Teachers, whether parents homeschooling their children OR teachers instructing a class, love literature! Teaching literature must never be reduced; instead, it should provide students with breadth and depth, options and new opportunities as well as new thoughts and ideas. Teaching with novels provide portals to inspiration, expansion and empowerment.
For over thirty years, I have successfully taught using novels. Back before homeschooling and the birth of my (now 22) year-old daughter, while I was a public-school teacher, novels were the center of my classroom. Novels were tailored to the student’s personal interest and abilities. I encouraged the reading process to create independent readers and thinkers.
Since 1996, I have been in the “homeschooling” arena and my beliefs on homeschooling using novels has further developed. There are several approaches on “how” you should engage a student with novels: independent reading, group reading, and unit study.
Let’s first talk about independent (or even family) reading. Independent reading is amazing. I am not going to challenge you on that. Yes, we all do it. But, when we read independently, we sometimes tend to keep our thoughts to ourselves without sharing. Yes, we absolutely think about things we read and yes, in the future these concepts can be shared with others; however, in the moment they are NOT shared. Yes, reading independently is going to be a part of most people’s lives; however, it is not the only way that reading should occur, especially with K – 12.
Now, let’s talk about reading a novel within a community. This is where Open Tent Academy comes in. Teaching a novel within a group of students (community) allows shared experiences through shared understanding. Whole group novels provide access to all because no one student must completely understand everything right from the beginning. Through discussions (yes, online we have discussions) further clarification, ideas, concepts and thoughts come up. This allows students to have a full grasp of a novel that they might not have on their own. This challenges the student to look at ideas a different way. This pushes a student to think about concepts they might have not thought of themselves.
In addition, reading a novel within a community provides students the opportunity to write papers, have assignments and create projects that center around a novel. These projects and papers are evaluated and shared amongst all students giving them different viewpoints they might have not thought of on their own. These new ideas will give the students future ideas for other papers/projects they might be challenged with in the future.
Finally, reading a novel as part of an “unit study”, naturally allows new concepts and ideas to be taught around the information in the novel. It is the most natural way to engage a student in new ideas and knowledge. The novel will serve as the vehicle for new information. Students will learn non-fiction information based on information in the novel. Connections will be made. This non-fiction information will be retained. It will make everything concrete because the novel will serve as “prior knowledge” or “relatable knowledge”.
Upcoming OTA Literature Courses with a “Novel Approach”
With a great novel in hand, it is easy to engage even the most hesitant student. During 2018 – 2019, at Open Tent Academy, we are offering a wide variety of ten-week literature classes that will use the “novel approach”. These courses offer not only exposure to great literature for your child; we will be incorporating history, science, culture, geography and so much more. I would encourage ALL students to be involved in at least one (if not two) of these in the upcoming year!
- A Sweet Adventure through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Grades 2 – 4
- Exploring American History through the American Girls – Grades 2 – 5
- If the Shoe Fits: Exploring Cinderellas Around the World – Grades 2 – 5
- How to Train Your Dragon Novel Study – Grades 2 – 5
- Who? What? Where? – Grades 2 – 5
- Farmer Boy Novel Study – Grades 2 – 5
- A Nordic Adventure! Sticks Across the Chimney – Grades 3 – 6
- An Adventure on the Frontier with Little House in the Big Woods – Grades 3 – 6
- Meddling Muggles: Harry Potter – Grades 4 – 9
- To Hope and Back: The Journey of the SS St. Louis – Grades 5 – 8
- You Can’t Stop Them: Strong Female Leads in Literature – Grades 5 – 8
- Finding Myself in Wonderland: A Creative Trip through Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland – Grades 5 – 8
- “Wonder”ful Novel Study – Grades 5 – 8
- Go Greek Lightning! Percy Jackson – Grades 5 – 8
- Horsing Around: All Tails and Fun – Grades 5 – 8
- Into the Wardrobe: Journey Through Narnia – Grades 6 – 9
- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – Grades 7 – 10
- Banned and Burned: Banned Worthy Books – Grades 8 – 12
- Tales from Tolkien: A Study of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Grades 8 – 12
- Greek Tragedies Drama … Ancient Style – Grades 9 – 12
Eva Goldstein-Meola, is not only co-founder of Open Tent Academy, but an instructor as well as a former homeschooling mother. She has lived in New Jersey, Florida, Western Massachusetts, Northern Virginia and now resides just outside of Jerusalem. Eva holds a Master’s Degree as a Consulting Teacher of Reading and Writing, IEW certification and a Bachelor’s Degree as an Elementary Teacher. She has also been involved in education since 1986 as a Private Tutor, Teacher, Reading Specialist, Homeschooling Mother, Homeschooling Teacher and Business Owner of an Online Education Consortium. In addition to teaching, Eva enjoys cooking, baking, playing Settlers of Catan, traveling with her husband Jonathan, Broadway Musicals and reading. Eva teaches a variety of literature and IEW writing courses for Open Tent Academy.
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