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

For the Love of Français: Languages of the Americas

English, French and Spanish are frequently taught languages of North America. In Canada, English and French have equal status as official languages. Today’s blog is focused on resources for French language instruction.

We’ll cover Spanish resources at a future date. But if you just can’t wait, you’ll find them in the store.

Teach French

“Prior to Boom Learning, students were merely just going through the motions of learning another language.”

-Najda Zada of Garden Full of Knowledge

Engaging Digital Natives

Like all instructors, Najda has her share of reluctant learners. Digital natives engage with the world visually. Najda says her students “love using Boom Cards because it gives them an opportunity to be able to use their handheld devices to practice their French language.”

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In her classroom, she selects a French language Boom Cards deck and then has the whole class work through it, enunciating each French word and deciphering the response.  At other times, she divides the class into two teams. Each team is given a question that they must answer within an allotted time. She finds these methods motivate her digital natives to speak French. “With Boom Learning, learning another language has been fun, engaging, and motivating to all types of second language learners.”

Surviving Teaching French

Boom Cards are not just for learners, they are also for novice teachers. At ISTE 2017 we spoke with a number of attendees from Canada. They were excited about using Boom Cards to assist teachers who were new to teaching French. With many authors adding sound features, teachers now how a variety of pronunciation resources.

Teaching French involves skills ranging from phonological awareness, les rimes, to sight words, to vocabulary building, to grammar. Materials available from our authors include sound, writing, and cross-curricular content. Here is just a sample!

les phonemes prof numericLes élèves raffoleront de ces cartes à tâches digitales autocorrectives qui sont totalement compatibles avec tous les types d’appareils mobiles ou écrans interactifs. L’apprentissage des phonèmes, via les sons AUDIO inclus dans cet ensemble de jeux interactifs, augmentera l’engagement des apprenants assurément.

by Prof Numeric – available individually at Boom Learning or as a bundle at Teachers Pay Teachers

Les Rime Michelle DupuisRhyme is a key component of phonological awareness. This fun resource will help students practice rhymes and review vocabulary words. Cette ressource contient 15 cartes qui permettront aux élèves de développer leur conscience phonologique.

by Michelle Dupuis Education French–Français

 

sight words for french immerssion

There’s no such thing as too much sight word practice. With these decks, kids will be able to listen to correct pronunciation and work on recognizing the written words. Kids won’t even notice how much work they’re doing while listening to a native speaker other than you. Try the free sample.

by For French Immersion – available individually on Boom Learning or as a bundle at Teachers Pay Teachers

verb tense mme r

These 25 cards will help students identify common reflexive verbs and practice present tense conjugations. There are ten multiple choice cards for verb identification, ten fill in the blank cards for conjugation and five fill in the blank cards for negative constructions.

by Mme R’s French Resources 

 

La rentree Madame Angel

Second language learners need lots of opportunities to practice new vocabulary in fun and engaging ways. This bundle of Boom Cards decks allows students the opportunity to read, listen to, identify and write school themed vocabulary.

by La classe de Madame Angel

 

Les r saisons Peg Swift

 

Investing in cross-curricular resources is always a good idea when you are building a well-rounded program. Here’s one that combines science and language.

by Peg Swift French Immersion

 

Quel temps Toujours Francais

Build vocabulary knowledge for students. This deck incorporates both listening and writing. It can be used both for assessment for learning (as a pre-assessment) or assessment as learning (used to determine if students are understanding the material).

by Toujour Francais

 

 

Find the Boom Cards collection for you

More French teaching resources available at Teachers Pay Teachers

Engage Students with Visual Resources for World Language Mastery

“Prior to Boom Learning, students were merely just going through the motions of learning another language.”

-Najda Zada of Garden Full of Knowledge

Like all instructors, Najda has her share of reluctant learners. I recall struggling to learn world languages, but then I’m a primarily visual learner. My husband, whose strength is auditory learning, can pick up languages in a flash.

Digital natives engage with the world visually. Najda says her students “love using Boom Cards because it gives them an opportunity to be able to use their handheld devices to practice their French language.”

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In her classroom, she selects a set of French language Boom Cards and then has the whole class enunciate each French word orally.  As a group, they work together to decipher the response. Other times, she divides the class into two teams. Each team is given a question that they must answer within an allotted time.

