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Using Novel Studies to Teach Social Studies
Episode 477th May 2024 • The Social Studies Teacher Podcast • Kirsten Hammond, The Southern Teach
00:00:00 00:37:04

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Today you get a sneak peek into one of the trainings from the video vault of the Smart and Simple Social Studies membership. Listen for ways you can use novel studies to teach social studies!

Episode Highlights

  • What is a novel study?
  • Why you may want to use novel studies in your classroom.
  • My favorite books to use for novel studies

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Kirsten 0:09

This is the social studies teacher podcast, a show for busy elementary teachers looking for fun and engaging ways to easily add social studies into their classroom schedule without feeling overwhelmed or pressed for time. I'm Kirsten, the southern teach, an educator and mom who is passionate about all things, social studies, I love sharing ideas and strategies that are low prep and easy to implement. So let's dive in together.

Hi, there, welcome to another episode of the social studies teacher podcast, I wanted to grab a presentation from one of my video library in my Smart and Simple Social Studies membership. So this is from the video vault. This is from a conference I presented at last year. And it's related to using novel studies in social studies. So this is a really great juicy topic. And I hope you enjoy the audio version of this presentation.

Hi, there. My name is Kirsten Hammond. And I am so excited to present to you the session using novel studies to teach social studies. My passion is social studies. And I also love being able to incorporate it in my ELA block. That's something I've always loved to do. So novel studies are something that I love as well, combining the two even better. So I hope you'll get some great information from this session of novel studies and implementing it in your ELA block.

