How I Teach Whole Class Novels



hi guys welcome back to too cool for middle school today we're gonna talk about how to lead discussions with a whole group novel I teach eighth grade English and we just finished reading roll of thunder hear my cry by Mildred D Taylor so this is the book that I'm going to be using as an example but I hope that you'll be able to take away some ideas from this process and be able to implement them in different grade levels or with different novels as a disclaimer I should say that again my kids are eighth graders and most of them are reading at grade level or pretty close to grade level so this is a little bit more of like an ideal situation and I know that for a lot of you there are going to be additional challenges when you try to implement a unit like this but maybe in the comments we can talk about some ways to solve some of those issues so let's start talking about this novel and the way that I taught it this year this was actually the first time that I've taught in this particular book and I did it a little bit differently from how I normally teach a book I didn't really have a packet I didn't get anything from teachers pay teacher's it wasn't very worksheet heavy or curriculum heavy it was very much just focused on reading doing some reflecting on what you read and then a lot of discussion it took us about four weeks to read through this novel and let me see it is two hundred and seventy-five pages two hundred seventy six pages and they did the majority of their reading at home so when I handed out their copies of their books to them I gave them a book I gave them a bookmark also I got these really cute ones from teacher goals teachers pay teacher's store and then I gave them a reading schedule as well and there are not titles to these chapters and so I just broke down the different chapters and how many pages were in each one and we set up a reading schedule in longer chapters I gave them a couple of days to read the benefit was like a really short chapter sometimes I just have them read it in one night so they were expected to come to class having read whatever chapter we were discussing now there's no real way for me to be absolutely sure that all of the students in all four of my English 8th class periods actually read the chapter that they were supposed to read I have about 125 eighth graders and then I also have 6th graders so it was not possible for me to really really check but really I don't know if that's the most important thing anyway so I would assign them the chapters and then we did this whole unit paperless I didn't have them like keep a packet and typically I would but I asked them whether they preferred things to just be on Google classroom on a Google Doc or if they wanted a printout and they said they'd rather just do it on Google Docs so I created a really really simple Google Doc and it just had six questions for each chapter so it says roll of thunder hear my cry at the top I'm just looking at my Google Doc here I can share what this looks like and like share the links and stuff it's just very simple so since the chapters didn't have titles the first thing that I asked them is what title would you give this chapter and then write a three to five sentence summary of the chapter use specific character names and specific events that occurred the next section I want them to include three to five unfamiliar are not very familiar words and if they wanted to they could add a picture of whatever that thing was so for us since we don't live in the south and the 30s there were a lot of just like cultural things that my kids didn't know what those things were so they were able to copy and paste an image in or they could copy and paste a definition and then I had them put in a powerful quote from this chapter and why they chose it the next section was a historical or current event connection and a lot of times they would add this in like after we had our discussion and the last box was personal response after discussion so they were allowed to just type in what they said in our daily discussions or like if somebody else had made a really good point they could include that so they were expected to fill out like at least a little bit of that before they came to class just so they would be prepared but what we did for our daily class period is I moved all of my desk so that we were in a big circle is kinda like a big oval and I sat in that oval so I just taught you know within the circle for the last month and everybody contributed to the discussion and normally the discussion would take like thirty five minutes and then they would have another ten minutes at the end that I would allow them to work on their Google Doc while those ideas were still fresh in their mind so technically even if they hadn't read the chapter or if they just like we're very intimidated by the reading and felt like they couldn't do the reading they were hearing from you know 34 other students in their class every day they were hearing a little bit of commentary from me so they were still able to like engage with the story and engage with the book and fill in at least some of those sections in their Google Doc notes so at everybody's desk I have these little cards that I made up and these are little discussion cards they're in my teachers pay teacher's store for a dollar and the reason that I made these is because our first day of discussion on chapter one was pretty terrible it did not go well it was like pulling teeth to try to get kids to answer I didn't really have a great way of like keeping track of who had spoken and like the same kids were just talking over and over again so I always hit these little like Clippy table card things on Amazon and they come in handy like throughout the school year but they came in really handy for this so I would put the little discussion card in there at every person seat and then they had to make a comment either from that discussion card or they could just make any comment that they wanted but it's kind of nice to have like a little prompt so the prompts on there are one quote that I thought was powerful was the event that I was most surprised by was the character I was most impressed with was one theme in this chapter was something I didn't understand in this chapter was this reminded me