How do I plan before I teach a novel?

oroWhenever I travel to a conference or inservice, teachers ask “Can you tell me exactly what I need to do to teach a novel?”

Well, I have a couple of initial responses to this question. First, there is no “wrong way to eat a Reese’s. Second, I try not to do anything in a way that is too formulaic, so no two novels are going to feel exactly the same to my students. So, to make a long story short, teach it any way you want, and then vary that for the next novel! Simple, right?

When I sit down to plan, the first thing I want to do is think about my goals for teaching the novel. Is it purely for fun and acquisition? Are there some meaty historical or cultural themes I want to tackle? What kinds of connections am I going to want the students to make between the novel and their own experiences? Are there certain vocabulary words or structures I want to really focus on with my input? What kind of assessment will I want my students to complete to show their language development and knowledge gained? By starting with questions like these, you will find that your teaching becomes much more focused and planning will be easier.

After I have some clarity about my own goals for the students, I then tackle what is for me the most fun part of planning: the hooks. Dave Burgess, the author of Teach Like a Pirate, teaches about developing hooks that increase the level of interest and engagement students have in the lesson. I ask myself “What can I do to get kids to want to pay attention to this?” I highly recommend seeing Dave present in person AND buying the book! “Teachniques” such as setting the scene with props and visuals, using music or special sound effects, coaching actors for awesome reader’s theater, and creating real-life believable scenarios are all ways to really get students to buy in to the novel.

If you are looking to expand your knowledge of how to effectively plan, take a look at Carrie Toth’s blog. She is one of our favorite authors, and she is also a fantastic blogger and backwards-planning guru-diva. Check out this post!

Hooks are a great way to get students to buy in to a novel, and the novel itself is a great way to make strong connections to the target culture. The next step in planning a novel is pulling out the cultural references and locating resources that connect the novel to real life. Pinterest is a fantastic resource for seeking #authres (authentic resources.). Click here to view TPRS Publishing’s Pinterest page for lots of ideas for every novel!

Don’t miss next week’s CI Peek to see some of my all-time favorite hooks for teaching novels!

-Kristy Placido,

1 Comment

  1. […] the first installment of this topic, I stated that there is no wrong way to teach a novel. Well, maybe the only wrong way […]


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