Picture this. It’s every English teacher’s dream: students hold copies of a novel covered in dog eared pages and sticky notes. Hands fly into the air. A student discusses how the author uses foreshadowing to build suspense. Heads nod. More hands fly up. One of the ways that we make this dream a reality is teaching a whole class novel. If you are wondering if the same engagement is possible online, don’t worry: it’s possible. Here are the tools that will make your dream an online reality.
Build Anticipation and Activate Prior Knowledge
Before we start the first chapter, we build excitement and activate our students’ prior knowledge with anticipation guides. First, students read or listen to a series of statements that relate to themes in the novel. Then, they agree or disagree. (Pro tip: I always remind my students that there are no right or wrong answers!).
Your tool for building anticipation online is a Google or Microsoft Form. First, list each statement and include an option to agree or disagree. Next, send the form to students to complete. Then, invite students to a virtual class. During the class, read each statement. Then, use the breakout room feature so students can discuss their stance. Finally, bring everyone back and ask each side to share their arguments.
To build anticipation asynchronously, your tool is Padlet, a digital bulletin board. Pro tip: shelf mode is the ideal design for an anticipation guide. First, post each statement. Then, share the Padlet with your students. Finally, ask students to post whether they agree or disagree and why under each statement. As you read the novel, invite students to revisit their Google Form or Padlet, and see if their perspectives have changed.
How can we create immersive reading experiences? #TheHandmaidsTale @padlet + #VR pre-reading activity generated insightful analysis & excellent predictive questions they are now demanding the answers to! Ss response: “Do you mind if I read the entire novel this weekend?” #edtech pic.twitter.com/RuzO0unAZ8
— George Janeteas (@GJaneteas) April 3, 2019
Provide context and background knowledge
Your tool for building background knowledge is Sutori. This is where you can organize videos, articles, images, and checks for understanding for your students to explore asynchronously. You can create a KWL chart in a Google document and link it in Sutori. If you are looking for supplemental resources, we love CommonLit, which has fiction and non-fiction texts you can sort by theme, grade, Lexile level, and literary device. Another favorite resource is Listenwise, which has podcasts on historical and current events with checks for understanding throughout.
While #remotelearning presents unique challenges, it also presents wonderful opportunities for collaboration. These students are screen-sharing & annotating a @CommonLit short story in @zoom_us breakout rooms. @D103Pto #engage103 pic.twitter.com/7fps6Jd3Mr
— Kyle Manders (@literacymanders) September 14, 2020
Facilitate synchronous and asynchronous discussions
For a whole class virtual discussion use a virtual meeting tool and its features like chat, breakout rooms, annotate, and polls to engage all students. Set norms for how students will participate.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Will students use the raise hand feature?
- Will students unmute themselves to talk and also use the chat feature?
- Who is monitoring the chat?
- Will you break students into smaller groups?
Your tool for asynchronous discussions is Flipgrid. Create a grid with a discussion prompt. Students create their own videos. Then, they can watch each other, comment, and give feedback. Another tool we love for discussion is Kidblog. Pro tip: Give clear expectations and model what giving constructive feedback looks like. Consider using a framework like glows and grows.
💻 I’ve used @flipgrid as one way for my students to stay connected & discuss our current novel. Stemming from our task card activity, the students chose two of their responses to share with their peers. They also responded to each other and shared their thoughts. pic.twitter.com/NO3Ynz65zz
— Angela Ryan (@ELAwithMrsRyan) May 11, 2020
Flip your mini-lessons for teaching author’s craft, literary elements, and analysis
One of the benefits of teaching a whole class novel online is that the tools we implement allow us to capture our teaching and our students’ learning. In your classroom, you teach a mini-lesson, and then it’s over. Students rely on their notes and their memory to recall what they learned. When you flip your teaching and create a video, students can stop, pause, and rewatch the video many times.
Your tool for flipped mini-lessons is Screencastify, which allows you to film your screen and record your voice. Use a digital whiteboard tool like Jamboard to show students steps in a process, like how to stop, notice, and take note as they read to deepen comprehension.
Using @Screencastify in our Novel Unit. Great way to teach lessons and explain directions! Also, having @zoom_us active for students to discuss the lesson, assignment, answer questions, or just check-in.
@HazletSupvELA #HazletProud #GoRockets #VirtualLearning pic.twitter.com/hL72rCTXC6
— Coach Dempsey (@dempseym73) March 30, 2020
Host an online Socratic Seminar
Celebrate completing your whole class novel with an online Socratic Seminar. Your tool is Parlay. First, create the discussion questions. Next, students review the materials and submit their responses. Finally, students join the discussion, provide constructive feedback, and build on each others’ ideas. Students can “nudge’ each other to encourage participation, and you can create polls to increase engagement. Use the data to assess students’ comprehension and participation.
First thoughts on @parlayideas… WOW. What an amazing way to get students involved. Students completed both the online discussion and the live round table. They found it easy to use and loved the setup. I was able to encourage kids to speak and get AMAZING data at the end. pic.twitter.com/9ycAPhHow0
— Brittany Smith (@MsSmith_Teaches) September 3, 2020
How are you teaching a whole class novel online? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.