of or what I think might happen next so they could use any of those sentence starters to make their comment and then once they had commented they would play their card and so then when I was looking around I could see who had already spoken and who hadn't I also wrote little numbers on the back of those cards and so you know if just nobody was really speaking up I would just call out a number and they would have to go so there were different ways of just like getting kids to talk and so again if somebody didn't really read much or they didn't really understand their reading like that was one of the options you could save something I didn't understand about this chapter was or you could just say you know one quote that I liked from this chapter and just like read anything out of the book really so again my main point wasn't to make sure that every single kid had read every single word but every single day kids were discussing this book they were coming to class hearing other people talk about the book we would read through like certain sections and some of it we would read out loud together but it was kind of like after the fact we would go back and look a little bit closer at certain sections and so every kid by the end of this book knew what it was about they had spent four weeks of their school career discussing it even if they had to fake their way through a little bit they're still gaining those skills and I would give them points like in our grade book you know discussion points for participating in that and then I also give them points for their chapter notes and I did a check out like chapters 1 through 6 I graded all those and then now we're done so I'll grade chapters 7 through 12 just to try to keep them from falling too far behind so that was kind of like the setup and then I wanted to go through this book I know this is a really common one to read like late middle school early high school I think I read this in high school but my kids read it in eighth grade I've seen some teachers you know want to bring it down to like fourth fifth grade and I don't know like when you hear about the things that we discussed just feel like it's it's mature content you know so I wouldn't really suggest it for very young kids I feel like it's most useful and most powerful for kids who are a little bit older and can discuss some of these like heavier larger issues okay so I'm going to go through each chapter and tell you what I talked about like as a discussion leader and then what kind of came up in my students discussions and what kind of background knowledge your kids are gonna have to have in order to understand the actual content in the novel so okay so for chapter one the Logan kids walk to school and then you know Jeremy Sims and his brothers and sisters go to the white school and there's a bus that drives by that going to the white school two buses actually and the black kids don't have a bus at all so it's important here to have a discussion about segregated schools there's a really great episode of revisionist history that's a podcast by Malcolm Gladwell that gives kind of a different perspective on segregated schools so I will link that below because I would suggest listening to that maybe before you teach this novel so of course it's important for our students to understand that especially because you know they get the textbooks from the white school after they're already used and broken and a mess but it doesn't necessarily mean that they weren't getting a good education so momma is one of the teachers at the school and then Cassie has miss Crocker so during the time of school segregation there were still amazing black teachers who were giving their students really high-quality education and I think it's important even though we want kids to understand like how unfair and unequal the schools were just to also emphasize that kids were still getting a great education from their black teachers despite the fact that they didn't have as many resources another thing that stood out to my students was that miss Crocker who is also black the book describes her as yellow so that means that she's like light-skinned and she actually gets very upset a little man and Kathy for you know rejecting these old broken-down books and she thinks that they should just be grateful for anything that they've received from the school district and when my kids like realized that miss Crocker is also black they were very confused about that and they're like why why is she not offended why doesn't why doesn't she get upset about this and we had some really interesting discussions just about how just because you are part of a certain group doesn't mean that you all think the same way that you're all offended by the same things and miss Crocker and Mama definitely didn't see the situation the same way they were also really impressed with Mama though for just like the way that she handled that situation and how she stayed very calm but she also we're gonna see throughout the book is amazing at resistance and she's very creative in her resistance and she just covered up the offensive pages of the covers so all of that led to some really good discussion before you start the book it's also important to just kind of like lay the groundwork of the Great Depression it's a little bit hard to do because most resources that you find just like go really deep into like the stock market crash and all of the banks and everything and we don't really need to understand that as much as the fact that you know a lot of these kids are not wearing shoes and they're very skinny because there is not enough money to go around there's hardly enough food to go around so all of that is like groundwork that you need to lay for chapter 2 it's really important that your students understand what sharecropping is in the back of this binder that was in my classroom from like the last teacher I found this article that was like decent about sharecropping I don't know where she found it so I can't link it for you but you want to look up some information about what that was and talk with your kids about what that looks like we made connections between sharecropping and ilysm because in seventh grade they learned about feudalism and so we kind of matched those two things up and realized that our that there are