This year is the first year we have begun teaching novel units. Our fifth grade team (who is awesome, by the way) fundraised money and went on donorschoose.org to buy a total of ….SIX class sets of novels! So excited! The titles include the following:
My first novel was The Sign of the Beaver. I was a little nervous about teaching a novel unit simply because I had never done it before. (I’m a little bit of an over-thinker. I don’t like to do things until I’ve fully researched the best ideas and figured out the most effective way to implement the lesson.) Then, a wonderful colleague of mine said, “Just do it–at least then you’ll figure out what worked and what doesn’t.” She was so right.
The students absolutely LOVED this book and totally got into it. We did character analysis throughout the whole story: how the characters evolved, their triumphs, trials, feelings, etc. Even before I started the novel units, I always have read aloud to my students. Each day after lunch the students are read to, a chapter at a time from a book of my choosing. I kept this routine, but just read aloud from The Sign of the Beaver. Some of the students just listened while many others liked to follow along in their own book.
I have a “narrative/fiction” blocked out in my lesson plans each day. During this time, we switched it up. The students read independently, with their assigned reading groups, and more often with their assigned reading partners. Sometimes, although not too often, we read whole group. I usually displayed their “Reading Task” or “Reading Challenge” on the front board and they went to work. (I use those titles to make it sound more interesting 🙂 )
In the beginning, it was a little rough. I suggest modeling–A LOT! Students need multiple opportunities to practice articulating their thoughts in words and in writing. I set my expectations very high, and I’m glad I did. The work that the students are producing now shows miles of improvement since the beginning of the year.
That type of growth makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You see, I’ve always known these kids were brilliant. Now, they are able to show work and express ideas that will prove it to everyone. Amazing!
Below is our final project. We were discussing character traits and trying to describe each character’s personality throughout the entire novel. The students noticed as they learned more about each character, their thoughts about their personality changed. As a final assessment, I assigned the students a character from the story–Matt or Attean. They did not get to choose. First, students had to choose 3 words to describe their character. Once they choose the words, they had to go back in the text and write the evidence to support that claim. I wanted the students to choose the strongest examples from the text. Next, the students had to draw their character based on the descriptions in the book. For example, it would be unacceptable to draw Attean with curly or blond hair because the author gives clear details about his appearance.
The projects are awesome and are now hanging in our classroom!