Year-long Novel Study Curriculum
How to Use This Year-long Planning Tool
When planning novel studies for the year, it is best practice to create a draft of your curriculum to ensure you achieve your goals, adhere to your selected thematic arc, and maximize learning time in the classroom. It is so helpful to see the novels on paper, write about their connections, and consider the timing of each unit. This tool is designed to help you capture all those thoughts and create a plan to bring them to life in your classroom.
Print out several copies (or save several digital copies)! If you approach this year-long plan thoughtfully and with care, you will make numerous revisions before making final decisions. Save these drafts! Once you have implemented your year-long plan, you may find one of these drafts helpful for the next year.
Finally, remember, this plan is a draft. You may need to go back and revise throughout the year as you strengthen your relationships with students and learn more about their curiosities and their interests. Think of it as a living document!
Thematic Arc: The thematic arc of the year is essentially the primary theme you hope to explore with your students. This arc should be a broad, all-encompassing idea that is large enough to allow students to explore distinct aspects of it over time. For instance, you may want to explore diverse perspectives, identity, U.S. history, folklore, mythology, perseverance, among many others. Each one is a HUGE topic. That is the point because it means students will be able to go deeper with it as the year unfolds. When selecting a thematic arc, consider its real-world connections and real-world applications. Rich thematic arcs will create space for meaningful reflection, rich interpretation, and deep synthesis and learning.
Core Novel: One of the hardest and most important decisions you will make is which novels to teach in the classroom. These novels will be the foundation of students’ learning and the primary entrance points for exploring your selected thematic arc. Through the stories they tell, they create space to access the theme and drive deeper investigation of it. There is rarely a single, right path for how you want to approach a given theme. It depends on you and your students and what is best for everyone. The middle grade genre is saturated with amazing books though. It is impossible to read and teach them all, but you can be selective about which ones you choose to put in front of students in order to help them explore your theme. After teaching the novels for a year, you can reevaluate your choices and swap out books to create a different learning experience.
Novel Pairing: If you plan to have students engage with a novel outside of the classroom, the novel pairing box is where you list out your options. Now, if you have access to a wealth of books and resources and want to use them in the classroom, you also could consider literature circles. This would be the space to brainstorm about that choice. Literature circles are a fantastic way to give students’ choice and experiment with students’ engagement with them. For either scenario, you may want to pair two novels or allow students to select their home novel from a curated list of 4-5. Regardless of how many books you choose to pair with the core novel the key is that you make sure the novels connect. The link will push the students deeper in their exploration. Write that connection below the books.
Perspectives: Diversity and inclusivity are important in any curriculum. Explain the perspectives from which the novels are told. When do they take place? Where do they take place? Write details about the characters as they pertain to perspective. Instead of assuming your selections are diverse, you can objectively review the perspectives to ensure that they truly are. You want to be mindful about including the full range of backgrounds we find in society.
Thematic Arc Connection: For this section, briefly explain how the novel(s) help students explore the thematic arc and guiding question(s). This step will help you stay on course. It will allow you to connect the path across the year from selection to selection. How will the novel(s) challenge them to think differently or take on new perspectives? How do they each offer a unique contribution toward exploring the theme? This section can become a source of inspiration for projects and real-world applications. It defines the path but also will help you see where students can potentially take side-trips for broader understanding.
Timeframe: Finally, map out how long you want your units to be, limiting them to 6 weeks. Write down the dates and build in flex days to address missed classes for field trips, assemblies, etc. You have a ton of learning and experiences planned for your students. The school year is long, but it flies past. You want to know where you’re heading from the start and begin the journey confident you will be able to make every moment count.