Novel Study: Different Novels

I’ll admit it, I’ve been covetous of English teachers’ novel studies for a long time and I’ve just been trying to figure out how it would work with my upper level students.  Completely unable to imagine what it might look like, I have been stalking English teachers like crazy and I have what we’ll call a blueprint in mind.  I am going to build this plane while flying it because sometimes the best way to see how something will work is to just see if it works!

The problems: I have a lot of good novels I am not using.  My Spanish 4 don’t need me to read with them any more.  I need to give lots of good input but also let them self select topics of interest… So I gave them this survey with 4 novel trailers to rank from 1-4!

Reading Club- Spanish 4 final read

Amazingly, nearly everyone got their first choice and my group sizes are 4-5.  (I do have one class that had two groups of 4 on the same novel.)

On Monday, students will be assigned groups and will receive the Reading Club welcome and rules for their novel:

Grupo Guerra      Grupo Oro     Grupo Rebelde

With only 5 weeks left and 14 chapter novels, we will read 3 chapters per week (Monday-Wednesday), will have a group discussion topic on Thursday each week.  Ex. Who is the strongest character in your novel and why?  and will do our normal Interpretive Internado Mania on Friday!  Oh and finish up our Musica Madness which is getting very heated!

Each day I will move from group to group asking questions and engaging them in out of the box thinking about the novels they are studying.

The final assessment will be a talk show.  I will host student group members as they role play characters in the novels in Dr.Phil-worthy situations!  The first day, 2 members from each group playing 2 distinct roles will be selected based on their comfort with using TL to set the example for subsequent days.  I’ll put the slowest processors in the middle and the middle at the end! 🙂

I’ll try to add posts regularly with some of the activities the groups are doing as they read.  And I’ll take lots of pictures!  Want to join us on the journey?  We might be able to set up some kind of partner school meet days in our Thursday discussions!

***Here are the character and event webs I’m giving! Notice the NOTHING! I want them to have creative liberty over how they web both!

Character Map      Event Map

Here is the grading rubric for class discussions:  I actually use this for ALL class discussions to keep them having a CONVERSATION not a fact-off!  I don’t keep track on the tally sheet any more!  I now have my Class Dojo set up with all the categories so I can keep it there.  The little Dojo sounds sure are motivating! 🙂

Grading Rubric Class Discussion

Day 1 Group summarizing activity: Comic Strip Retell



Author: senoracmt

I began teaching Spanish in Illinois in 1994. I have taught levels 1-4 in a small rural high school, 8th grade introductory Spanish, Biology 1, and 101 and 102 at the community college level. My Spanish classes are partnered with the community college to offer students 8 semester hours of dual credit on completion of Spanish 4. In 2011 I met Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido and have since co-authored the book "La hija del sastre" with Carol Gaab and authored the novels "La Calaca Alegre", "Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos." "Vector," "48 horas" and "Bananas" through Fluency Matters. In 2006 I became National Board certified and I have been serving as a mentor both for candidates seeking certification in world languages other than English and a virtual mentor for candidates in all certificate areas. I completed my Masters degree in Spanish education in 2011 and did my research on the use of Understanding by Design to create meaningful cultural units for the language classroom. I am a frequent presenter on this topic, please consider me if you are interested in a workshop on backward design. In 2013 I was named the ICTFL Foreign Language teacher of the year and in 2014 I was selected as CSCTFL's teacher of the year. In November of 2014 I was lucky enough to be one of the five finalists for the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year in San Antonio, TX. What a "Cinderella" experience! You can reach me via email at senoracmt at

12 thoughts

      1. Oh, nice! I was wondering about having topics such as “My family is in crisis” or such. I am trying to think what a talk show might have (that would be appropriate in the classroom).

      2. Since our novels are so wildly different (Noche de Oro, Rebeldes de Tejas, and Guerra Sucia), I am thinking that I’d like to do things that focus on literary features! That vocab is almost always cognatey! Protagonista, antagonista, escena más dramática..

  1. I also wondered how you would be grading the webs. I have used them as tools but never actually taken a “gradebook grade” on their completion.

    1. The webs will be a formative grade. All or none! The real purpose is to prepare them with lots of evidence for the summative talk show!

  2. Thanks for the information. I’m doing something similar for my Advanced Spanish students and have been looking for information. Do you have instructions/templates for the character and event webs?

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