a lot of similarities and then we tried to come up with similarities and differences between slavery and sharecropping particularly the combination of sharecropping and Jim Crow laws and honestly there's very little difference between slavery and sharecropping black people who are working on these farms still did not actually have cash they still did not actually have their own money they were dependent upon the landowners and these general stores and a lot of times they would end up in debt to the people they were working for because of these unfair practices so it's important that they kind of understand the situation that most people are in in this book besides the Logans because the Logans do own their own land and keep in mind that this book is set like 50 years after the end of slavery so like at the beginning of our discussions my kids were talking about black people as if they were enslaved I'm like no no this is 50 years later there's no slavery at this time but the situation feels very similar another thing that you have to get into is the KKK they bring up these night men early on in the book that are burning people tarring and feathering people and the night men are these members of the KKK and they go around terrorizing their community well the black community anyway and if you look closely in chapter 2 you'll see that there was a white woman at a gas station I think who said that one of the berries was flirting with her and this is incredibly significant because when we look at cases like Emmett Till for example which I did bring in and I did talk to my students about there were many men who were accused of flirting with white women who paid with their lives for this alleged offense so that's something that this book sort of hinges on this is what gets the Wallace's all riled up in the first place so you're probably gonna want to bring in the story of Emmett Till too this is why I can't imagine teaching this book to like very young children cuz this is this is not rated G even though Cassie's only nine this is this is a heavy book okay chapter three is a little bit more fun this is the chapter where they get revenge on the bus and the bus driver and the kids on the bus going to the white school who always want us lash them with mud and so Stacy and Cassie and little man and Christopher John go at lunchtime and dig this hole that the bus gets stuck in and your kids kind of cheer for this because it they're really shocked that like even the bus driver an adult is in on this like bullying and humiliation of these black kids walking to school so when the bus breaks down and breaks its axle they're pretty happy about it oh and that reminds me another thing that we talked about right away before we even opened a page of this book is that it does include the n-word and so I tell my students unless you are black you do not ever get to say the n-word it's just something that you'll never do you don't get to say it no matter what and if you are black you can decide whether or not you feel like you want to say that word it's completely up to you nobody else can tell you how to handle that most of my students are not black but I had maybe two or three black students per class period so I would tell them the majority of you don't ever get to say this word and in class none of us are going to say the word so even though we read some passages out loud they knew that if they came to that word they would just skip over it and you know skip that sentence and move on so it was not very dramatic we just I laid that down at the beginning I was really serious about it I was like you're gonna see it and this is a reality and this is the way that people would talk but we are not going to perpetuate it by saying it in class so you'll need to have a conversation about that another thing that is great about chapter three though is the personification of the bus and the rain and the mud and everything just the imagery this chapter is really great so if you want to do a lesson on like personification and imagery use chapter 3 cuz it's really good for that okay there is a lot in chapter 4 so this is where TJ gets caught cheating and then he blames it on Stacey and Stacey gets in trouble oh this was another thing that my students was so surprised about that like kids actually got like whooped ain't got spanked like apparently that doesn't happen to them I guess it's not as common anymore but they really couldn't believe that like not only that happened at home but then like it happened in schools to the school I went to when I was little I went to a private school and that's what happened you'd go to the principal's office and get a spanking so times have changed but anyway Stacey gets looked for having these cheat notes and they are actually TJ's so he goes to the Wallace store and this is where he like gets in a fight with TJ one thing that I think is important to recognize here is the store as a place of intersection for the community so for the most part the black community and the white community live separately of each other they are segregated they don't go to the same schools they don't go to the same churches they don't often interact but at a store where everyone just needs to go get your supplies and your tools and your food and stuff this is where they intersect recently in the news there have been stories about bodegas and gas stations and stores and places where people intersect people who are black and white people there's bodega Betty or whatever her name is who thought that this little boy touched her butt and it was just his backpack and she called the police on him so we looked at that story and the extreme overreaction of this woman in 2018 I believe and just the historical context when we're looking at something like this and then we see a story like that and we can match up so many similarities it's a little little disheartening to be honest but it's kind of interesting to note that like places of Commerce are where we all have to come together even if we live mostly separate lives we are eventually going to have to interact together and when we don't up until that point there's so much distrust there's so much stereotyping and it's not good for our communities so depending on how many rabbit holes you want to go down in this book that's