There are many ways to explore brilliant novels in your reading programme. Novel studies can be a great way to dive deeper into your class read-aloud novel. You can also use novel studies to provide a structure for your literature circles and to build oral language skills through discussions. To read more about using literature circles in your reading programme, click here.
In this blog post, I break down our popular novel study resources and share a free resource with you, based on the fantastic and multi-award-winning book, Mophead by Dr. Selina Tusitala Marsh.
Our Novel Study Reading Resources
Our novel study reading resources are intended to be used as a comprehension, discussion, and activity guide to accompany engaging novels.
Each study splits the novel up into sections. Each section varies in size due to the number of pages and the nature of the content. Some sections call for more reflection and discussion than others.
For each section of the novel study, there are:
- Reading comprehension questions
- Weblinks and QR codes for students to find out more about the content discussed
- Six to eight creative activity choices (including digital and non-digital options)
- A Keep the Quote section.
- The Keep the Quote’s are a collection of quotes from the novel that can be cut out and ‘kept’ in an exercise book or notebook. These quotes can then be used to explore the deeper meanings and inferences further, used to make text-to-text or text-to-self connections, illustrated creatively, or another purpose of the teacher’s choosing.
- Each section also includes discussion questions for oral language development in the classroom, designed to be used with pairs or small groups of students.
Why do we include discussion questions in our novel studies?
Research shows that children’s discussion skills and vocabulary knowledge are incredibly important factors of reading development: the thinking and talking is where the learning happens.
1. Oral vocabulary is key to reading comprehension
Reading was traditionally seen as made up of decoding new words and making meaning, but more recent research has shown that vocabulary knowledge is crucial to comprehension. As experienced readers start to meet more complex words in their reading, their vocabulary knowledge becomes even more critical. Discussions about the text are where the interesting words are discovered, discussed, modelled, and explained. An increased vocabulary also supports better spelling and helps learners to decode larger, unknown words.
2. Discussion is the place children learn
Children learn when presented with a challenge that they cannot do on their own. Vygotsky (1978) calls this the zone of proximal learning. In reading, it is an instructional text. The teacher then challenges and supports students’ thinking and learning through what Vygotsky calls ‘cooperative or collaborative dialogue’. This questioning, thinking, listening and talking is where the links are made to prior knowledge and where the learning happens. Children are guided to discover and make new understandings and knowledge. In reading lessons, guided discussion is this learning place and results in new vocabulary, extended thinking and a deeper understanding of the text.
3. Critical discussion develops comprehension
Once students can decode, more emphasis needs to be placed on the discussion of the text. There is strong evidence that focussed critical-thinking discussion about rich text results in improved comprehension. Teacher-led discussion of a complex text is one of the best places to expose students to interesting, technological, and specific words in a meaningful context (content-area literacy). The teacher can explain, model, and discuss the definition within the text, drawing out the author’s meaning. Research finds collaborative discussion focussed on vocabulary and meaning is a high-value instructional activity that drives accelerated progress in reading for all students and especially for Māori and Pasifika students.
Our Novel Study Resources
Check out some of our popular novel studies here:
- Wonder Novel Study and Discussion Questions
- Fish in a Tree Novel Study and Discussion Questions
- Holes Novel Study and Discussion Questions
- Kensuke’s Kingdom Novel Study and Discussion Questions
- Dawn Raid Novel Study and Discussion Questions
- Gold!: Otago, 1862 Novel Study and Discussion Questions
Did you say freebie?
When I read the book Mophead, I just knew I had to create a resource to support it. Written by Dr. Selina Tusitala Marsh, this book is just phenomenal. It’s hard to put it in a category: Graphic novel? Memoir? Poem? It really is its own genre – and just like the themes of the book, it is proud to stand out and be unique! Check out some of the awards it won:
- Margaret Mahy Book of the Year – New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (2020)
- Elsie Locke Award for Non-fiction – New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (2020)
- Storylines Notable Book Award – Storylines Notable Non-fiction (age range from 3 years to 18 years) (2020)
- Gerard Reid Award for Best Book – PANZ Book Design Awards (2020)
- Scholastic New Zealand Award for Best Children’s Book – PANZ Book Design Awards (2020)
- Publishers Association of New Zealand People’s Choice Award – PANZ Book Design Awards (2020)
The themes that can be explored in this book are deep and profound – being an individual, celebrating difference and uniqueness, personal pride, resilience, finding your voice, celebrating your culture and heritage… and MORE!
I’ve put together a free Mini Novel Book Study on Mophead that you can find in our freebie library (included is a set for Year 3-4 and a set for Year 5-8. This resource features follow-up activities and discussion questions to explore this book further. If you haven’t got this book yet, get it today – you will definitely want your own copy to cherish.
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A thrilling list of references for your reading pleasure.
Dymock, S. & Nicholson, T. 2012. Teaching Reading Comprehension. The What, The How, The Why, Wellington: NZCER Press
García J. & Cain, K. 2014. Decoding and Reading Comprehension: A Meta-Analysis to Identify Which Reader and Assessment Characteristics Influence the Strength of the Relationship in English: Review of Educational Research Volume 84 Issue 1, March 2014 : New York: Sage Journals.
Gillon G. T. (2017) Phonological Awareness: From Research to Practice.(2nd ed.). Guilford Publications. University of Canterbury Book Shop: Christchurch
Hjetland, H.N., Brinchmann, E.I., Scherer, R. and Melby‐Lervåg, M. (2017), Preschool predictors of later reading comprehension ability: a systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 13: 1-155. Wiley 2019: Oslo
Jesson, R., McNaughton, S., Rosedale, N., Zhu, T. & Cockle, V. (2018). A mixed-methods study to identify effective practices in the teaching of writing in a digital learning environment in low income schools. Computers and Education, 119 (April), 14-30.
Kim, M.Y., & Wilkinson, I. A. (2019). What is dialogic teaching? Constructing, deconstructing, and reconstructing a pedagogy of classroom talk. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 21, 70-86.
McLeod, S. A. (2019). What Is the zone of proximal development? Simply psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/Zone-of-Proximal-Development.html
McNaughton, S. & Lai, M. (2012). Testing the effectiveness of an intervention model based on data use: a replication series across clusters of schools. School Effectiveness and School Improvement. 23(2), 203-228.