading rotation schedule and when I meet with groups by clicking here.  On Book Club days, students meet without me and read a chapter with their group. They are allowed to help each other with the Boom Card questions as I want them talking about it and searching the text together. On Meet with Teacher days, I start our time by asking the students to summarize the book and tell me about the setting, characters, problems, and possible solutions. Then, I will address any commonly missed questions from the Boom Card decks that they have completed thus far. Before reading, I ask if students have any questions for me about the story. Next, students take turns reading from the next chapter. Finally, I may do discussion questions with them or guide them through the boom deck for that chapter.

Students will continue to read the novel until they are done. Upon completion of the novel, I give students the opportunity to be creative and collaborate on a concluding project such as a booksnap or Give me 5.

I always start new novels on the group’s Meet with Teacher day so that I can introduce the novel and build anticipation with the group.

Novel Studies for a Lifelong Love of Reading

I use novel studies for whole group reading, book clubs, and guided reading. Find out why it's so important for your students and how I make the most out of it in this blog post!

Are you ready to give novel studies a try? You can help your students develop a lifelong love of reading and improve their comprehension and test-taking skills at the same time. Don’t let boring passages and testing ruin reading for them. Try a chapter of Boom Cards for The Chocolate Touch FREE!

Missy ~ Dirt Road Teacher
Email: dirtroadteacher@gmail.com
Website: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Dirt-Road-Teacher

Using Sound in Teaching Reading

by Melissa Caudle of Rock N’ Learn

Teaching reading is extremely rewarding. Seeing the delight in children’s eyes when they discover new ideas, new people, and new worlds is an extreme joy for me. The goal in teaching reading is to help students develop a connection to the text and understand the meaning the author is trying to convey. The best way I have found to do this is to use a balanced approach in teaching reading by incorporating auditory training, decoding skills, and whole language.

Children first respond to literature when it is read to them. Parents snuggling up with their children before bedtime is usually the first time children are introduced to reading. It helps children realize that the words on the page can come alive in an expressive way. This experience can be extended in the classroom using story time and “listen to reading” centers with books on tape or CD, and even some on video. Audio books can also be found in libraries, and even in online resources, such as mycapstonelibrary.com or storylineonline.net. Listening to reading benefits all readers and even nonreaders by:

  • modeling fluid reading,
  • introducing new vocabulary,
  • developing critical listening skills,
  • demonstrating expressive reading,
  • introducing students to books that are above their reading levels,
  • providing a bridge for discussions of new ideas, and
  • and introducing new genres that students might not have normally considered.

Once children understand the benefit of reading, they need to be taught decoding skills. Phonics is a series of rules that should be taught incrementally. After rules are taught, students need to be given time to practice using those rules. Using skill sheets or games are good. Many of these can be found on boomleaning.com and teacherspayteacher.com. After learning some phonics rules, students need short reading selections that highlight the rules that have been taught. This helps them to feel successful.

mTnKhyfHcvmQiXBe4-easy-reader-bundle-cover-for-boomlearningI feel it is important to have rules presented in a story that is short enough so that students don’t get fatigued, but long enough that the story makes sense. Rock ‘N Learn has developed Boom Cards stories in which students can practice using the phonics skills they’ve been taught, and then check themselves by pressing a blue play button to have the sentence read. If children are having difficulty with particular words they can tap each word to hear it read aloud. Words that cannot be sounded out using the rules are taught at the beginning of each story and are called memory words. These Phonics Easy Reader Boom Cards can be used as an intermediate step if a child is not quite ready to read independently.

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Boom Cards decks are an excellent solution for both teachers and parents because they are device agnostic. This means that virtually any device with a browser can run these interactive digital stories and lessons.

For more from Rock N’ Learn, buy direct, or visit their Boom Cards store, Teachers Pay Teachers Store, and find them on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

Teacher Talk: Technology & Teaching

Today we are talking with Karen Busch and Belinda Vickers Givens.

Boom: Technology has entered the classroom with a vengeance. What has been your experience with technology in the classroom?

Karen: Without prioritizing technology funding, you can’t successfully integrate technology. My last year in the classroom was 2014-2015. My kindergarten classroom had three desktop computers and a smartboard that was no longer smart due to an installation error. We had one computer lab for just under 1,000 students. Kindergarten to third classrooms could sign up for once-a-week 30-minute lab sessions. Fourth through sixth shared a rolling lab.

