Using Novels In Your Classroom

by | Jul 22, 2019 | Teaching Strategies | 0 comments

This week I am starting a new video series all about using novels in your classroom!

I’m excited to share what I’ve learned about the importance of using novels in the classroom.

If you want to watch all the videos at once, you can click here!

Transcription of Video

Hi, I’m Amy from TeachingIdea4U. And today I’m here to talk to you about using novels in your classroom. I have always used novels. I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to use novels in the classroom.

And sometimes, I wish I could apologize to some of my earlier students because I really got so much better about targeting skills instead of killing kids with assessments.

I know some people are a little bit leery of using novels because they can take a little bit of time, but there are a lot of tricks and things that you can do to really integrate that novel and not take as much time and you can get a lot out of it and your students can get a lot out of it.

As a student, I was really, really bored when we read basals where you would get a snippet of a story and then I couldn’t find out what happened in the story or to the character. 

I think kids really can get engaged in a good novel. So let’s talk today about why you should use novels and how you can use novels. And then in the next upcoming days I will be talking to you about other issues teachers have like finding funding, picking a good novel, how to organize and manage the novel in your classroom, how to assess the novel or students learning through the novel.

So after today, I’ll hit some of those other tricky topics for teachers, but today is going to be a real quick overview of why teachers should use novels and how you can use novels in the classroom. So let’s go ahead and get started.

Why Use Novels?

So why should you use novels? There are a lot of academic benefits to reading a novel or a longer piece. One of them is that reading a novel actually engages all of the brain’s major domains. So no matter what your student’s strength is, reading a book can hit all students’ strengths.

It can draw in people who maybe aren’t necessarily strong at reading, but they have other skills. But reading has activated that. So you’re making all those connections and we all know how important it is for the brain to make connections to different things. Reading books improve a lot of skills for kids.

So for example, I think most teachers know that the more you read, the better your vocabulary tends to be. So vocabulary, which is an area a lot of kids today are very weak in, that can be a great way to help kids improve their vocabulary because they have to read it and they have to use it. And if you work vocabulary into your assessment, they also have to apply it.

Reading novels help improve concentration. Now I would also like to point out that it can help teachers realize who has good concentration and who doesn’t. Sometimes you can see that a student consistently has difficulty concentrating and it might indicate a different problem.

My son actually has a vision processing issue and he could concentrate on a lot of other things. But when it came to reading books, it was an all-out battle. Once we finally realized that he had a vision processing issue, it made everything kind of fall into place. It made sense why he was struggling with reading, when he could focus so many other places.

Sometimes lack of concentration can indicate that a child might be struggling with attention deficit or dyslexia. Students should be able to work on lengthening their concentration with reading over time.

Again, as a teacher, this is a two-fold benefit to reading. Sometimes it can help you see who is really having a problem. Then you can also identify who needs more support with improving their concentration. 

Reading books improves thinking skills. You have to think outside the box when you read a book. You have to put yourself in the shoes of other people to see and understand how they do things. Maybe a different culture or a different country or even a different planet or something in science fiction.

So you have to develop all kinds of critical thinking and thinking skills to process that book and to really understand it. I wanted to put this chart up for you. If you are on social media a lot, you may have already seen it, but there is a chart that talks about, on estimate the longterm effects of daily reading.

Kids who read 20 minutes a day, by the end of the year have almost 2 million more words that they’re exposed to over a student who doesn’t read. So think about the difference in vocabulary, in concentration and all of these academic skills that we’re trying to develop.

Kids who don’t read or who struggle with reading don’t have the opportunity to develop those skills as much. But there are a lot of other benefits to reading too.

Benefits of Novels In The Classroom

Reading helps to open our minds to things that maybe we aren’t exposed to in our lives. Maybe we don’t know about other religions or other cultures or even other parts of our own country.

So when you read and its set in another location or its set in a different culture, or it’s a student who maybe has a physical problem, it lets you put yourself in that character’s situation and opens your mind to it.

It stimulates creativity. You read a book and there’s all kinds of fantastical things that can happen in the story. So it gets your creative juices going.