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I'm going to go ahead and share this picture of Charlotte's Web. This was the very first novel study that I can recall. I was in first grade, and we all had our little Charlotte's Web books. And we went through reading the book together. So I vividly remember doing that, you know, talking about different parts of the plot and certain vocabulary words and all of that stuff. So I wanted to kind of add that in there as like a background into my first novel study that I remember, there have been, of course, many novels as a student. And of course, as a teacher, a few of them would be in elementary school, we did the Lion, the Witch in the wardrobe. And I also remember who's in sixth grade. And in high school, one of my favorite novel studies that we did was Rebecca by Daphne du Marais. And I still love reading that book from time to time. So novel studies, there's a lot of things about like how you can define it, and what it might mean to you. But for the purposes of this session, here's what I have for you. And novel study is an interactive experience. Students learn to engage with the novel through guided prompts and teacher and student led discussions, students learn comprehension and critical thinking skills throughout the process. So hopefully, what you were probably thinking a novel study is back a few slides is about like, we're kind of on the same page, you're like, Okay, this is pretty much what I was thinking a novel study is. So it can be either teacher led or student led, there's so many different avenues of how you can go about a novel study, there's not a like set. Okay, this is exactly the process of a novel study. So that's something to think about it is something that's interactive, that's the main characteristic. It's an interactive experience, that would not be the same as somebody just reading a book of their choice by themselves. So today, we're going to cover several things, we're going to cover why novel studies in the first place, creating a novel study plan, choosing a novel conducting the novel study, and my favorite novel studies, books for social studies. So we're gonna go through the process of what I recommend as far as novel studies, and then I'll give you some of my favorite social studies, novel studies that you can incorporate in your classrooms. All right, so let's talk about why novel studies. One reason is that it gives students the opportunity to explore elements of a story in depth, it's a great way for students to engage with the book on a deeper level. And it might be a book that they may never have heard of, or would have never expect to pick up on a regular bookshelf in the library or anything like that. It's a great way to explore elements like themes or guided questions, or key vocabulary words that are important. And it also can kind of go into especially historical time periods and setting. Another reason why novel studies are great in the classroom is that it helps students develop critical thinking and analytical skills. With the guidance of you as the teacher, students are really learning some important critical thinking skills, making connections, kind of analyzing, making predictions, all that good comprehension, skill, response skills, things that they need to really be thinking. Beyond the text of the book is something that students can develop with novel studies, it's a great way to practice that together as a whole group or as a small group or independently. And also, it just helps teach students about different cultures and events and perspectives. There could be novels where the characters are a different culture or a different ethnicity as they are different events. back in time, it can be eye opening for students to kind of see how their lives are in comparison to what they're reading in the novel, and that can kind of open up their minds a little bit more, which is kind of the point of social studies in general. So it makes a really great social studies connection in that aspect. Let's talk about the different elements of a novel study. One important element is key vocabulary. When reading a text, there might be words that students may not know the definition for. So having key vocabulary already prepped ahead of time or as you come to it can help provide clarity and understand So for those unknown words, you can always create a list of words that appear multiple times throughout the novel. And you can review that with your classes or have students define it using the dictionary or as they come across it. guided questions from each chapter is another important element. It can range from multiple choice comprehension questions to open ended questions that encourage higher level thinking such as evaluation or analysis. Providing these guiding questions, especially at the upper elementary level, can help students think deeply about what they've read, and it'll help them understand the text a little bit better. Guiding Questions can also help teachers formally assess student learning without needing any additional resources or materials. The only requirement is that you would read the texts in advance so you know which questions to ask. That's always important. All right. Another element of a novel study is a comprehension quiz. So this is great for engaging students, you can quiz them on key points after each chapter to check if you understood what they're read, can reinforce any important details within the text that you want them to remember. And of course, Quizzes can be formatted in different ways. It could be multiple choice, true false, open ended, essay questions, just giving them some room to express their thoughts on a variety of levels. And then we have the culminating projects. This is a great way for students to demonstrate their understanding, and apply their creativity in presenting it, there are a ton of ways students can create these products, it could be your standard essay book report, could be a podcast, it could be where students are acting out skits from the book or scenes from the book. So it really depends on the needs of your students, and what they like and what they don't like. All right, let's talk about how we can create a novel studies plan. There are four things to think about as you do that, as you start to plan and novel study, you're thinking and you're like, Okay, I think I could, I think I could do a novel study. Let's see how this can go. So I will take you from the very beginning. First, you want to think about the overall goals and standards. Think about any important questions that you want your students to answer by the end of the novel study, it could be something connected to a big unit that you're teaching in either ELA or in social studies. It can also be something that is a literature base, like, you know, maybe you guys are talking about nonfiction. Maybe you're talking about fiction, certain elements of fiction, poetry, whatever the overarching goal is or standards, you need to think about what those would be. So this is a really great way to combine social studies. If let's say you have a poetry unit, you can have a novel study a chapter book that is in the form of a poem, which I can share with you. There's actually an example that I really love. And you utilize that novel study and kind of compare, okay, what standards are we learning? How can I incorporate that in social studies as far as like, maybe they're learning about the Great Depression, maybe they're learning about the American Revolution, whatever it is, you can always combine that. Another thing to consider is deciding on if you want to do a whole group, novel study, small group or individual novel study, I recommend whole group in especially like third or fourth grade, or if students have never done a novel study before at all, the best way to go about it is just to do a whole group novel study where everybody has the same book, they are expected to read the chapters on their own, but they can still meet back together as you discuss as a whole group. Another thing that could be good is with small groups, those can also be used as literature circles, that's another name for it. But it's where students might either have self selected books that they decide as a group, or it might be that you select the books, and it could be based on their reading level, you can pair them up based on interest, however, you want to do that as far as a small group. And then there's the individual novel study where students pick a book of their own. It would probably be helpful if students have had experience with novel studies if they do an individual novel study, and it would help to have similar types of books. That's another thing I'll explain to you later. As far as examples that you can utilize in social studies. The next thing is to create discussion questions designed to promote critical thinking. So thinking about important vocabulary words that they may or may not know. Word that are important to the actual context of the story and understanding the novel. And also comprehension, you can think of certain comprehension skills, students are required to learn different, you know, connections, like what is actually happening as far as the plot? What's happening in this setting? What, how are the interactions of the characters going, like? How are putting that all together? Those can easily be tied into standards. I know in Texas, there are specific standards, teak standards, on characters on plot on theme, then the last thing is to consider how students will showcase their learning and how often are you going to have a quick exit ticket after every every chapter? Are you going to have some type of you know, just response writing response after every chapter and you go over it? Or are you going to have like a big culminating test at the end? Or are you just kind of mainly going, you know, guided discussion questions, after every couple chapters with a project at the end, there's no right or wrong way to create how you want to plan. It's just really based on the needs of your students, and your learning goals and what you want students to get out of the novel study. All right, let's look into choosing a novel. This is one of my favorite parts, of course. But one consideration is to think of the age and interests in addition to the social studies topic to be discussed. So maybe this time of year, you guys are discussing the Civil War, you can find a really great age appropriate book that you would definitely want to read in advance before assigning it and giving students you know, the go ahead to read. So you're really thinking about, you know, the time of year, what type of social studies topic could be taught around this time, and what they're interested in age group, what's appropriate, what may not be appropriate, you want to keep that all into consideration. That's why I'm a big proponent of like, you need to read the novel. First. Don't you don't want any surprises. So definitely read the novel. First, if you're considering that next would be looking for resources to help enrich the novel study. There's plenty of sources out there, maybe you want to find some supplemental resources on Teachers Pay Teachers or blogs or, you know, encyclopedias online, something to help enrich the experience, especially if it's a popular novel, that there might be a lot of content for, that's always something. But if you're not really, really confident in teaching about the Reconstruction period, definitely find those resources to help make the novel study even more interesting. And then create a timeframe to conduct the novel study, do you want to get it done in three weeks, six weeks, maybe you're doing it over the nine week period, definitely don't go through it in a week. And like we're done, take some time to go over it so that you have a lot of wiggle room. And you can really discuss the novel study, and not just the novel itself. But discuss the actual setting of novel study the historical time period of a novel study, any other social studies concepts that you want to highlight, you can go way in depth and, you know, pull in some resources as far as the actual culture of that time period and the type of food they ate, the customs, all of that kind of stuff, there's so much you can do in that timeframe. So that's why I would recommend at least four to six weeks when you're doing a novel study so that they can have a true immersive, interactive experience. I wanted to go into an example of how you can plan out your novel study. This is a template that I will share the link to in the presentation after this is over. But I just am not like an Excel or sheets guru. But it's just something simple that I put together that I thought might be useful in helping planning a novel study. So you can always edit the name of this Google Sheet. So let's say I have the book Esperanza Rising, and it is one of my favorite novel studies books to implement. But Esperanza Rising with an E. Then as I plan it, I want to think of maybe some certain standards. I know that this book takes place in the Great Depression era. So it will be something that I would be having as a novel study in the spring, but going into school certain goals, you can type this like overall, certain themes, all the standards and all of that you can add that in this column. So maybe I kind of since it's in the spring, it's kind of like a review as state testing is going on. Just going into like, just going to add some random TEKS. They're not random, but going into 5.8, a theme 5.8

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