When our kids had to take NWEA Maps tests, the computer lab would be unavailable for three weeks to accommodate all the classrooms. The first two times our kinders took the test was really hard. The kids had no idea how to drag and drop or which mouse button to click. It took forever to get them all logged in. School had just started and they couldn’t even recognize the letters in their name yet.

The year I left, we adopted My Math. The presenter showed us how you could use a tablet and smartboard to monitor and teach while walking around the classroom. We all sighed. A district representative was in the room and we begged her… can’t we AT LEAST get ONE teacher tablet per classroom? The answer was, simply, “There is no money for that at this time.”

Teacher Helping Male Elementary Pupil In Computer ClassBelinda: I currently work as a Speech Teletherapist which allows me to remotely serve students PK-12 via a secure internet connection. When I was in the public school setting, I LOVED incorporating technology into my therapy sessions but was limited to the use of my iPad. Now that my students are being seen via the computer, the sky is the limit when it comes to technology. I personally have been busy creating fun, engaging, interactive digital materials to use within a teletherapy platform. I find that when I incorporate the interests of my students into our sessions, outcomes are better, so everything I create is inspired by my students and used during our sessions. Teletherapy is a growing service delivery model and for this reason, there is certainly an increasing demand for digital resources.

Boom: Why should schools prioritize technology adoption?

Karen: Kids are comfortable with touch screen technology. They’re always using their parents’ and older siblings’ smart phone or tablet. Additionally, we didn’t like being tied down to the front of the classroom. We wanted the freedom to walk amongst our students while teaching and displaying on the smart board.

Belinda: I want what’s best for my students. In the 21st-century classroom, technology is an absolute must to effectively prepare our students for careers. The reality is kids love technology and I use this to my advantage. Learning should be fun, engaging, and challenging. I’m able to keep my students engaged and capitalize on their strengths while addressing their weakness through the use of technology.

Boom: Karen, based on your experience, what shouldn’t schools do?

Karen: They shouldn’t prevent teachers from using technology. We couldn’t even use our personal tablets because our district blocked us from connecting ANYTHING, even our cell phones, to their internet Wi-Fi.  We can’t teach our kids how to use a mouse, a keyboard, or how to navigate online or inside apps or web pages without access to computers. My district let their teachers and, more importantly, their students down.

Boom: Belinda, you have students who must have technology to participate. How do you use that to improve outcomes?

Belinda: I have a number of “go to” apps in my inventory and in the past, I would utilize iPads to incorporate them into my face-to-face sessions. Now through the use of teletherapy platforms, I’m less limited and I’m able to share my screen with my students to use a wide variety of educational apps. When my students are engaged, their outcomes are always better. When I customize my sessions to incorporate their interests, I have seen increased gains in a shorter amount of time.

Boom: Both of you have recently started creating Boom Cards teaching resources. What needs do you think they meet?

Karen: I think they meet the need of having kids get the practice and intervention they need with immediate feedback. If my district had enough PCs for all students, then Boom Cards would also meet the needs of allowing my students to practice drag and drop and which button to click with the mouse when selecting an answer.

Belinda: Boom Cards are a fun, interactive way to engage my students. Not to mention that they are self-grading and fully customizable! I can address so many targets and my students really enjoy them.

Boom: Karen, if you were in the classroom today, how would you use Boom Cards?

Karen: I would use them on the desktop PCs when we visited the computer lab once weekly. I would also use them on my smart board and allow kids to take turns selecting the answers by using my laptop which was hooked up to the board. Ideally, I would have enough desktops, tablets, or other devices in the classroom to have at least a group of five or more kids using the Boom Cards during RTI to work on their individual needs. I miss the classroom. 


Belinda is a Speech Language Pathologist. Practicing for 11 years, she is licensed in Florida, California, Washington, and Vermont. She currently is a teletherapist serving pre-K to twelfth-grade students. She is the co-owner of Infinity Rehabilitation, LLC and the creator and owner of BVG SLP, which creates digital therapy materials for use either for teletherapy or face-to-face therapy. Passionate about literacy, Belinda wrote The Adventures of Demdem the Garbage Truck: Watch Out For the Bumps. You can get her Boom Cards decks at a discount with her bundle.

