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  • Writer's pictureScott Cameron

6 Engaging Activities to Analyze a Novel in ELA

Every day I think about how to keep students engaged when studying novels.  Students will lose interest if they do the same thing every day so I try to mix up how they tackle the text.  It’s important that students learn how to work in a variety of ways: independently, with a partner, in a small group, and in a large group.  This is true for learning just as it is with working in the real world. 


Some students work better in groups and others work better alone, so it’s good to change up our routines.  During a long block period, it’s essential to have a variety of activities. 


With whole-novel activities, students examine around twenty passages for each topic so it’s easy for me to divide up the work by assigning passages to each student or small groups.    


Here are six engaging activities when analyzing a novel:


1.  Independent work


When working alone, students can usually take notes and interpret around fifteen passages in a 45-minute class period.  Working independently makes it easy to ask students to share out their thoughts on a handful of passages instead of trying to read and discuss each passage as a class.  Students can also post their response to a question related to the passages online. 


2.  Pairs


If there’s twenty-five students and twenty-five passages connected to a topic, a pair of students could be responsible for presenting on two passages.  I will usually ask students to read the passage out lout, provide context, and then share their interpretation.  This way, students who are less comfortable sharing their thoughts can at least read a few lines out loud or provide the context.  Any time students present their findings, I expect the rest of the class to take notes on a handout that contains the page numbers of each passage to stay on track. 


3.  Small group posters or slides


If students get into groups of three, four, or five, they can handle interpreting more passages.  I will often ask larger groups to create a PowerPoint together.  Recently, I had students in groups of four take notes on around 20 passages and then asked them to create a slide show with six of the most important passages related to their topic.  I will often ask larger groups to create a poster that contains an interpretation of around five quotes.  I will then take a picture of the poster using the Genius app and project the image on a screen so I can zoom in on their mind map or sketchnotes.   


4.  One-pagers


When I assign one-pagers, I first ask each student to take notes on around fifteen passages on a handout.  They then try to create a visual with drawings of symbols, creative calligraphy, shapes for organization, and short informal interpretations of around five of their favorite quotes.  These can be showcased around the classroom or a hallway. 


5.  Whole-class discussion


I tend to prefer the whole-class discussion simply because I like to be involved.  With the other activities, I can circulate around the room and answer any questions, but I like the old-fashioned storytelling and read-alouds that come with a whole-class discussion.  Typically, we’ll read the passage out loud and while they read, I will think of a question to ask.  Students can use the notes they take to write their essay.  At the end of the discussion, students can write a thesis statement or body paragraph on the topic.  If they post their response online, I will go over the best answers by copying and pasting the response without a name into a document.


6.  Whole-class activity


After completing the work, students can collaborate as a whole class.  Sometimes I will have students write an idea or phrase related to their assigned passage on the board and connect it with a circle and line to someone else’s idea.  Then I can ask students about the reason why they connected two ideas.  This way, they get an idea of how thesis statements and topic sentences work together. 


Students could also create a google drawing together.  I will expand the file size under file--page setup so that there is enough room to write quotes and create shapes that connect ideas.  I will then download the file so I can zoom in on the different responses and ask students to share their thoughts about what they wrote. 


All of these activities allow students to write, speak, listen, and read.  Each activity involves answering one single question, but with many voices. 

Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers

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