3 Fun Activities for any Novel Study

By The Daring English Teacher

When teaching a novel, I love to mix things up and throw in a fun, creative, or collaborative activity that engages students as they analyze and interpret the novel’s theme, characters, symbols, or conflict. This allows me to enhance my students’ understanding of the novel, and it gives them a break from the day-to-day routine of reading and reviewing that often accompanies novel studies. Providing students with fun and engaging, yet still rigorous, activities enhances their understanding and fosters a love of reading.
Here are three fun activities that you can easily incorporate into any novel study.

This is one of my favorite, go-to collaborative activities. Collaborative posters are a great way to review key concepts, analyze symbols and motifs, and brainstorm for essays, and they require little planning. Before class starts, write one character, symbol, setting, motif, or element from the novel in pencil in the corner of each paper. When class begins, have students form groups of 2-4 students, and provide each group with one of the pieces of paper. Then, instruct your students to record the item, information, and quotes from the book on the poster.

For this assignment, you can focus on the author’s use of symbols within the novel. You will select a variety of symbols in the novel and assign the symbols to different groups. It is okay if multiple groups are assigned the same symbol. Instruct each group to title their poster with the symbol, write as many details about the symbol as they can think about (this includes what it stands for), and record up to two different quotes illustrating how the author uses the symbol in the novel. I recently did this activity with my Romeo and Juliet unit, and it was a hit. The students were prepared for their essays, and they developed a deeper understanding for the play.

Once students are done with the posters, display them throughout the classroom and have the students complete a gallery walk recording the information. This activity is great because it requires students to analyze their assigned topic, while at the same time reinforcing the importance of collaborative work. Even better, this activity gets students up and moving!

As an alternative to making posters, this assignment also works very well with post-it notes. Simply provide your student groups with multiple post-it notes, and have the groups write information on the post-its. Then, have students post the notes on the board for the gallery walk. This option is especially beneficial when you want to have a gallery walk, but do not have the time for making posters in the classroom. You can also read about collaborative brainstorming ideas in this blog post.

A fun and creative character analysis project you can complete in your classroom is a mock job fair in your classroom. To prepare for this activity, students either select or are assigned a character from the novel. They assume the role of this character and create a resume for this character listing strengths, accomplishments, and skills. To prepare for this activity, I usually teach students about resume writing, provide them with a list of power verbs, and give them a resume template.

After students create their resumes, I host a mock job fair in my classroom for one day. During the mock job fair students are assigned to one of two groups, and the groups rotate between interviewer and interviewee. The students assigned to the interview role are given a set of interview questions to ask their candidate. As the candidate responds, the interviewer records the responses. After the interview is over, the students switch roles. This is one of my favorite activities for my Of Mice and Men unit because the students get to explore the characters on a deeper level.

Once the activity is over, students write a brief argument piece about whether they would hire that character for the job.

After I read an essential chapter with my students, I like to take a day or two to reflect on the reading, analyze what happened, and make sure that my students understand the importance of what they just read, and a creative comic strip assignment is ideal for this. One of the best times to assign this activity is right after a major conflict or at the peak of the story so that students can really analyze the novel's conflict. I like doing this activity with my students when we read Fahrenheit 451 because it helps them understand the conflict more.

When assigning a comic strip assignment, make sure students focus on more than just drawing pictures by requiring them to include quotes from the novel as their dialogue. In addition to quotes, students should also write narration, cite their quotes in MLA format, and dedicate an entire box to the novel’s conflict.

You can download this FREE, EXCLUSIVE resource to use in your classroom with your next novel study!

For more fun, yet rigorous, activities that you can use with any novel study, check out my Novel Unit. This resource is 99 pages and is filled so many activities that you can use them throughout the year for multiple novel studies. From introductory activities to use before reading, to differentiated writing prompts with built-in scaffolding to use as you read, to post-reading cumulative assignments, and everything in between, this novel unit is my go-to resource when I'm in a pinch and need an activity. Click HERE to check out this resource.