something that you can look at this is also where we get the history of like how they acquired the land so you can talk a little bit about that and then they do get in trouble kind of for going to the Wallace store but what mama does it takes them to the berries house and this is one of those sections that we definitely read out loud I read it out loud to them and mr. berry is burned beyond recognition he was burned alive by the Wallace's and there will be no punishment there will be no justice whatsoever for this violence and Mama tries to make the kids understand that like this is we're not playing here our lives are at stake and so I think that section is really powerful and just through the whole book we were just always so impressed with the ways that mama creatively handles really difficult situations on her way home she also stops by many of the sharecroppers homes and asked them to boycott the Wallace store with her and her family and many of them just really can't because that's the only place that they have credit and they don't have actual cash to be spent at a different store and so just looking at this community organizing that mama does and having to understand where other people are coming from like she could have been very frustrated that the people in her community are not joining in with her and joining her cause and she's working so hard to try to stand up against this family who is literally burning people alive but she's very understanding of where they are coming from and tries to find solutions that are going to work for everyone so we also talked about how like the civil rights movement technically you know we say that it starts in like the 1950s and 60s but we look at these people who have no fame or recognition who are doing this work much earlier but it was so dangerous their lives were literally at stake all the time so they couldn't you know we say could mama have been upset and like marched in the street and had signs out front of the Wallace store and boycotted like no way there's no way that she could have done that at that time so she's kind of doing like back-channel behind-the-scenes community organizing but that is arguably sometimes more effective so there's a lot in Chapter four it's and take you a while to to finish chapter four okay chapter five I feel like it's a great place to kind of pause there's just been like a lot of heaviness and then to look at plot if it's been you know a while since you've covered plot explicitly and you'd like your students to do that so chapter five is like a plot within a plot it's a story within the larger story it has its own distinct beginning middle and end this is where Cassie goes to Strawberry with big mom they go to the store and she doesn't understand why they're not getting service and why the store owner keeps helping other people instead of them and then she encounters Lillian Jean on the sidewalk and bumps into her and Lily and Jean wants her to call her miss Lillian Jean again depending on how far down rabbit holes you want to go the reason that Lillian Jean wants are called her miss Lillian Jean is because during the time of slavery women and even like little girls owned their own slaves and as we know only very rich people owned slaves at all or owned many slaves but very rich women owned slaves and sometimes from the moment you were born your parents would give you a slave that you owned women weren't really able to own land as property but they were able to own people and so slaves were a lot of wealthy women's source of wealth so slaves were required to call their you know toddler master miss Lily or ms and or whoever or mr. master John or Sammy or whatever so this sign of respect that Lillian Jean is insisting upon has roots in slavery and there's a great book called they were her property by an incredible historian and I will leave that below as well that provide some context for what's happening here between the two girls and then of course my students were just shocked that Lillian jeans dad would come up and treat Lillian Jean so horribly as well and throw her off the sidewalk and they're like he's a grown man and she's a little girl and he treated her like this and yes he did so these are some things that might come up in your discussions this is also where Kathy's worldview shifts she's lived in the Jim Crow South her whole life but she didn't really understand the way that the world works and again this is at that place of intersection at a store in strawberry and so here is also where I would meet another one of the standards where students need to find textual evidence to prove something and so I had my students find the best textual evidence to prove that Cassie had had a shift in her perception of the world and there are several different sections of text that would work for that but you can have your students practice writing with this section okay chapter six this is when uncle hammer comes in he's got the same car as mr. Grainger he's very showy we don't really know exactly where his money comes from but he lives in the north he lives in Chicago I believe and he's much more seemingly much more outraged for Cassie over the situation with Lillian Jean and so we talked about you know how the different perspectives of like momma Big Ma and uncle hammer like how they all respond to something that Cassie is so upset about and why they each had that reaction and we know that it's very dangerous for uncle hammer to go confront The Sims is about this and you know thank goodness mr. Morrison is there to stop him my students commented a lot about mr. Morrison also they were very skeptical of him when he first came into the story and they didn't understand why he was there kind of like Stacy and Cassie but they they think her to love him as the story continues they also go to church in chapter 6 and if your students are not familiar with black church this is another rabbit trail that you could go down if you want to depending on how much you know about the culture of black church but it does provide like a backdrop for the community and for the Logan family ok chapter 7 now it is Christmas time Papa's home one of their favorite Christmas gifts is books and another little side note they talk about Alexander Dumas and how he was actually black and he wrote all