Leigh Ann was sharing which books her students had chosen to read and why during Book Club. Her class would now begin reading Bridge to Terabithia. Although she had passed me a spare copy, it had sat on my desk; the only permanent fixture for the past two months. I have my suspicions that she is on a secret mission to get me hooked on books. My problem is that I don’t enjoy reading novels. I like reading, soaking up facts and absorbing anything and everything on a topic that captures my interest or professional reading which I find useful and informative. Just not a fan of sitting and reading. Particularly when the reward for reading is writing and not conversation or responding. I love stories but listening to or telling them is what grabs my imagination.
However, I have to be honest and happily admit that, this conversation was so good that it inspired me to join her in a Year 4 Novel Study. Leigh Ann is positively infectious that way. My curiosity trumped my reservations and one of the few novels I read from my childhood, Bridge to Terabithia, had left an impact on and connection with my life growing up.
Decision made! Now what do I do? Brief panic followed by some serious internet searching on Novel Studies. As is usual with an onslaught of new information I felt overwhelmed. I had not taught this year level before nor had I a Novel Study.
I considered what I had found and decided to study plot, characters, themes etc through the lens of the 8 Reading Behaviors (see the blog Eight Reading Comprehension Skills in PD Bites). These comprehension strategies are familiar to my class and the color coding would help organize the Novel Study by section using these headings. We always use red to symbolize Prior Knowledge, orange for Visualizing, yellow for Making Connections and so on.
Today I bit the bullet and began. We only focused on the book’s cover and we had a delightful conversation. I was so pleased with my students’ insight and how willingly they shared their thoughts and ideas. At break I wrote up notes of our conversation on a flip chart in the form of a Mind Map. I will do this for each chapter and will hang these across the room for students to refer too as needed. I will also put photos of the charts on our class website for them to refer to at home and for parents to see what we are learning about. The color coding will assist students to focus on one Reading Behavior throughout the book by looking across the collection of charts.
As we only touched on 5 of the 8 Reading Behaviors we came up with an idea for Visualizing. Students would be given time to respond specifically to visualization in their Sketch Books. We use Sketch Books much like our Writer’s Workshop folders; as a place for developing and collecting ideas. I am hoping these notes and sketches will help us develop a deeper understanding of this novel and ultimately impact their writing.
I think Leigh Ann may succeed in her endeavor, she should have placed a wager, because I didn’t know studying novels could be so interesting. Once again, I am pleased to report a common measure of success with this class is that I had to drag my students away from their work out to break for a run around and refreshments. I am grateful that my first foray into a Novel Study was kindly encouraged and well received.
Hi, I am Natasha Hutchins an international teacher collaborating, exploring and sharing ideas with others, like myself from around the world, for our collective professional development and enjoyment of learning and teaching.