Novel Studies for the 21st Century Learner

We’re delighted to welcome our next guest blogger to Minds in Bloom! Shalyn is a teacher librarian who is sharing with us how to make novel studies more appropriate for 21st century skills and learning.

Novel studies are amazing learning tools, but what about when you consider 21st century skills? This is where Google Classroom comes in. Our guest blogger shares how to use Google Classroom to transform novel studies with literature circles into technologically-advanced instructional tools. Click through to read more.

Let’s go back in time and imagine that you are in your elementary/middle/high school classroom. The teacher announces that you are going to begin your literature circle rotation for the class period. What will this consist of exactly? One student in the group will be rummaging through the desk trying to find their paper from yesterday, one team member will be complaining that this is so annoying, and two students can’t find a pencil because they are either lost or unsharpened. This learning style may be the learning style that you are used to, but with the 21st century and how far technology has come, this does not need to be the classroom that you teach.

We need to change our style of teaching to fit the needs of the students in our classes. These requirements reflect the skills of a 21st century learner. When we consider 21st century learning techniques, we think of the following: collaboration, teamwork, creativity, imagination, critical thinking, and problem-solving. You may be thinking, “How are we going to achieve this?” I have the magical answer for you. We are going to combine two things: Google Classroom and literature circles to make the reading activities more engaging and to help develop 21st century learning skills.

The technique that you find below will be suitable for students of all ages. I use this with elementary-aged students (K-5th). However, it can be adapted to fit with students in the upper-grade levels.

The very first step to achieving this is to set up your literature circles. Following this, you will want to set up a Google Classroom for each group in the literature circle. These set ups will be how you group your students for the typical literature circle. For an idea, I will explain how I set up mine: I group students on similar reading levels, and I let them decide which piece of literature they would like to read based on novel choices that I have provided. Based on their selections, students are placed into groups of 4-7 students. Below, I will explain more of the roles of the students in these groups.

Setting up the novel studies: Before reading, students are set up with their literature of choice. Google Classroom is used to share different pieces of pre-reading, including book trailers, connecting pieces of literature (both fiction and nonfiction), about the author, and author websites. Students set out to explore everything using the links on Google Classroom and share with their peers the things that they find interesting. By engaging in this exploratory phase, students are given background knowledge before reading their literature, and they can consistently come back if they want to learn more information during their reading.

Now that we have finished pre-reading, the next step that needs to be achieved is the during reading aspect of a novel study. Students are assigned chapters for discussion, and for each section, they will have a different novel study role. The roles that I assign include Discussion Direction, Quite the Questioner, Interesting Inferencer, Superb Summarizer, Classy Clarifier, Connector, and Visualizer. Each chapter, the student roles change. Roles are chosen in a variety of different ways (using Class Dojo Randomizer, pulling Popsicle® sticks, letting a discussion director decide, etc.). Students record their roles on a Google Slides presentation, which will be linked next. For more information on how this is set up, please visit the Google Slides presentation.

Novel studies are amazing learning tools, but what about when you consider 21st century skills? This is where Google Classroom comes in. Our guest blogger shares how to use Google Classroom to transform novel studies with literature circles into technologically-advanced instructional tools. Click through to read more.

Along with the during reading steps, here are a few of my favorite tools to connect with Google Classroom during the literature circle:

  • myON Reader: A paid website where students can get online ebooks to read during their novel studies
  • Epic!: A website where students can get free online ebooks
  • Word Art: Students can use this website to record character traits and to create a word cloud.
  • Kahoot!: As Quite the Questioner, students can create Kahoot questions to quiz their classmates.
  • Quizzizz: Students can create a quiz to form questions from their novel study.

This list is just highlighting a few of my favorite websites for students to show their learning! I know firsthand that students love these sites! For a list of more websites, please visit this Symabloo link.

Now that students have completed the novel study, we move into the final part of this. This is the student’s part, and that is creating a book trailer. The best website to do this is Adobe Spark. Please check out my next blog for tips and tricks to help students create a book trailer.

After reading this, I have one question for you: In what way would you like to learn? The way mentioned above where the group was not in sync? Or the way explained throughout this post? I am with you when I would decide that I want to learn in the engaging way that will enhance my 21st century skills. By making little tweaks in the way we teach, we can prepare our students for the world ahead of them: an ever-changing world full of jobs and technologies that hasn’t even been created yet.

How are YOU going to incorporate Google Classroom novel studies into your own classroom?


ShalynShalyn Hughes is a K-5 teacher librarian who has a passion for teaching the 21st-century learner. One of her roles as the teacher librarian includes teaching enrichment students in grade levels K-5. Another big part of her role is helping her school with the integration of 1:1 technology and helping teachers incorporate technology to make an enriching learning experience for students. She is beginning her third year of teaching and is always on the cutting edge to find technology that best fits student needs. Connect with her on Twitter (@MrsHughes8) and via email.

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