of these classic stories so you could just get like a little bit wider literature discussion out of chapter 7 they tell a lot of family stories so here's a section where you could talk about like oral history and the importance of storytelling I have them also compare and contrast mr. Jameson's visit with mr. Granger's visit most of the white people in this story are really horrible and they really cannot be trusted but then we do have people like mr. Jameson and Jeremy and the last book that we read was the play version of The Diary of Anne Frank and we talked about the concept of privilege and how the people who hid them had privilege because they were not Jewish and they sacrificed themselves I mean they really risked their own safety in order to hide and in her family and the other families so we can bring that same conversation into this chapter and talk about mr. Jameson and how he is willing to use his white privilege and sacrifice his own credit put himself at risk you know make himself less safe within their community in order to help these black families and he does say that you know there are other white people who feel the same as me but they are apparently like afraid or intimidated to speak out but sometimes if there's one person that takes charge and starts leading the way then other people will as well so this is a good chapter to have that discussion about like I mean not all white people but how the difference is you know that mr. Jameson is actually taking on risk for himself in order to help the Logans and tell the other people trying to boycott the Wallace's okay chapter 8 is all about conflicts and so I actually had my students break up into three different groups for chapter 8 and act out the three main conflicts so we have Cassie who finds a very creative way to get back against Lillian Jean and she totally beats her up and sets up the situation so that Lillian Jean isn't gonna tell anybody so I had some students act that part out and then TJ kind of contributes to getting mama fired and so he and Stacey get in a fight I have some students act that out and then mama gets fired by the school board and I find it very interesting that she is teaching history and she is not using the approved textbooks because she's teaching about the history of slavery and the books that they have do not give a complete or accurate history of slavery and to be honest in 2019 sometimes we still have the same situation so momma is totally my favorite character in this book and she's my favorite literary teacher even though she gets fired cuz she stands up for what she believes in she uses any small privileges or advantages that she has in her life to lift up the rest of her community she's a creative problem solver and she starts to get on the School Board's radar a little bit here because of all the work she's doing and so they fire her which really isn't about finding her firing her it's that mr. Granger can take away one of their sources of income so that he can try to acquire their land but still they may use the excuse of teaching history and a controversial way to fire her chapter 9 is more about community organizing and both mama and papa are involved in taking orders from people in their community to go to a different store in Vicksburg and shop there instead of shopping at the Wallace store this is where we're moving towards the climax because they literally shoot at Papa in the middle of the night he gets like shot in the head that like grazes his head but then the wagon rolls over his leg and breaks his leg and mr. Morrison beats up I think it's the Simms is right like there though it was like the Wallaces and the sentences I think that we're doing that in the middle of the night Mr Morrison beats them up so they don't go to the police about that because they're like embarrassed that they got beat up by mr. Morrison but of course also like Papa can't go to the police either for them you know shooting at him trying to kill him because they're not gonna do anything about that either again we have Jeremy in this chapter trying to befriend Stacey and you always kind of feel bad for Jeremy trying so hard to be Stace it's Brandon season so it's kind of like you need to go away man but over and over in this book it's reinforced that white people cannot be trusted so it's difficult for Stacey to trust Jeremy chapter 10 takes place at the church revival so again if you want to get into some culture of the south and culture of like Baptists and Pentecostal churches who and this is still this is still common like some of the stuff seems old-fashioned but there are still churches in the south who have revival once a year or every couple of years and like itinerant preachers come through and they you go to church every single day and everybody brings food so you could find some some information about that if you wanted to and here's were really really not liking TJ he's got his white friends we know that they're kind of setting him up for things but he's such a brat you know like the kids don't like TJ and like their sympathy for him is wearing out at this point chapter 11 is where the title comes in we have a what looks like a poem roll of thunder hear my cry over the water by and by oh man coming down the line whip in hand to beat me down but I gonna let him turn me round this is an old spiritual and so if you want to get into the history a little bit of spirituals that enslaved people would sing as they worked oftentimes they were religious in theme or they were secret codes for how to escape using the Underground Railroad or they were just about what was literally happening to them happening to them so like old men coming down the line whip in hand that's not a metaphor for anything that's what was happening but then we look at this in relation to the story why did the author choose the lyrics of this song to put at this point in her story and in our context who is that old man who is the old man with the whip and we had a discussion about that so this is the chapter where TJ is set up for first robbery but then Melvin and RW hit the shopkeepers over the head with an axe and so we're not sure if they're alive or dead but there's a literal lynch mob that drags TJ and his whole family out of their house in the middle of the night and they are