Using Novels in Verse to Hook Your Students

Hook your students with novels in verse

Using Novels in Verse to Hook Your Students

By Tracee Orman

Novels in verse have been around since the 1800s; both Lord Byron (Don Juan in 1823) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Aurora Leigh in 1856) used the genre to write lengthier works of poetry with mixed reviews at the time. 

Recently, the genre has become popular in young adult literature. Authors like Jason Reynolds and Elizabeth Acevedo have embraced the format and created beautiful works that people of all ages love.


Using novels in verse in your classroom either in place of or alongside traditional novels can be very effective. 

1. They are more accessible for all readers. They are often more approachable for struggling or reluctant readers. The concise format and free verse style (shorter lines and smaller blocks of text) can be less intimidating, making the material more accessible.

2. They don’t take as long to read. If you struggle to teach a whole novel because of time constraints, novels in verse are the perfect replacement. They are still a complete book with all the story elements (plot, setting, characters, etc.), but most of them can be read faster than traditional novels, therefore taking up less time.

3. They include all the story elements of a traditional novel: plot, setting, characters, point of view, and conflict. Therefore, you can still practice many learning standards and objectives.

4. They can be more engaging for students. The poetic form of novels in verse can captivate students' attention and sustain their interest throughout the book. The unique style can be a refreshing change from standard prose.

5. They are easier to comprehend. The condensed and vivid language of verse can help students grasp complex themes, character emotions, and plot developments more easily. It encourages close reading and deeper comprehension.

6. They provide an opportunity to study poetic devices and figurative language. Killing two birds with one stone here! (Ugh. We need a better analogy! 😆)

I could go on and on about how they inspire creativity in students and so much more. But now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you to try novels in verse, I’m also here to help you teach them.


Whether you are reading one as a whole class or allowing students to choose their own novels in verse, I’ve got you covered. My Novels in Verse Reading Response Questions cover all aspects of the novel, including the story elements AND the poetic aspects. Even if your students are all using different novels in verse, they can still answer the same questions. It's perfect for lit circles and book clubs.

Novels in Verse Questions

✳️ Choose One Element Per Section

The pages are separated by the story element and sound elements (which includes the poetic devices). This way, you can choose to focus on one story element at a time while teaching. For example, for the first section of the novel, choose to focus on the characters. My pack includes two pages of character-specific questions, so these are perfect for getting to know the characters at the beginning of the novel. You might want to use the plot, conflict, setting, or point-of-view questions next or as the novel progresses. You can save the sound and literary devices sections for toward the end when they have many examples to draw from. I have an OVERALL page of questions you can use at the very end of the novel.

✳️ Choose MORE THAN One Element Per Section

You can print (or share digitally) all the questions at once and give the students the freedom to answer them as they go. They can work at their own pace and you can also steer them as you go, giving them suggestions as you read the novel which questions they could certainly answer at that point in the story. For example, at a very intense moment in the novel, you may steer them to take a look at the conflict and/or plot questions. Also, if you notice several sound devices being used, hint to your students they may want to look at that section while they are reading.

✳️ Get Creative After Reading

Have your students try to write a passage in the style of verse. Whether it's a longer poem or a mixture of prose and poetry for a short story, have them write and then share with their classmates.


There are so many novels in verse being published today but if you aren’t familiar with them, definitely ask your school librarian or public librarian. In the meantime, I can suggest some new and older titles that seem to be very popular with students, teachers, and critics. Some novels will not be appropriate for all ages. You can always check their Common Sense Media rating if you are concerned about their appropriate age level. That said, here are some notables (not all are pictured):

Long Way Down and For Everyone by Jason Reynolds

Death Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe

House Arrest and Knock Out by K.A. Holt

Crossover (series), Solo, Swing, and The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander

Clap When You Land and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Inside Out and Back Again and When Clouds Touch Us by Thanhha Lai

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Alone by Megan E. Freeman

Crank (series) by Ellen Hopkins

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

Every Body Looking by Candice Ipoh

The Ghosts of Rose Hill by R.M. Romero

The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan

Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz

A Seed in the Sun by Aida Salazar

Odder by Katherine Applegate

The Hope of Elephants by Amanda Rawson Hill

The Road to After by Rebekah Lowell

Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes

Star Fish by Lisa Fipps

The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcarcel

A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner

Emmy in the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido

Gone Fishing by Tamera Wissinger

Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai

Hidden by Helen Frost

Once in a Blue Moon by Sharon G. Flake

Dear Medusa by Olivia A. Cole

We Are All So Good at Smiling and Moth by Amber McBride

White Rose by Kip Wilson

The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep by Allan Wolf

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

Don’t Call Me a Hurricane by Ellen Hagan

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder

High by Mary Sullivan

When We Make It: A Nuyorican Novel by Elisabet Velasquez

Lawless Spaces by Corey Ann Haydu

Home Is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo

Angel & Hannah: A Novel in Verse by Ishle Yi Park (perfect pairing with Romeo & Juliet)

Novels in Verse for High School

Novels in Verse for Middle Grades

I hope you found some great ideas for using novels in verse in your classroom! Check out these posts from my friends here at the Coffee Shop:

8 Captivating Novels in Verse for Secondary ELA Students by Nouvelle ELA

Long Way Down Novel Unit by The Daring English Teacher

Tracee Orman

Back to Top