Whole Class Novels

What are the benefits of using whole class novels?

Have you been asking yourself, "How do I incorporate SEL in my classroom?" Well, here is a simple answer: Whole Class Novels.

Using whole class novels with your students will have many benefits, including building interest in reading, developing vocabulary, increasing reading stamina, improving comprehension, and fostering a sense of community in the classroom. If the right novel is chosen, it can even provide an organic opportunity for social-emotional learning.

Many teachers find it difficult to find common ground or forge a relationship with their students. Whole class novels have the power to break down walls so that we are no longer just students and teacher. Instead, we are fellow readers navigating a piece of literature as one. We make connections with the characters, share predictions along the way, and experience the plot together. It is quite the bonding experience!

My most memorable teaching moments have come while journeying with my students through a thought-provoking novel. I have been in the room whiles students have shared personal struggles. I have listened as students laughed with one another over humorous dialogue. I have seen them groan when the bell rings mid-chapter. Whole class novels are powerful.

Why should I be teaching with whole class novels?

I know, I know... Schools have been leaning away from the use of whole class novels. Instead, they have been using expensive, detailed, scripted curriculums that are based in science and reach all of the standards. Does any of that matter if the kids aren't even listening?

Whole class novels, on the other hand, offer something those series and programs do not -- engagement! According to Differentiated Teaching, whole class novels provide the following benefits:

  • Building of Background Knowledge

  • Expanding of World Exposure

  • Building Authentic Vocabulary

  • Improving Communication

  • Enhancing Dialogue Usage

  • Developing Social Skills

  • Boosting Engagement and Excitement

Which are the best novels to read to students?

When choosing a novel to use as a class, there are many great books to choose from. In fact, Edutopia has assembled a list of 25 essentials reads. Aside from ready-made lists, teachers should consider the following factors when selecting a novel to use with their class:

  • Is the book relatable to a number of audiences?

  • Will my students be able to connect with the characters or the plot?

  • Is this book at the right reading level?

  • Will it engage and excite my students?

  • Will I be able to reach the required standards while navigating this novel?

If you are trying to also sneak some SEL into your novel study, I would also consider looking for a book that teaches an important lesson or shares a life-changing theme.

A few of my favorites...

A few of my favorite novels to use as a class include The Giver, Esperanza Rising, Wonder, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Rules, Out of My Mind, and Freak the Mighty.

Freak the Mighty

Freak the Mighty is a coming of age novel by Rodman Philbrick about an unlikely friendship that explores the unfairness of life, as well as personal strengths and weaknesses. I have taught this unit as a treat by reading the novel only on Fridays. We called it Freaky Fridays. The students would look forward to our read aloud and novel study all week long. It was an incredible bonding experience every time! Try it with your class!

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