She finds these methods motivate her digital natives to speak French. “With Boom Learning, learning another language has been fun, engaging, and motivating to all types of second language learners. Boom Cards have just given us a new twist to learning French!” With Boom Cards, the learning experience is enhanced with visual and kinetic modalities.

You can also find materials for French as a second language from Mme R’s French Resources. For a different shade of romance, try Italian resources from Hand in Hand Learning.

Engaging Younger Students

It can be challenging to find world language materials targeted for the elementary grades. Most materials are for middle school to adults. With Boom Learning, you can find ready-to-use decks made by teachers.

If you need something special, it only takes an hour or two to make a DIY deck you can use for years (no reprinting, no hand grading). If your deck turns out to be just what students need, you can add a little polish and put it in the store, for free or for a fee. Everyone gains: students and teachers. Worksheets and task cards both can be translated into Boom Cards, along with books. As Lucy from For French Immersion says “The fact that Boom decks work on computers, tablets, and interactive whiteboards is benefit you don’t get from regular apps.”

Lucy’s best selling French Verbs Growing Bundle is a great value, as you get all new decks she adds. For French Immersion designs materials for younger students in immersion classrooms (they also work for second language instruction). If you want to enjoy the season with French, we recommend this deck. You can also find French immersion resources from La classe de Madame Angel.

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We are also lucky to have linguaphile and designer Miss Mindy creating for Boomers in some of her many languages. She has spent the last 7 years teaching Spanish at a small independent K-6 school in Vermont and is now homeschooling her daughters. Mindy started studying Spanish when she was 13 and was enthralled. She minored in German and also studied French and Latin. Expect a variety of language resources Miss Mindy’s store. Here is a sample of her seasonal resources:

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After three German au pairs and high school Spanish we joke that we speak Danglish in our house. In Mindy’s house they must speech Flandanglish. What do you speak in your house?

Do you need more elementary resources? Rebecca Reid of Line upon Line Learning has elementary Spanish resources.

 

Speaking Scientifically with Boom Cards

“While all my friends were asking for Backstreet Boys paraphernalia or bicycles, I remember getting a microscope for Christmas when I was 9 or 10 and it was like I’d died and gone to heaven.” – Kristin Lee

Chemical or Physical Change?
Chemical or Physical Change?

Today I want to introduce Kristin Lee. She is my soul buddy. My favorite magazines as a teen were Scientific American and Discovery. Neither of us ended up as scientists, but we independently found our way to incorporate science in our careers. Kristin loves “seeing those middle schoolers fall in love with science!”

Puzzles, patterns, problems. Science has it all for Kristin. “I want students to feel my passion for science in my work and maybe, for some of them, light the same fire I have. I hope for a metaphorical fire and not one set by a Bunsen burner in the middle of my science lab.”

Kristin recently started making her Boom Cards

“Working with Boom has allowed me to take less concrete concepts, like the periodic table or vocabulary, and still make them fun and interactive. Teachers get real time data on students that can help them assess the needs of their class, without spending hours collecting and organizing it themselves.”

Kristin isn’t the only science loving author on Boom Learning. Rebecca Reid has gone beyond the task card to integrate reading comprehension with science learning about coral reefs (best for students grade levels 3-6).

For younger kids, you can also find these materials:

 

Featured

Mathematics without Restrictions

I teach mathematics to students who have learning difficulties such as Autism and Dyslexia. For them, writing and answering worksheet questions can be difficult. Boom Learning is a great tool for them to have a go at showing their mathematical abilities without being restricted by the difficulties of using a pen.

Rebekah Bullen, LittleStreams

We frequently remind our older children that they once struggled during the early days of reading. Now, reading is a breeze and they have amazing worlds to explore.

Likewise there is an amazing world that will be theirs in mathematics. We share with our children, as much as they can understand, the worlds of statistics and combinatorics, proofs and probability, geometry and logic. And then we remind them that to get there they must put in the work of learning their math ABCs (or 123s).

Sound Fundamentals

Rebekah Bullen is a private tutor who teaches mathematics to students with learning differences. Her LittleStreams store is full of elementary through middle school resources for teaching sound fundamentals. We like how she has made innovative use of the text box element to make her products touch focused for her students.

Find the factors for a given number task cards.
Students use touch or click to identify all the factors of a number.

Addition and Multiplication Facts

Love them or hate them, math facts are the foundation for success in higher mathematics courses. Mastery of facts can be tedious, progress slow, and repetition is essential. Our experience with digital natives is that variety matters. Thank goodness for the variety available on Boom Learning.