Posted in Novel

My biggest mistakes using novels (and how I fixed them)

My biggest mistakes using novels and how I fixed them

With my beginning levels, I started teaching novels.  It was going decently, but still many students didn’t enjoy them.  I didn’t feel like I was reaching as many students as I wanted.  However, after studying how more people used novels in class and developing my units, I have realized my biggest mistakes and how I have started to counter them in class.  This has made my novel units much more successful- and now I have at least two novels to read in each level.

My first mistake was almost always reading as a group and translating aloud.  Now this can be valuable, but it also gets tedious as we continued to do this chapter after chapter.  I have found that if you have taught enough of the vocabulary, it is also not always needed.  However, this is typically how I start the first chapter.  This gives students confidence about what they can do.  Then, I change it up.  Instead of reading aloud, I will give them reading guides for a chapter then we can continue to discuss important points.  On my Facebook page, I recently shared a reading guide that I used for chapter 2 with Frida Kahlo.  I also like to have students use whiteboards, and we will pause, so students can illustrate different aspects of the book.  This provides a quick brain break, and I can provide more input- or ask students what they drew!  With my level 5, I am also going to have them read independently and respond to my questions on Flipgrid.  I wouldn’t try this with earlier levels since it may be a bit too difficult.  I have also put some questions on PearDeck which allows students to answer longer questions, multiple choice and also draw.  This provides a nice balance of all of them.  I can put it on student-paced, or we can go through a chapter together with PearDeck.

I have written about this before, but I was also horrible about Reader’s Theater!  I had two main problems- we were reading it WHILE they were trying to act it out.  The actors got antsy.  Reader’s Theater is the best AFTER reading.  This will reinforce the concepts, and students really enjoy it, so they aren’t frustrated that they are hearing the information twice.  Also, my other big mistake was having students reenact the whole chapter!  Even in beginning readers- it was too long.  There were some parts that were not suitable to even reenact.  Again, both readers and actors got antsy.  I suggest keeping it to one page or a page and a half if there is a larger continuous stage.  This year when we reenact it, I will have someone create a video to be included in our year end video.

Also, if you want to include all students in the re-enactment, I suggest digital storytelling!  I have students use Snapchat (although now they could also use Instagram Stories) to take pictures AND edit them.  They can also include a caption in the target language.  It is fun when they also add stickers to explain it more.  Then, they download the picture instead of publishing it.  (Although, they could also publish it.)  This way, they can submit it to you without you even having to be on Snapchat.  Students snapchat so much, they can do this in about 15 minutes.

My last mistake was not incorporating the great culture that is included in the novels.  I tried some, but I could have included much more!  We can listen to music from the country where the novel is written.  In Billy y las botas, we made sure to listen to the song El Burrito Sabanero before the sweater sings it.  Before another chapter in Frida that mentions the Mexican Revolution, I had students complete a short EdPuzzle to give them background before it is mentioned in the unit.  I also put together an EdPuzzle for Chichén Itzá before Billy y las botas go there on a date.  There are so many concepts that could be covered; I encourage you to find some that you know your students will like and you enjoy discussing as well.

Finally, my newest tool to use with novels is Goosechase!  You can come up with a scavenger hunt to give clues throughout the scavenger hunt.  I tried this last year with vocabulary, but Sharon had awesome ideas on how to use it with novels.  If you can, I encourage you to try it!

Originally, I believed that it would be really easy to use novels in class, but it definitely takes some time to figure it out.  How do you incorporate novels?  Were there any lessons that you learned?

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7 thoughts on “My biggest mistakes using novels (and how I fixed them)

  1. Getting away from choral translation was a big leap forward for me, too. I’ve been incorporating more realia in my novel units as well. We’re reading Robo en la noche right now, and I found this cool Vivatips video on fruit-cutting hacks to go along with the two main characters cutting fruit.

    1. I love this! It is awesome to take a little part of the novel and flesh it out with a video. I will try this for the next chapters in Frida. I think that relying on choral translation can be difficult to fully foster engagement. Thanks for taking the time to comment and share!

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