I love teaching novel studies. Using novels in the classroom develops students’ learning and skills in many ways. Reasons to teach novel studies include:
- Student exposure to plot structure and new vocabulary, which has an enormous impact on their own language development and writing skills
- Novel studies allow students to experience things they wouldn’t have done otherwise
- They help students to see events from others’ point of view
- They allow students to develop understanding and skills to make sense of different situations
- And, of course, for enjoyment and to promote their love of reading
One particular book that makes a fantastic novel study for elementary students is Charlottes’s Web by E. B. White. This story, in which a spider tries to save the life of a young pig on a farm, covers many important themes including friendship, determination, teamwork and growing up.
Some key activities that I like to use during the novel study include:
Character studies are a key element of a novel study. It is through the characters that the reader experiences the events of the story. I like to get my students to complete character profiles on the key characters including details on personality, relationships with others and how they change and develop as the story progresses. I also like my students to complete character comparisons and think about how different characters react to particular situations in the story.
I love getting my student to use their senses to describe settings within a novel. I ask my students to image they are on the farm in Charlotte’s Web. What can they see? What can they smell? What can they hear? Charlotte’s Web is great for evoking these senses. This a key opportunity to develop descriptive vocabulary. I have my students work in talk partners to describe the setting verbally before beginning their writing.
During the novel study, it is important to develop those key reading strategies. My students think about and make connections between the novel and themselves. the world and also other novels. Thinking about cause and effect of key events is also important during the novel study. We also work in summarizing the key events in the chapters within the novel.
This is where the students can really show their creativity and become fully immersed in the novel and really empathise with the characters. Some writing tasks I enjoy doing with Charlotte’s Web include letter writing to key characters, writing instructions on how to make a spider web, exploring dilemmas (should Wilbur continue with his escape or should he return to the barn?), describing how the characters show they are a good friend and writing a newspaper report on the writing in the web.
In Charlotte’s Web, Wilbur learns many new words from Charlotte. This is a key opportunity for students to find out the definitions of new words they may not have come across before. This includes developing dictionary skills. I also like students to think about the words Charlotte has written in her web and why she has chosen those words to describe Wilbur.
Cross Curricular Activities
A novel study is great opportunity to learn new facts about the subject of the book. In Charlotte’s web, some of my favorite cross curricular tasks include researching the spider life cycle, creating fact files on how to look after a pet and learning about farm animals.
The above are some of the activities that I incorporate into a novel study of Charlotte’s Web. If you’d like to try the activities mentioned, I have saved you the time and effort of creating them with this useful Charlotte’s Web Novel Study Unit.
The unit includes full teaching instructions and ideas for implementing the activities. The novel study also includes activities on character, setting, vocabulary work, reading activities and summarizing.
The novel study also includes multiple choice comprehension quizzes on all chapters in the novel with answers included for you to assess your students’ understanding.
You can grab Charlotte’s Web Novel Study here!