Here are some additional resources to help you teach the novel!
The SuperHERO Teacher - Workbook for Any Novel Unit Study Grades 7-12
Addie Williams - Novel Study Package - Use with ANY NOVEL
Presto Plans - Assignments for Any Novel or Short Story
Secondary Sara - Chapter Study Guides: Student-Made Activity for ANY Novel

6 Ways to Help Students Set Goals

As adults, we know the importance of setting goals, creating a plan of action to REACH those goals, and celebrating our successes.  However, many of our students struggle with intrinsic motivation and are not yet familiar with the concept of life planning.  I believe that with guidance, educators can help students change their mindset through goal setting.  Below, you will find six tips to prepare your students for a new year and start setting goals!

As the new year (2017) approaches, it's important that we as educators emphasize the idea of a "new start" and a "new you"!  Our students may have experienced an exorbitant amount of failure in 2016 and are feeling unfocused and let down.  We can change that, though!  Create an atmosphere that screams "new beginnings" in your classroom.  You can do this in a number of ways, but I would suggest creating a growth mindset bulletin board, posting motivational quotes around the classroom, and making your journal prompts or bell ringers related to goal setting for the month of January.   These small touches might make the difference in helping your students achieve their goals.

  I think most students understand the concept of planning a goal and working hard to achieve it, but failure?  Not so much.  It's disheartening and can seem like the end of the world for a teenager, which is why it's important to stress the significance of learning from failure. One way to do this is discussing the famous role models who have failed multiple times before getting where they are now.  My favorite "famous failures" are: Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and Walt Disney.  All of these people experienced failure before their success.  If our students see that, they will be able to relate! 

I've created this goal setting tic-tac-toe activity for you to use with your students.  The goal (see what I did there?) of this exercise is to get students thinking beyond a simple ambition and actually put it into action.  Students will write a SMART goal and rehearse, picture, predict, visualize, track, sketch, document, and plan their goal.  Simply click here or on the picture to download this game for free.

Your students have created a SMART goal and can visualize the end product, but do they have a plan?  The next step is creating a plan of action.  Follow these simple steps to create a solid plan.
1. Ask students to label a blank sheet of notebook paper 1-10. 
2. Prompt students to write the end result of their goal for number 10. 
3. Direct students to write their SMART goal for number 1. 
4. Guide students in writing ACTION steps for the numbers in between. 
 I emphasize the word "action" because they need to be things the students can track and document.  For example, if my goal was to earn a 92% or higher on my vocabulary test, an action step I would take is developing 2 flashcards per vocab word.  I can track and document that step.  Worried about your students losing this paper?  Have them decorate it with pictures of the steps and display them around the classroom.  This will also hold them accountable for their action steps. 

Growth mindset is such an important concept that is being taught in schools today.  First, let's define growth and fixed mindset.  People with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence, skill, or talent is something that you are born with– something that is fixed, and unable to be changed.  Fixed mindsets allow people to believe that a person is either good or bad at something, based on nature.  For example: Nicole is a natural born genius.  This statement suggests that Nicole was born smart and that effort did not lead to her intelligence level.  People with a growth mindset believe and understand that with effort and perseverance, they can succeed– even if failure comes first.  Growth mindsets allow people to think their  abilities are directly tied to their actions.  For example: Nicole’s ability to develop a detailed outline is admirable.  This statement suggests that Nicole worked hard at a challenging task, allowing her to succeed at writing a detailed outline.  If your students believe that they can actually achieve the goal they set, then you're on your way to having a group of students with growth mindsets. 

Still feeling a little apprehensive about goal setting?  That's okay, I was too-- which is why I created this growth journal designed to help students set ONE specific goal and achieve it in one month's time.  I didn't want to overwhelm students with setting multiple goals, which is why this growth journal is focused on only one. Students will track their weekly progress, map out their plan of action, reflect of daily gratitude, and design a weekly timeline to track progress.  You can find the growth journal here, the Growth Mindset Portfolio here, or click on the images below! 

Thank you so much for reading! I would love to know how YOU help your students set goals for the new year, too!  Please comment with any tips, tricks, or suggestions.  Best of luck as the new year approaches.  You're making a difference every single day. 

Looking for more ways to help students set goals? Check out these resources:
-Get to Know You and Goal Setting by Addie Williams
-Growth Mindset Resources for the Secondary Classroom by The Daring English Teacher
-3 Activities to Help You Get to Know Your Class by Stacey Lloyd
-FREE: Resolutions Bingo: New Years Goal Activity by Secondary Sara

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