So, here I am on the last day of my Christmas break, and I decided I better finish up some grading. Right before the break, my seventh graders turned in their independent reading packets for the novel The Tale of Despereaux. Now, you may be thinking, “Seventh graders reading that book? Isn’t that for fourth graders?” My answer would be, it could be…or it could be for seventh graders.
Before starting the novel, I polled my classes to find out how many of them had already read the book. Surprisingly, out of my seventy students, only three had read the book. A few had seen the movie, but because the movie is so different from the book, this didn’t concern me.
This novel is unforgettable and is chock full of literary elements! My colleague and I created a teaching unit for this book with handouts for each chapter. I did not assign every handout from our teaching unit, but chose the ones that I thought were the best for an individual novel study. Several of the handouts ask students discussion questions and require them to support their answers from text. I included some of those handouts in their packets. My seventh graders also completed handouts with tasks such as analyzing how the author’s use of certain verbs and adjectives were used to create tone, exploring how the author created sympathy for Miggery Sow, evaluating how the author’s use of second and third person point of view affected the story, determining what things like the red cloth, darkness, and light symbolized in the book, and more. I gave the students two months to complete the novel and common-core based activities at their own pace. They also took the three tests that I gave after each “book”(four total in the novel).
Now, as I am grading their work, which they kept in three-prong folders, I am making a list of questions that we will discuss together. We sell our complete teaching unit for The Tale of Despereaux on our website. It includes handouts for each chapter of the book, writing activities, a readers’ theater idea, four tests, and answer keys. If you do not want to purchase our unit, you can download our free activities that we provide and develop some of your own activities for your students to complete an independent novel study.
With so much to cover in ELA and with our state writing assessment coming up, I think independent novel studies are a great way to fit in quality literature with Common-Core based activities. Next, I am thinking of doing an independent novel study using Holocaust historical fiction. I am planning to let them choose from a few titles.
Thanks for reading!
7thgrade ELA teacher