How I decide on novels for my classes

How I decide on novels for my class

Whew!  My school year is over, my room is packed and now- I just have to pack up my house, have an edcamp, move, vacation and make it through June!  At least those are all- relatively- fun things!  In my head, I wasn’t going to blog much in June, but then I started to feel the itch.

Two weeks ago, I got to visit my new school and talk to the current foreign language department about curriculum and novels.  And of course, my head started spinning with ideas.  I also wanted to be purposeful about the novels that we chose to implement next year.  Next year, I will be teaching: Early Childhood and grades 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8.  The younger classes meet twice a week and the middle school classes meet 4 times a week.  The department decided to introduce novels in fourth grade which to me seems reasonable.

When you are first starting to look at novels, I suggest thinking about the difficulty level.  Martina wrote a wonderful series about how to know if a novel is appropriate for each level that I highly recommend!

First, I looked at what the school already had.  I really liked two of the novels they were already using.  They had Brandon Brown versus Yucatan for sixth grade.  I hadn’t read it before, but when I did, I liked the incorporation of Mexican culture.  I can’t wait to Google Map those locations a la Maestra Loca!  Also, they had Isabela captura un congo.  When I taught elementary classes before, I loved to incorporate animals.  This story does so nicely, and I can use some of my resources from Robo en la noche with Costa Rica.

Second, I decided that I wanted to vary the countries that the books emphasize.  One year, I fell into the trap of emphasizing too much one country when I wasn’t analyzing this.  My colleague emailed and said the exact same thing!  I looked at the current novels and then added on other novels that I knew would cover various countries.  Spanish teachers in particular are so lucky that there are so many books to choose from!  If it hasn’t happened already, soon I predict that there will be a novel from each country.

Finally, I have found that students prefer a balance of non-fiction and fiction.  Since I have tried to cover two novels a year, I try to choose one of each.  While a few years ago, there were mostly fiction books, now there is a wide variety of both fiction and non fiction.  When I polled my students what books they preferred at the end of the year, they were split because I believe I finally struck a nice balance.  (Last year, I taught Vidas Impactantes with level 5 along with Calaca Alegre.  In level 3, we read Robo en la noche and Santana.)

So after debating this, what did I decide on?

  • Grade 4: Edi el elefante (based on recommendations from many!)
  • Grade 5: Isabela captura un congo
  • Grade 6: Brandon Brown versus Yucatan and Felipe Alou (I have always wanted to teach it!  And it is a non-fiction book!)
  • My colleague is planning on teaching Escape cubano, Esperanza and maybe even El Ekeko in 7th grade.
  • Grade 8: Bianca Nieves because we loved it so much two years ago and Leyendas impactantes (I chose Leyendas because I want to start with a study of Venezuela.  Also- it has a novice and intermediate version!)

Many of these books will be new to us- so I would love any suggestions that you have!  Also, how do you decide on books that you use for whole class novels?

4 thoughts on “How I decide on novels for my classes

  1. Thanksfor the post. How do you do the whole class novels? How long do you take in a class and about how long in the year does it last to read and work through a novel?

    1. If you check out the home page, I have written a few posts that lay out the day to day activities that I do with these novels. I try to keep my novels to a month which gives me enough time to do extension activities, assess students and keeps the pace fast enough to keep students engaged.

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