ready to hang him this is an incredibly incredibly violent chapter and the Logan kids are watching this hidden but they're watching all of this take place mr. Jameson shows up to try and stop it but they're about a dozen white men here who want nothing more than to lynch TJ and they know there were two other men at the store and of course Melvin and RW don't want anyone to know it was them they want somebody else to take the fall so they're ready to go get mr. Morrison and pop out of course there's no evidence for any of this but this is not far from the truth this is how lynch mobs worked and this was legal in the United States it's very important to understand that this happened and this was allowed and white mobs were able to take justice into their own hands and we see it here as a way to cover up their own crimes and to terrorize the black community and it's it's just Schechter is like tough to read so when we come into chapter 12 this is the final chapter it is the middle of the night there's a thunderstorm there is a lynch mob all four of the kids are out of the house and they're not supposed to be then they get home and explain everything to their parents now Mr Morrison and Papa have to go find a way to save TJ and they've brought the shotgun and left everyone else at home and now a fire has started so everything that could go wrong has gone wrong mama and big MA go to fight the fire and leave the kids home a few hours passed and actually Jeremy comes to check on them then a couple of the kids go out to see the aftermath of the fire so this lynch mob that was ready to hang TJ sees that there's a fire and it's close to mr. Granger's property of course because it starts on the Logans property but mr. Granger who was not doing much to stop the lynching besides saying that he didn't want to tap it on his property now says okay all of you need to go and fight this fire because it's gonna spread and it could affect all of them it can burn all of their land in all of their homes so they all go out to fight this fire one thing that is really significant about the image of these people as it turns to morning and they're you know putting out the last patches of fire I asked my students what does it look like after you have bought a fire or been in a fire and you are black right you are covered in ash and these people that sends you know like tied handkerchiefs around their faces so that they wouldn't be bringing breathing in the smoke they have hats on you really can't tell who's who and everyone looks black so there's no difference between black and white at this point everybody is coming together to fight this common enemy to fight this fire and then we find out at the end of the book that it was Papa that started this fire as a diversion to get everybody over to to fight the fire instead of focusing on TJ all throughout the book the Logan family is brilliant at coming up with ways to problem solve that kind of go around the issue so if they're not confronting things head-on but they're still solving a problem so in the end though TJ still goes to jail and mr. Barnett dies so he is in jail for murder and Papa and mr. Morrison have to explain to the kids he we can't get him out at this time in the south they used the electric chair for people who were convicted of murder and so they are able to solve so many problems throughout the book and in the end they're not able to save TJ from being executed for something he didn't do and we don't love TJ right TJ is a mess but in the end he's not a murderer he does not deserve what happened to him and once he it's just kind of interesting like once he gets into the hands of the actual justice system there's nothing they can do for him Stacey and the Logan family you know kind of helped him out his whole life and kind of got him out of trouble when they could but once he enters into the justice system he's out of their reach and there's nothing they can do for him so it's definitely not a happy ending and my kids were not satisfied with this ending so I know this video has gotten really long I just wanted to tell you last thing that we are going to do to kind of supplement this unit so the majority of my students are Asian and when we read this kind of stuff that has like really strong dichotomy between black and white they often ask like well what about Asian people and I recently met someone who is making a documentary about Chinese communities in Mississippi during the 1930s and that was like what can I have this please because this is perfect so next week we are actually going to be looking at some resources that are already online about Chinese communities in the south and in Mississippi specifically and just kind of like opening up this conversation about the Southen and differences between black and white and how there are always complications because it's never as simple as black and white my kids are also gonna do a one-pager they did so much reading and analysis and note-taking and discussion and questioning throughout the last four weeks of reading this book that I'm not gonna have them write an essay on it I feel like the skills that we developed through this book we're really great and then like just looking at our year as a whole we've done a lot of like essay writing and we're coming towards the end of the year and we've hit almost all of the standards that we need to hit by the end of the year so I don't have a specific writing project with this but we are gonna look at Chinese and Mississippi next week so I know that this video is very long but I hope that this like thought process just kind of helps you work through a novel and think about ways that you can bring in historical background information that really it doesn't bog down your novel it makes it come more alive and help students to like enter in to this story and into this novel and into these characters more easily this is one of my favorite books and one of my favorite books to teach now and I hope that if this is an option for you to teach that you'll consider maybe teaching this now please leave me a comment down below just with your reactions to this and what you're thinking now and what your next steps might be so I'm really to hear that from other teachers thank you so much for watching guys and I'll see you in my next video

