Teaching Novels in High School

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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How do you go about teaching a novel to your older kids if you homeschool?  Over the past few years I have been going through different novels with my boys.  My oldest is a junior so we have been through American literature and are currently doing British literature. I have not used a packaged curriculum with their literature studies as every package that I saw didn't fit our needs, either because they had already read some of the books or I didn't want my boys reading some of the selections.  So here is what I have learned over the years on how to go about teaching novels to your kids if you are going to go out on your own without the aid of a specific curriculum.

1. Decide which books you will have your students read.  There are two ways to do this...either read the books yourself to make the decision or create a list based on what others have done.  There are a plethora of lists available on the web.  Here is what we did with British Lit. and American Lit.. I personally think reading the books is so helpful if you are going to teach a novel to your kids, but there are times when you just don't have the time to read.  There are ways to decide on novels without reading them.  You can read summaries to get a feel for what the novel is about.  Also, remember who your teen is before you choose a book.  For example, I knew  my no-nonsense 17 year old would not get through Pride and Prejudice {no matter how much I love it!} without the gnashing of teeth. So we skipped that one.  So try to pick novels that will spark interest.

2.  I normally have read the novel way before I teach it so it has been helpful to use Spark Notes for chapter summaries to review what my son has just read.  These are also helpful for those that haven't read the book. There are other websites besides Spark Notes that can help with summaries, too.

3. In our family, the one way we process through a novel is discussion.  Currently, my son and I are going through Great Expectations. Teaching the Classics is a great resource to use to teach any novel!  It explains all the concepts in literature that you need to teach and also has an extensive list of questions that you can use for discussion with any novel.  However, the parent has to have read the book to go this route.  I personally think this is one of the best ways to go because you really get to interact with your teen and develop deeper thinking skills.  But the reality is that sometimes you need a more "open-and-go" type of curriculum.  Other great resources are Novel Units {The teacher's guides provide vocabulary and discussion questions with answers.} and Progeny Press Study Guides. Progeny Press is great when you want your student to just read and answer questions, but you can also use the guides for discussion.  Another idea is to search the web for discussion questions with answers. There are tons of sites out there that can help.  You just need to do some searching.

4.  Here are ways to work with a novel:
-Essay writing
-Vocabulary work or have your teen list new words and define them as he goes.
-Filling out charts  {Like one for plot with the rising action, climax, conclusion, etc.}
-Watch the movie after reading the book; discuss the difference between the two.
-Discuss the life of the author and historical background of the novel.

Tomorrow another post will be up about what you can use in your novel discussions.

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