Whole Novels for the Whole Class
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More About This Title Whole Novels for the Whole Class


Work with students at all levels to help them read novels

Whole Novels is a practical, field-tested guide to implementing a student-centered literature program that promotes critical thinking and literary understanding through the study of novels with middle school students. Rather than using novels simply to teach basic literacy skills and comprehension strategies, Whole Novels approaches literature as art. The book is fully aligned with the Common Core ELA Standards and offers tips for implementing whole novels in various contexts, including suggestions for teachers interested in trying out small steps in their classrooms first.

  • Includes a powerful method for teaching literature, writing, and critical thinking to middle school students
  • Shows how to use the Whole Novels approach in conjunction with other programs
  • Includes video clips of the author using the techniques in her own classroom

This resource will help teachers work with students of varying abilities in reading whole novels.


Ariel Sacks teaches 8th-grade English in Brooklyn, New York. She studied progressive pedagogy at Bank Street College and is committed to implementing student-centered methods successfully in public schools. A prolific writer, Ariel writes the blog, "On the Shoulders of Giants," featured at Center For Teaching Quality, and is a coauthor of Teaching 2030.


About the Author vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1


1 A Case for Whole Novels for the Whole Class 13

Parts of the Whole: My Annual Curriculum Map 30

2 Selecting the Right Books—Five Dimensions of Good Chemistry 35

3 Authentic Note Taking—Three Levels of Thinking, Three Levels of Response 68

Parts of the Whole: A View of Whole Novel Study from Start to Finish 102

4 Whole Novel Discussions—Everyone Has a Voice 107

Parts of the Whole: Lessons from Beginning Teachers on Whole Novels 136

5 Making the Writing Connection—Harnessing Students’ Drive to Say Something 141


6 Setting Expectations, Building Accountability—The Launch and Beyond 179

Parts of the Whole: My Classroom Setup 207

7 Developing Students’ Critical Reading and Comprehension—Activities We Do along the Way 214

Parts of the Whole: Integrating Technology 249

8 Differentiating for Diversity—Whole Novels for All Students 253

9 Analyzing the Results—What We Know and Where We Can Go 296

Appendices 313

Appendix A: Transcription of Whole Novel Discussion Notes 315

Appendix B: Spanish Translation of the Parent Letter 325

Appendix C: Notes Worksheet for Picture Book Study 327

Appendix D: Directions for Plot Charting Activity 329

Appendix E: Seeker Opportunity Assignment Choices 330

Appendix F: Student-Designed “Book Report” 332

Appendix G: Variations on a Theme Assignment 339

Appendix H: Hero’s Journey Cycle Activity 341

References 343

Index 345