27 thoughts on “How I Teach Whole Class Novels

  1. This is excellent — engaging and creative in all the useful ways, while not the least bit loaded down with pedagogical gimmickry.

    When I was in 8th grade at Jurassic Middle School, we read Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone , and as a literary retard with a severe tendency to slip into passive reading and doze off, I was always lost. Despite being put in honors English for some stupid reason, I never managed to read any of the unwieldy tomes foisted upon us. This teaching structure would've helped for sure. Nope, it wouldn't've magically turned me into a reader of novels, but I would have at least known what the hell was going on plot-wise, been able to think and write about it, and been curious enough to attempt a lot more of reading.

  2. LOVED IT! Now I wanna do it too 😀 Do you think you could link those clippy paper holders ? I've desperately been trying to find them on Amazon… Thanks!

  3. At my school we read "To Kill a Mockingbird" for 8th grade but a lot of these activities and articles you mentioned could easily apply to that book as well!

  4. Awesome! What is the exact name of the clips you use on the desks to hold the prompts? I love that idea and I'm currently teaching Hatchet, so I intend to use your cards "). Thanks for the in depth perspective mentioning the historical mature content this book involves, heavy indeed! I presonally read it as a 7th grader when I was a kid, now the CCSS has this listed as an exemplar text in 4th/5th and I taught it in 5th grade last school year.

  5. I loved this video! As a teaching student (main subject History) I loved to be able to watch the whole thinking process and the little discussions you came to, it is super encouraging and helped me to have a clear idea of what I want to be in 5 years time as a teacher 🌈

  6. This video was very helpful! Thank you! I do have a question, I teach 6th grade ELA and use collections following a pacing guide. I know you’ve mentioned using Collections before, too. How do you incorporate full novels while also using the textbook? I’d love to start doing that but haven’t figured out how yet.

