Today, Caitlin and Jessica from EB Academic Camps are sharing five strategies for boosting student interest before starting a new novel.
Have you ever been so excited to start a new novel with your students – one you absolutely love and know they will, too – only to discover blank stares and a complete lack of interest? Frustrating, right? To combat this dilemma, we’ve tested the following five strategies to help boost student interest before you begin any new novel. After years of using these strategies, our students’ active participation in discussion about the story and strong analysis in their writing show us that these strategies WORK!
1. Popcorn Predictions
Get students up and moving with this interactive activity! Prior to starting your novel, select about 15 key sentences that offer clues as to what the story is about, without giving away the ending. Type these sentences out on strips of paper and make enough copies so each student gets one sentence (it’s okay if the sentences repeat).
Students pair up and share their sentences, briefly discussing what the novel could be about. After 1-2 minutes, they find another new partner and share their sentences and predictions again. Students keep “popping” around the room to new classmates and try to build on their predictions.
If your students are a little rowdy, try it this way. Pass out the sentence strips. Students read their one sentence to themselves and record their initial prediction on a piece of binder paper. After a few minutes, have students switch quotes with someone at their table or someone who is sitting next to them. Now, students will have read TWO quotes from the story. Students will record a second prediction on the same piece of binder paper. You can continue this activity for as long as you’d like, but we usually stop after switching quotes four times.
This activity immediately gets students predicting (hence, the name), analyzing, and making connections before you’ve even begun reading. This is a student favorite!
2. Mystery Objects
Before starting your novel, gather various objects that are key to the story you’re reading. Place everything on a table in your classroom, and have students examine each object and create a prediction for what the novel is about. (If you can’t find objects, pictures and magazine cutouts work just as well.) Using a recording sheet, students should write down their predictions with justification as to why their predictions are correct.
Students of any age love solving mysteries, and this activity lets them play detective and see if they can piece all of the objects/pictures together. (This works great as both a whole group or centers activity!)
3. Five Words
Before beginning a new novel, select five important words/phrases and write them on your board. Using these five words/phrases and the title of the novel, students are given 10 minutes to write their own short story that includes these words/phrases. It’s also a fun idea to have students share their short stories aloud. This activity is almost a surefire guarantee to get students thinking outside the box and excited to see what the novel is actually about! After finishing the novel, revisit these stories and see which students came the closest to the actual storyline.
4. Movie Clips
Showing clips of a movie or TV show that relates to your novel is a great way to get students excited about reading! Before starting the novel Mockingbird with our 5th graders, we knew we needed to increase student background information. The protagonist in the novel has Asperger’s syndrome, and many of our students were not familiar with this specific syndrome. To help them better understand the character, we showed several clips from the TV show Parenthood, specifically of the character Max, who also has Asperger’s syndrome. We talked about some of the common characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome and identified them on the show before beginning our reading. The visual really helped our students have a better grasp of what the novel was about and definitely sparked their interest.
5. Two Truths and One Lie
Although this is commonly used as an icebreaker game, it’s also the perfect way to start a new novel. In this case, prior to reading, the teacher provides the students with a handout of preselected quotes (10-15 quotes) from the novel and two truths and a lie about the novel. Students are to determine which statements are the truths and which statement is the lie based on the quotes they are provided. This activity is fun, while at the same time academically challenging, because students are using textual evidence to support their reasoning. Be prepared for a rowdy discussion as students defend their choices!
We hope you’re able to implement one or more of these strategies as you start your next novel! Happy teaching 🙂
Caitlin and Jessica are both teachers who love English Language Arts. They are the authors of the blog EB Academic Camps, where they share practical, fun ideas and resources for the English Language Arts classroom. They have collectively taught every grade level from 3rd grade to 12th grade honors. Stay in touch with them by following their blog, Teachers Pay Teachers store, Facebook, and Instagram.