Integrating Novels Into Any Subject

by | Jul 25, 2019 | Teaching Strategies | 0 comments

Hi everyone! Welcome back! 

Today is video six in my series of using novels in the classroom. 

In this video, I talk about how to integrate novels into any subect area, not just language arts. 

Want to watch the entire series now? You can! Click on this link to see all the videos!

See the video below!

Transcription of Video

Hi, I’m Amy Mezni from TeachingIdeas4U and I’m here today on day six of my series on teaching with novels to talk to you about how to integrate novels into any subject and why you should.

I did some reading and research on subjects that we don’t normally think of as using novels. And I actually found out that teachers are getting a great result from using novels as core curriculum in classes like math.

So let’s talk today about how you can make that work and the benefits that teachers are seeing. 

So why should teachers of nontraditional reading subjects (not language arts) go ahead and use novels? Well, teachers are reporting that they’re seeing kids really improve their core skills when they purposely find books that integrate the topic that they’re teaching with the storyline.

So, you get better engagement and through that engagement, students are improving skills. Who are you engaging? You’re engaging those kids who already come into your class thinking they don’t like the subject.

We’ve all had those kids, they either think social studies is boring or doesn’t apply to them or they hate math. They’re just not good at math or they don’t like science.

Sometimes you catch these kids who love to read, but they think they don’t like any of these other subjects. And then they get wrapped up in the story and they improve their core skills through the story.

So another thing that these teachers are reporting is that novels and close readings help students think about the subject in a different way. That’s another positive.

You’re looking at kids who might enjoy digging deep into a book or discussing a book or the teachers come up with questions to make the kids kind of think, well, how did the character use the math?

Or what was the benefit of the math? Or how has this happened in your life? So it makes the topic a little more relevant to kids. And so they’re getting that engagement.

How do they do it?

One thing that the teachers reported was that they have students write written reflections on the reading. They aren’t necessarily giving them a list of reading comprehension questions. That’s not what you’re assessing if you’re not a reading teacher.

But they went through the book and they found places where they would have the kids reflect on different things, often about the topic that they teach. So somehow the book integrates the math or integrates the science and then they get the kids to think about that in a written reflection.

They use these novel units and it takes some intentional planning to combine the skill of their subject, the literature, and the personal reflection.

So a lot of this comes from discussing this skill as it pertains to being used in the book and then as it pertains to the student. Again, you kind of move away from what I would think of as a novel unit.

You’re not assessing comprehension of the book. You’re really looking at focusing on your skill from your subject area and how it’s seen in the literature and then how students can take that information and apply it to them.

So the article that I read gave a specific sample class because I know a lot of teachers say, I got 45 minutes, like I don’t have time to read a book. And I thought, well how did they take time in this math class to read this book?

They would do a 20 minute lesson. So half their class almost was spent on their core subject math lesson. Then they would take 15 minutes to discuss the reading from the previous day and then they would spend the rest of the class reading the next chapter.

And from the way it sounded, it sounded like the teacher read the book to the students. And so it wasn’t that they did no core lesson. They had a core lesson, but they didn’t just do skill and drill and skill and drill.

So they did the core lesson and then they talked about that core concept as it was in the literature. Now I will tell you, and I talked about this in a previous session that I did, if you’re looking for books and I can give you lots and lots of recommendations for history because I am also a history teacher.


I taught elementary and I taught in middle school and high school history. So I gave you some examples of history books here. Like American history has got tons and tons.

Some really common ones that are used are Giant Chermaine and My Brother Sam Is Dead. Those are both like revolutionary times. This Is Our Constitution for the US Constitution, Chains deals with slavery. I found some books that integrated China, Red Scarf Girl. Revolution is Not a Dinner Party, The Good Earth. These are all books that deal with like Communist China. But you know, for me to help you say, come up with math or science is not my specialty. So I have some suggestions for you.

My suggestion honestly is if you use Facebook, find the subject that you teach. So I know the AP classes are great at having their own little Facebook groups, but there’s a wonderful middle school social studies group.

There’s another high school social studies group that’s really good. And the teachers in there always making suggestions or asking, getting suggestions for what novels would be good to go with this unit or what books do you use for this? Or even like an article versus a book. So I’m sure there’s math groups or science groups and you just have to find them.

If you find one that’s not very active, look for another. There are so many Facebook groups, but the key is to find the one that’s really active. If you don’t use Facebook, Twitter I think is another place that especially secondary teachers can find good examples or good suggestions.

Instagram is pretty good. Again, I follow more of the upper elementary, maybe middle school groups. But there are teachers always making book recommendations on Instagram as well.

So for your subject area, if you’d like to get started, my suggestion is to find yourself a group. I wanted to put this up. This was the best article I found for the math teachers.

And, or if you’re not math, but you want to really understand how did the math teacher use a novel? It actually talks about a high school, I think it was Calculus and an Algebra class in middle school.

So this was a great article. If you’re on your phone, go ahead and take a screenshot, but if you Google that, it’ll come right up. I found that article very interesting because they said that it actually benefited them a lot because student engagement went up, students’ skills improved.

It wasn’t like this waste of time to read a book. It actually improved the core skills. So I hope this was helpful to you. I hope you maybe had some ideas that maybe hadn’t thought of before.

Tomorrow I’m going to talk about how to organize and prepare for a novel study. So if you’re new to using novel studies or you’re looking for some tips and tricks; I taught novels for 20 years and my teaching of novels came a long way. I made a lot of changes as I figured out what worked and what didn’t.

Tomorrow I’m going to give you the best tips that I have on how to teach with the novel, but make it go smoothly and make it actually targeted into what you want the kids to be able to do. So I hope you liked this and I hope that you’ll come back tomorrow.

After that I have one more on assessment and if you’ve missed the previous sessions, then you can still find them. They’re on my blog or they’re on my youtube page.

But again, I’m Amy Mezni and my store and my blog are Connect with me on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, my blog or teachers pay teachers.

I’m glad you came and I hope this was helpful to you.

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Integrating Novels Into Any Subject