  7. As an upper elementary teacher, I was able to gather a lot from this video. Thanks! IG: @lifewithkellyg

  8. My 5th grade teacher read this and Let the Circle Be Unbroken to us for read alouds and I just had to read the other ones. It's been my favorite book series ever since. When we were dating my husband bought me the entire series for Christmas and it's still the best gift I've ever gotten. Your content is amazing! I hope to teach this book someday.

  9. Great video on how to use this novel. One thing you can add is the Norman Rockwell painting The Neighbor. Anyways, what book would you suggest for 4th/5th graders?

  10. I've been watching for years and don't think I've ever commented, but hello! Listening to you talk about sharecropping made me think it sounds just like the bond-servant aspect of modern day slavery. This is still a huge issue in parts of the world. These slaves (some are children) are often in debt to their "bosses" and are horrible mistreated. The documentary 58 talks about this (along with other worldwide plagues of poverty). You can find it here if you'd like to check it out: https://live58.org/watch-the-film/. I thought it might blow you students' minds to see that this is still a huge issue in our world. I talk about it some in my class (6th grade literacy) and shocks them. Just thought I'd share.

  11. I loved this video so much! I can even say that I’ve learned a lot by watching today. You’re awesome!

  12. I'm a senior undergrad and I wish I was in your 8th grade class! lol! I'd love to see another video like this where you go into detail about a book you've read with your students or just for yourself. I love your content!

  13. I absolutely love every video of yours! Would you share the chapter questions that you discuss in this video? Are they available on TPT? I looked but couldn´t find it. Thanks!

  14. Great video! I LOVE novel studies. I read that book in fifth grade and I believe it’s still read in 5th and 6th grade here in Atlanta (the South). I will definitely be purchasing the discussion prompts. I usually check off as students participate but you shared great ideas!

  15. I highly, highly recommend "Whole Novels for the Whole Class" by Ariel Sacks which changed my thinking on whole novel teaching. It breaks down exactly how you can structure whole class units (which was great for me as a first time teacher), but even better, it has lots of ideas about how to differentiate your whole class unit both for students who need extra support and those who are ready for more of a challenge.

  16. You’re such an inspiration to me!! I’ll be starting as a history teacher next school year at a critical needs & predominantly Black school in the south, and as excited as I am to open students’ eyes to America’s past (plus all the enduring problems), it can obviously be a sensitive subject, and I definitely want to handle it as respectfully and responsibly as possible. Especially as a non-Black person who can’t relate to these issues firsthand!! But I know there are ways to teach important issues and do it well and I’m just learning so much from you, thanks for a great video!!!!

  17. Back in the day my 4th grade teacher read this book to my entire class. It was so good that I read the other books in the series. I loved Cassie and the other books follow her as she grows up. I Didn’t know the book(s) was for middle school. Goodnight Mr. Tom was the other book she read to us that year. Which was also amazing about WWII. By 8th grade grade I was knee deep into the Bronte sisters. Jane Eyre was my jam!

  18. I definitely read this in 8th grade and I didnt understand it. My reading level was below average. And as a Hispanic, Japanese, white kid, I didnt understand why blacks were so mistreated in history. And i never was taught in school my races histories. I love that you are catering to your Asian kids.

  19. If your students enjoyed this book, I highly recommend Stella By Starlight by Sharon Draper. Similar (maybe slightly lower) reading level and content. Excellent 11-year-old Black female protagonist.

  20. Not only have you done a splendid job of planning a simple but incredible novel study unit for your students but you’ve also just given a tremendous summary of African American history during the segregated south era. I’m so inspired by your passion for teaching. Well done.

  21. Thank you for your input on this! I liked hearing exact details of how you planned and used this lesson. Improving students' background knowledge is vital for novels like Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. It sounds like your students enjoyed it too! Hope the rest of your school year goes well! 🙂

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