Using Novels to Engage

There are a variety of ways to teach literacy skills. You may have tried every one of them or stuck to a proven method. There is no certain way to teach literacy. Students benefit from our varied teaching styles since we are individuals just like them. For my classroom, I love using novels to teach literacy. I am a self-confessed bookworm, so being able to teach using a novel is a delightful addition to my teaching. There are so many ways that you can incorporate literacy and differentiation into teaching novels. You just have to use your imagination!

Speaking of imagination, here is my NUMBER ONE tip to teaching literacy using novels:

Engage the students!

It sounds simple, but that is not always the case. We all know how to create assignments and assessments, but to engage and motivate students takes creativity!

First, if at all possible, choose a novel that you enjoy! Your enthusiasm will shine and project onto the students. It is all about the presentation. True excitement is what you need to “hook” your students. Have a prior discussion of the novel’s ideas and themes. Ask the students to share appropriate tidbits from their lives that relate to these ideas and themes.

Next, bring the characters to life. For example, when I read a certain dystopian novel set to my students, I used different tones or inflection for the characters when reading aloud. I would project the novel onto my Smartboard using a literacy site and read from there. Students would follow along to make sure I kept my place. In the meantime, I would be walking around the room, reading aloud. I made sure to act out the parts I was able to. This kept the students engaged because what’s better than watching a teacher show off her storytelling abilities?! And pitiful though my acting skills may be, it captured my students’ interest. These former students still talk about this novel set.

Lastly, use a variety of activities for students to show off their engagement. This may be drawings, PowerPoint presentations detailing the characters, or journal entries. For one of my students, they baked something that was mentioned in the book and brought it to the class to share. I definitely remember that! A favorite activity is to pick a novel that has a complementary movie for comparison.

I realize that many of us focus on the assignments and assessments of teaching, but I implore you not to forget the enjoyment of teaching. Engagement is not only for the students, but also for teachers.

What are some ways you have used novels to engage students in your classroom? How do you access the novels?  What are some of your favorite novels?


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