Karen Busch taught elementary for 16 years at three different schools within the same large district in Southern California  Her principal wanted more non-fiction reading activities. Karen found the five and six years old in her kindergarten class didn’t have the attention span to sit through a non-fiction read aloud. Determined to meet their needs, Karen would create easy-to-read non-fiction Powerpoint slide shows for her students to read each day in class. Her team loved them so much they urged her to open a store at Teachers Pay Teachers and sell them. Although this is her third year out of the classroom, creating helps her stay connected to teaching. She has recently started creating Boom Cards resources. For fall, try her Beginning Sounds October theme (includes sounds).

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A Review of “Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom”

by Kacie Brown from Having Fun First

amplify.png

Inspired or Overwhelmed?

If you are anything like me, you see something new and inspiring and you instantly try to figure out how to incorporate that into your classroom. We all want to offer our students the best we can. Now in the age of social media, we can glimpse into thousands of classrooms every day. I don’t know about you but this can both be inspiring and downright overwhelming.

This spring our district was offering a series of book studies and I of course hopped in both! Reading a good professional development book can refresh you and leave you ready for action. July hit and I looked over at my stack of personal and PD books and decided to take Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom by Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke with me on our first summer trip. Though I may have been looking forward to the quick summer read I also brought along, I decided to give Amplify a go.  I am so glad that I did.

You Don’t Have to Do It All, Even Though You’ll Want To!

I will let you know I consider myself to be pretty “tech savvy” and up to date on most educational trends. But, within each chapter I found new tools, approaches and activities. This is when I got out my favorite flare pens and started jotting down all the new approaches I was going to somehow incorporate into my classroom. I mean who wouldn’t want to set up a recording booth that allows readers of all levels to review the latest book they’ve read? And that was only Chapter One! As I read deeper into the text what I found was less of the “big ideas” and more on how I can make technology work in my classroom: ME… not my teammate, not the tech leader at the school, me. WOW, that was refreshing, what do you mean I don’t have to do it all?

So, this is what made this book different for me than many of the others I have read. The authors ask you to foster your own “growth mindset” and learn along with your students while simultaneously telling you not to do everything. …“just because we can do something innovative, doesn’t always mean we should.” Implementing technology into our classrooms is important, but we should do it in a way that is meaningful to our students and, frankly, to us. Within each chapter, Amplify reminds the reader of the importance of literacy, critical thinking and independence and how, within these foundations, we can incorporate technology.

Growing Your Technology Mindset

Each chapter has a focus that will support your growing development as a teacher and learner of technology. A few examples are “Developing a Mindset for Technology”, “Connecting Technology to Existing Classroom Practice” or “Foundational Lessons for Independence.” Each chapter provides multiple avenues to reach the goal set forth. Depending on your experience level, there is an option for you and an option to try something out of your comfort zone. Real-life stories and examples are shared as well as additional resources to take your learning further. At the end of each chapter are “three things to try tomorrow.” These were things we, yeah I said we, can do!

For example, in Chapter Two the reader is challenged to

  1. “Set aside thirty minutes a week for you to discover and play,
  2. Carve out classroom time for students to discover and play”
  3. Sign up for a conference, webinar or Edcamp.”

Overall, Amplify will leave you feeling inspired and confident to hit the ground running with ideas that resonate with you. Whether it’s implementing the various activities or trying different approaches to teaching and learning technology, you will walk away knowing yourself better as a learner, leading you towards the best next steps in your journey.


My First Amplification: Tech Troubleshooting Mini-Lesson

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One of the first items I am going to implement is a student-friendly resource for technology troubleshooting. If I can give my students tools they need to independently walk through basic issues, it can lead to more time in the actual program and an increase in their confidence. I plan to do a troubleshooting mini-lesson, review the different approaches to solving tech issues, and allow the kids to attempt each one. Front-loading this information will pay off for me. We have all been there: ten hands in the air and only one you or a kiddo who needs help at the tech center while you are leading a small group. Imagine how much further we could get in our lessons if students were empowered to independently take on basic fixes. You can get my printable resources for this mini-lesson free at Teachers Pay Teachers.


 

Kacie Brown sells teaching resources as Having Fun First on Boom Learning and Teachers Pay Teachers.

All About Bears

 

The Common Core standards place significant expectations on younger students to read and comprehend nonfiction texts. Struggling to find age appropriate material, Kacie Brown started writing her own products. She is now making her nonfiction texts for primary students (kindergarten, first, and second) available as Boom Cards decks, with built in comprehension checks.