Wednesday, February 22, 2012

YA Novel Unit

Part of my classroom library
I cringed as I wrote the title of this blog. I always hated novel units as a student.  I hated them because either one book was assigned to the whole class with little consideration to tastes or interests, or there were a few to choose from, but only ones the teacher had read and deemed appropriate. The novel unit that stands out vividly to me is from my freshman year in high school. We were all assigned one of two books--Les Miserables or  The Red Pony. I have to admit, I ended up liking Les Miserables, but I know that most of the students assigned either one, hated them. 

I'm not so fond of how "The Novel" is taught to students today.

Pretty much nothing has changed.

But I'm trying.

I started a Young Adult Novel unit with my freshmen today.  Actually, it started a couple of weeks ago when I got new books (all the ones on my wish list!). And then again, last Thursday when I told kids what we were going to be doing and they started earnestly looking through my books.

"Can I read this one?"

"I want this one."

"What do you mean, it's not worthy of me?"

"Really, I can't read it again?"

I started piles of books with post-it notes of names. I began pulling books off the shelves that were good and needed to be read. I pulled books down as I thought of specific kids. I even ordered an Ellen Hopkins book that one of my girls wanted and I didn't have.  All in preparation for this week.

Yesterday was book choosing day.  If they hadn't already found one last Thursday, then Tuesday was the day. The books were flying around my room. At one point, a book was pulled out of someone's hand (kind of like Black Friday sales!).  They prepared their activity book, got directions for the journal calendar, and the activities they could choose from for each day's assignment.

My main goal is to get them to read a good book.  And if you've read my blog before, you know I believe in choice.  I want them to pick their own books.  My only requirement is that it is worthy of them.  I don't care what they read the rest of the year, but for this unit, I want them to read something with a little meat to it. Something that will make them think and feel. Something that will make them admit that they kind of like their book.

"Can we start reading our books today? Please?  Mine looks really good!"

And so it begins....


  1. Your classroom sounds like an exciting place to be! :-) Could you post an example of (or write about) the "journal calendar" and the daily activities you let the students choose from? Your library reminds me of an elementary classroom -- coincidentally, where I think of reading as being more fun and less work! It's so wonderful that you are allowing students the opportunity to read books they are excited about in high school!

  2. I had planned on writing a couple of blog posts about this and will definitely share the journal and the activities!

  3. I agree with Jennifer. It seems as soon as they leave elementary, the fun stops. Why should the fun stop there??? Thanks for making learning fun for kids of all ages!

  4. I only wish I was sending my 8th graders on to high school teachers like you, Deb! I love the image of books flying around your room during the selection process. At the beginning of the year, a district administrator walked into my room during such a flurry of activity. It was chaos, the best kind of chaos there is. Unfortunately, I am not sure the administrator saw things the way I did. Cheers to you for doing what feels right for your kids right now!

    1. and I wish I was getting your 8th graders. Maybe I wouldn't have to fight so much to get them to read. This unit is actually an adaptation of one I did with my 7th graders back when taught junior high

  5. Oh, you warm my heart, Deb. How exciting to be in your class! The books you show & the ones you've shared before are good reads so it should be a wonderful experience for everyone. I am such a crazed reader & I have been all my life, but my freshman year we read Great Expectations. It took years before I realized what a wonderful writer Dickens is & that I was missing good words by avoiding him. That's what the novel unit did to me. Egads! We must all unite to forge a new path! Thank you again, Deb!
    I am on vacation this week & spent much time today in my favorite two indie bookstores, buying some of my wishlist. I am very excited! I'll post on GoodReads soon.

  6. Just reading this post got me excited for your students. I hope they all found books that are satisfying to their likes!


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