November 13, 2013

My Favorite Novel Study

First, I just want to throw out a quick reminder to link up tomorrow Thankful Thursday. Tis the season to acknowledge all the things for which we are grateful, and I know my list is long. I was a little late asking people to participate last week, so I wanted to make sure I gave more notice for those who like to schedule their blogs in advance like I know many of you do! :)

I'm also very excited today that I get to link up with Jivey for Workshop Wednesday. I love this linky but often feel I don't currently have anything to contribute. This week, though, we're being asked to share our favorite novel study.

The novel I most look forward to teaching is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

To be completely honest, when I first announce this novel study, I get a lot of groans and whines from my students. It's no secret that a Dickens text is challenging for our students. BUT... by the end of the unit, my students LOVE it and are so proud of themselves for being able to comprehend the text.

Because the language is challenging (and, truthfully, because it sounds SO much better when read with an accent), we listen to this novel on audio. If you do this with your students, please, please, please do yourself a favor and listen to the version narrated by Jim Dale. It's the best!

Before we read, my students do some non-fiction reading on the following topics to help them gather the necessary background knowledge for understanding the text:
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  1. The life of Charles Dickens
  2. Life in Victorian England
  3. Victorian schools

As we read, my students look for two things:

  1. How Dickens uses characterization to show how Scrooge changes throughout the story. We focus on the WALTER methods of Characterization (Words, Actions, Looks, Thoughts, Emotions, Reactions of Others) and find text examples of each from Stave I, Stave II-IV, and Stave V. We annotate the text when we find evidence, and our best examples are recorded on our Faces of Scrooge packet.
  2. How and why Dickens includes symbolism in his writing. Specifically, we look at the symbols used for the four ghosts (don't forget Marley) and record them in a Ghost Brochure. Every single year that I teach this novel, students pick up on different symbols and can offer different explanations of said symbols. This is one of the things that makes teaching this novel so fun!
Of course, we also do some fun activities. We have a great time learning to dance as Scrooge relives it with the Ghost of Christmas Past at Fezziwig's party, and we play some of the games Scrooge watches at Fred's party with the Ghost of Christmas Present. 

After we read, we do a book/move comparison using the Patrick Stewart version (1999), which I find to be truest to the original text. I'm always proud when my students declare that the book is so much better than the movie. (Side note: When the Disney version came out, my students were outraged at the inaccuracies in the movie. It was hilarious!)

Then, students write an essay about Dickens' use of characterization/symbolism in his writing (they get to choose). Honestly, after all the annotating and activities above, these are some of the best essays I read all year. Even my lowest students do a great job with my essay organizer as a guide.  

With some classes, I also do a Socratic seminar over this text with students where they analyze the theme and applicability to their own lives. Again, this is a place where students can really wow me!

Editor's Note: Be sure to check out my A Christmas Carol Novel Study Guide on TPT!

1 comment:

  1. I had seen many movie versions before I finally read the book and was wonderfully surprised at how witty the book was. There is no way the movies could show this.