Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

A Novel Approach: Whole-Class Novels, Student-Centered Teaching, and Choice

by Jenn Hayhurst

On February 22, 2018, Kate Roberts joined #G2Great to have a conversation about taking a fresh look at the whole-class novel. There is something deeply reassuring about her book, because she asks us to lift our presuppositions, regardless of what stance you take, and find some common ground. What is good about this practice? What’s a potential drawback? How can we elevate this practice so it can evolve based on what we now know about strong instructional practice?

We are all teachers who want to get to the heart of the matter…  how do we help usher in the next generation of readers? As with any complex endeavor, there is so much to consider. Kate’s book inspired all of us to think past our preconceptions because the more we share the more we could learn from and support each other through professional sharing.

Sharing Experiences

Experiences shape us. They fill us up and give us the ink so we may write our stories. If I understand your experience with this instructional move, I can broaden my own understanding. During the chat, I broadened my understanding and I saw the Whole-Class Novel (WCN) as something that is not a yes/ no proposition I re-envisioned it as an opportunity that may be full of potential.

Sharing Expertise

We are smarter together! Yes, the Whole-Class Novel can be an object of inquiry. When teachers think about their end goals for using this instructional practice it can grant permission for critical thinking. We can take this one book, and open it up to all our students and see where they take it. That can be an exciting proposition.

Sharing the Journey

When teachers and students share the journey to make meaning it is magical. It is also powerful that Kate’s book inspired this revelation for the #G2Great community. This is not an easy proposition but it is a worthwhile one. Students will have vastly different interpretations of a book and that’s ok. The classroom is the perfect place to learn how to have those conversations that may not have been possible without this instructional move.

Thank you, Kate for helping us to re-envision the potential for the Whole-Class Novel. Together we continue to shape and grow our practice, because none of us are as brilliant as all of us…


One thought on “A Novel Approach: Whole-Class Novels, Student-Centered Teaching, and Choice”

  1. As a student, the whole-class novel was my least favorite reading experience in any class. It was painful, mind-numbingly and excruciating as we read at the pace of the slowest reader in the class and completed page after page of activities that seemed unconnected from the story as well as purposefully designed to make us hate reading.

    As a teacher I followed the lead of my team and we read whole-class novels. We moved faster than other classes (sometimes getting me in trouble) and read a lot. Sometimes there were choices. Sometimes not. But there was a part of me that said, this use of their time has to move along, not drag out and not kill anyone’s love of reading.

    The more that I have listened to the voices of our students as they’ve literally spilled their guts to explain what they liked and disliked, I know that I would have a hard time going back to a whole-class novel. Choosing a title would be so hard because I can’t imagine one title that every student would agree on. I would much rather have an extra round of book clubs where students could choose their own texts.

    Kate’s book has allowed me, no required me, to think about why I do and do not like whole-class novels. With her demonstration lessons, I have seen the possibilities. There are classrooms where students could benefit from not spending 12 weeks on the same book. There are classrooms where students might benefit from a common shared text to build community. There are ways to expand our current repertoires to increase student learning. That’s that best part of “A Novel Approach” – exploring the possibilities with Kate’s brilliant thinking as a mentor text!

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