6 Ways to Make Class Novel Studies More Fun in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Here are some engaging novel activities for middle school ELA and high school English that will help make in-class readings more fun. These unique activities will help students get involved and help them practice team-building skills and creative thinking.

6 Ways to Make Class Novel Studies More Fun in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Journaling as a Novel Activity

Journaling is an excellent way for students to express what they do or do not understand, which could help them grow as readers. With journaling, students would need to talk about each chapter and answer questions such as: What do you know so far? What do you like/ not like about this chapter?

Think of it like this! A student chooses to read Lord of the Flies, and they record each chapter in their journal and answer the questions. After students finish reading, you could advise them to reflect on their answers and write if anything has changed.

For example, say a student did not understand the bullying of Piggy. But after looking-over their journal, the student realizes the reason for the bullying. They write about their realization at the end of their journal. By having students write down about the chapter in a paragraph or more, they come to those realizations by themselves and learn more. One of my favorite journaling activities is the dialectical journal.

Group Activities for Reading and Studying Novels

Group activities will keep your students aware of what they are learning, and it will help them be a team player. For group activities, there could be three or more group mapping, play-acting, and designing characters.

The first group is about mapping by students would sit down and pick a story out of a hat or use the one you are reading in class. They would work together to draw a landscape or building from that story. For instance, if you are reading The Lord of Flies, the students would sketch the paradise island where the boys landed. This is very similar to an opening activity I use in my classroom to introduce The Lord of the Flies.

In the next group, play-acting, your students should pick out a scene from a hat. For example, perhaps students picked out the scene from The Outsiders where Johnny and Ponyboy cut each other's hair. Then the group of students would act it out in front of the class.

The last group is the character design. Each member would pick out a character from a hat and sketch what they imagine the characters' features are. Once done, everyone will show their drawings, and, as a group, draw by using the similarities that their sketches had. They would need to show the class by drawing the character on the whiteboard or poster board and discuss what the drawings had in common. For instance, imagine one of your students chose Juliet Capulet. Since the Capulets were known to have worn blue, the student might draw her in a blue dress. But her features may differ because Romeo compared her to the sun, perhaps she has warm features such as blonde hair and brown eyes. With this activity, students can use textual clues to help them picture the character!

Sketch Notes/Mind Mapping Novels

Sketching notes or creating mind maps in the secondary English class helps visual learners understand a story's aspects. It is a fun activity for students, and they use their imagination to think outside of the box. To help students, you could provide instructions on how to draw what the characters look like, their outfits, an object or place, etc.

For example, when I read Long Way Down with my students, we would add to our mind map after we finished each floor. I had students add essential details from the story, cite quotes, draw visual elements or symbols, and quickly jot down and words or phrases that stuck out to them.

Another example could look like this if you are reading Romeo and Juliet with your students. Sketching could help them differ between the Montagues and Capulets since the Montagues wore red clothes, while the Capulets wore blue. So, drawing the characters could help the student separate the two families based on their distinctive styles. They can also map out the city of Verona by using red and blue to create the city's division.

Host a Classroom Debate about Novels

For reading that may have more than one kind of adaptation, you can have students review each adaptation and organize a debate for which adaptation captured the book/play more accurately. The class needs to split up into two teams. One team will be the book/play, while the second team will be the movie adaptation. Those two teams would answer questions provided by you, their teacher, about different scenes, and take turns arguing which version showed the scene better. For instance, Speak did not have a scene where Mr. Freeman drove Melinda to her mother's work. The students could answer if that scene is valuable for the book, but not for the movie.

Now for fun, the two teams can have a speed round of questions for 30 seconds, and whoever wins will get five extra credit points on the quiz. This classroom debate also doubles as a whole-novel test review.

Compare Books vs. Movies

For students, comparing books to the movie adaptation versions would be a learning experience for them. They could tell the difference between the story and the movie. You could ask students about the similarities and differences. Picture a student reading Just Mercy. After reading the book, students can watch the movie and then discuss the differences. In doing so, the student would have to outline the similarities and differences.

Assign Students a Culminating One-Pager

Another way to engage students in a class novel study is by assigning a one-pager as a culminating activity. Using their notes and mind maps as guidance, students create a one-page representation of the book that includes visuals, quotes, and meaningful information.
Engaging novel study activities.