Challenging students to read outside of the classroom has been one of my biggest struggles as a teacher.
I am bogged down with following a pacing guide and looking at data for the next assessment. Within the new culture of education, sometimes novels have been pushed aside and the classics are now foreign to too many of our students.
Something Must Be Done
There must be a way to save the classics and still incorporate everything else being added into the curriculum.
Many decide to “cut out” things which take too much time (like novels).
However, utilizing literature circles in conjunction to your curriculum is one strategy. While reading the drama version of the Diary of Anne Frank I decided to use a set of companion novels which followed the theme of survival and all had to do something with the Holocaust. The novels I used were Devil’s Arithmetic, Milkweed, Four Perfect Pebbles, Number the Stars and Stones in Water.
To ensure I was not taking over to much instructional time, the novels were read primarily at home. Honestly, I knew some students would struggle reading at home so I planned ahead. My co-teacher went through and recorded one of the entire books digitally and created a Homework Help Group via Facebook so students who needed to listen to the novel could do so as well. She used the online tool Clyp to record the readings.
Each novel group, comprised of five students, was required to complete the same section of reading per night. However, each student had a certain job and duty to complete each evening (adapted from College Board’s SpringBoard program).
Here below is one example of a finished book from the novel Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli.
As students returned to class, they would engage in a literature circle (see example video below). This was an opportunity for students to dive deeper into the novel and learn from one another. As the daily discussion leader took charge, everyone had their own thoughts and beliefs about what was happening and going to happen next.
At first, it was rough looking!!!
Students needed a solid model of what a good literature circle discussion actually looked like. I took the video of a previous year class because I wanted my students to see their peers completing the task. After watching the peer model, I read a short story and completed all of the pieces of typical literature circle. I took volunteers to role play with our class.
We often stopped and clarified the good and bad pieces of our role play conversation. It took an entire class period, but it set up the norms of the daily conversations and raised the expectations because it was crystal clear what I wanted out of my students.
For those unsure how to interweave novels into your pacing guide or curriculum map, literature circles are the way to go!