While I was doing my homeschool planning over the summer, I went looking for novel studies for Jonah and Matthew to do. I was looking for something that would combine reading comprehension (did they actually read the chapter and understand what happened), vocabulary, and maybe some other sort of grammar or part-of-speech related question.
I didn’t really find what I was looking for.
What I found were bits and pieces.
I found lists of questions to go with chapters in some of the novels I had. I found vocabulary lists for others. And I found occasional activities and other resources that, while perfectly fine, weren’t what I wanted to focus on.
So I made my own, and I’ve continued to use this process throughout this school year so far.
I created a simple Word document template for each chapter of a novel. No matter how long or short the chapters, I just do one worksheet for each chapter, because that is really simple to assign to my kids.
Each chapter gets 3 vocabulary words, and I mark what page the words are on. That way, if they don’t know what a word means, they can see it in context. If they still don’t know, they look it up in the dictionary. I keep a running list so that we don’t repeat a particular vocabulary word within the same novel (but it’s fine with me if it comes up again in a different novel).
After the vocabulary words, I have 4-6 comprehension questions. I try to make these mostly fact-based: What happened after __________? Who came to visit that morning? Name three things they ate for dinner. These are simple questions to make sure that they read the chapter, and that they understand the basic plot of what happened.
I will also occasionally include a more thought-provoking question about why something happened, or what something meant. We are currently reading The Sign of the Beaver, and when we got to a chapter that included that specific phrase, I asked where the title for the book came from and what it meant in the story.
On the second part of the worksheet, I ask a question to get the kids to think about themselves in relation to the story.
Sometimes it’s something silly. If the story mentioned a cat or a dog, I might ask, “Do you have a pet? What is its name? Tell me about it.”
Sometimes it’s to get them to see how they are similar to or different from the characters in the novel. “In this chapter, these characters went on a trip. Have you ever been on a trip? Was it like the trip they took?”
Sometimes it’s to get them to think about what they would do in a certain instance. “So and so chose to do this. Would you do the same thing or something different? Why?”
Finally, I ask for a summary of the chapter in 1-2 sentences. Summarizing is one of the big skills my boys are working on in Language Arts this year, so it made sense for me to include that as part of their novel studies. I give them 3-4 lines to tell me what happened in their own words. As the year has progressed, I can see definite improvement in their ability to get to the point.
And there you have it! Now that I have a method for this, it actually doesn’t take me very long to read a chapter of a novel and put together the worksheet for it.
But if that still sounds like too much work for you, or you’re not sure where to start, I’ve put my novel studies together in my new Teachers Pay Teachers store. I have free samples of a couple chapters for each novel that we’ve completed, as well as a paid (but still very cheap!) version of the whole thing. As we continue through the school year, I’ll be adding more novel studies, and I have some other projects in mind too, although time will tell if I’m actually able to get to them.
Have you ever created a novel study for your homeschool students? Which novel did you study?