It can improve social skills. Again, there’s a lot of kids that need a little help understanding what’s appropriate, what’s not appropriate or if you’re put in this situation, how could you deal with it? And books can do that for you.

Like, think about bullying. You know, if you’re bullied, maybe you don’t know how to handle it or you don’t know what to do. Whereas if maybe you’re the bully, you’ve never thought about how it affects the other people.

Reading a book where it’s not about you but its actually about someone else, it kind of opens your mind to thinking about that issue. Or it can teach you how people interact with each other.

You know, maybe some of our students aren’t necessarily being told that at home. So, you know, that’s a big benefit. I see. And you can actually pick books specifically to help you with that.

Reading books reduces stress. I think there’s a lot of kids today you are really stressed out. If you can teach kids to go home and immerse themselves in another world they can forget their problems for a while and then the stress of the day can melt away from them.

One of my favorite benefits that came up in research is that people who read regularly actually live longer. I should be good for a while if that’s the case. Now I’m sure there are other factors, but that is one thing that I hadn’t realized.

So let’s talk about how I’ve used novels. Maybe you’ve used them in some ways, but not thought about other ways.

So I’ve talked with teacher friends to get kind of a nice little list for you. The most common way is book studies, Literature Circles, novel studies, book groups, whatever you call them in your school. It is possible to do them in classes that aren’t language arts. There is a study out there where they’ve talked with teachers in math who use novels to help engage kids with the actual math.

We’re gonna talk about that study on another day cause I thought that was really interesting. Readalouds. You can really integrate a read-aloud pretty easily into most classes. There are books that have storylines that deal with science, that deal with math, that deal with social studies and it’s a nice way to engage kids with those concepts in a way that doesn’t feel like science or math or social studies. We all have kids who don’t like our subject area or who think they don’t like our subject area.

Novels In Different Subjects

And a lot of times those kids are more open to a book. So if you read to them, you’d be surprised at how they may suddenly find that they like your topic more than they thought they did because they can relate to it.

Mentored texts or writing examples. This is a big thing now. Using actual literature to showcase a reading skill or a writing skill. That might be harder in different subject areas. But you know, I would think of it like if you’re using the scientific method or you’re teaching that to them, there are books where kids are doing science experiments. So you could find a mentor text that walks through the scientific method and you talk to kids, well, what did the children do? So what were the steps of the method?

You can find mentor texts for things that aren’t language arts based.

So that’s just food for thought. If you’re trying to find a book that might incorporate something specific, like maybe archeology, maybe again, the scientific method or some type of math. Talk to your librarians. Librarians are a wealth of information and they may help you find the perfect book.

You can also use books to be your subject matter teaching tool. Again, you can use nonfiction, but you might also find books that are set in ancient Greece or set in Mesopotamia. Maybe it’s dealing with refugees and you’re talking about that as a social justice thing.

You can really get into teaching a topic with a book. It can be trickier if you have a short class time, but there are ways that can be done. And finally, again, like I talked before, you can specifically find a book to help you talk about how you deal with the social problem in your classroom or some other issue you’re having in a classroom.

Again, if you want a good book on bullying or maybe a child that’s sick and how other people dealt with that, you can talk to a librarian or another teacher and they’ll give you some great ideas.

So I hope that this quick introduction to using novels gave you some things to think about. Tomorrow I’m going to get into selecting novels and how you can find good novels. After that we’ll be talking about finding funding, finding the time to put a novel in your room, how to teach the novel without making kids hate the novel.

There are a lot of different topics that teachers sometimes feel intimidated by when they’re trying to find that time to work in the novel and how to best do it. So I hope you come back and join me over the next couple of presentations.

My name is Amy and I’m with Teaching Ideas 4U and you can connect with me on Facebook, on Instagram, on Youtube. I have a Teachers Pay Teachers store and I have my own website, which is just

I really appreciate you being with me today and I hope you got a lot out of it. So thank you so much for joining me and I hope to see you again.

Have a good day!

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Using Novels In Your Classroom