Ep 181: Nailing Down Your Novel Units for the School Year - EB Academics

Ep 181: Nailing Down Your Novel Units for the School Year

Teaching with a novel can be one of the greatest joys of being an ELA teacher. Unfortunately, planning a novel unit can also feel like a flurry of cutting and pasting activities and lessons from all over, with no clear path toward a goal. Today, Caitlin and Jessica discuss an awesome framework for avoiding this chaos, sharing the method that EB  Academic’s own curriculum team has developed over the course of creating many powerful units. 

Caitlin and Jessica will guide you step by step through the planning process, beginning with your novel unit’s essential question. With this “backward planning” approach, you will determine your novel unit’s focus before diving into the details of pre-reading, during-reading, and post-reading activities. 

So listen in and learn how to create a novel unit that creates memorable moments for students, broadens their world views, and helps them to connect with their reading. And, of course, you’ll get some awesome activity and assessment ideas along the way.

Tune in now to hear:

  • [00:50] Caitlin extends an invitation to a free live event: a one-hour webinar focused on the batch planning experience. You can also join us in our pop-up Facebook group! Let the EB team assist you in your batch planning experience, so you can donate just a few days to planning and take planning off your plate for a really long time. Click here, pick your date, and request access to join our pop-up Facebook group.
  • [03:00] Why nail down your novel unit now? So you can get it done now and enjoy the rest of your summer! Batch planning is another great way to get planning off your plate. Click here to join our two-day batch planning session! 
  • [05:00] Want to get your first few weeks planned with an engaging narrative unit? Join this free workshop to get started! 
  • [07:00] Jessica shares three great memories of novel teaching
  • [11:00] How novels open worlds for students  
  • [11:50] Jessica talks about the importance of planning your novel unit with intention. Which standards do you want to address? Which topics and themes do you want your students to appreciate and understand?
  • [13:30] Are you joining us for Batch Planning Live? Attendees will get to view a Nail Down Your Novel Unit presentation to get great tips for planning! You’ll get the highlights in the rest of this podcast. 
  • [14:00] Soon you’ll also be able to pick a Nail Down Your Novel Unit resource (EB Teachers can use their coupon code in the EB Teachers’ Shop, other teachers can grab it on Teachers Pay Teachers). Coming June 22!
  • [15:00] What’s included in a great novel unit: the essential question, the scope and sequence, vocabulary, pre-reading activities, during reading activities, post-reading activities, quizzes, and tests. 
  • [15:30] Before you plan anything else, develop your essential question! This will guide your unit and readers can respond to it in an essay when the novel is finished.
  • [16:00] Caitlin shares a frame for developing an essential question. 
  • [18:20] Now you can build your scope and sequence, which will be the roadmap of your unit. Jessica shares the details you should include and what you should consider.
  • [20:00] Consider bringing in related non-fiction texts for your unit!
  • [20:40] Next, create a vocabulary list for your unit. Include the chapters and perhaps the page numbers where the words can be found. Then choose how you will pass these out (All at once? By chapter? Do you want to use a study method like doodle notes?
  • [23:00] Jessica discusses pre=reading activities. The goal is to accomplish at least some of the following: motivate students to want to read the texts, get students thinking about topics and themes they will encounter in the text, activate prior knowledge before they read, give them background information that will help them understand the novel’s setting, and prime students to feel empathy as they read. 
  • [24:00] Don’t feel overwhelmed by this! A few simple ideas: popcorn predictions or five-word wonder, anticipation stations. 
  • [24:30] Next, create during-reading activities. Be careful where you place these activities in your scope and sequence! 
  • [26:00] Caitlin discusses two “must-have” during-reading activities: an evidence tracker and at least one discussion activity. 
  • [29:00] For post-reading activities, one will probably be a Response to Literature essay. But if you have time, consider adding another for a memorable conclusion to the unit. Examples: have students do a music video project, create a one-pager, write the next chapter, or create new chapter titles. 
  • [30:30] Now consider your quizzes and tests. A quick note on tests: the EB novel units do not always include tests. This is because often, the quizzes cover all the important comprehension questions and the Response to Literature addresses high level comprehension and analysis. Before creating your test, consider whether what you want to assess is already covered in your unit’s other assessments. (Of course, you’ll need to include a test if it’s a school requirement.) 
  • [31:00] Make sure you are clear on your objectives before creating a quiz or test! Be intentional when it comes to creating and assessing quizzes and tests. 
  • [33:00] Caitlin shares some types of quiz and test items to help assess your students’ understanding. 

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Then, pick the date you’re going to teach it in your classroom, and sit back while you watch as your students show up to your classroom pumped about what the day holds…and gush about your class to their parents on the car ride home!

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