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A Novel Approach: Whole-Class Novels, Student-Centered Teaching, and Choice

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  651 ratings  ·  101 reviews
As an English teacher, Kate Roberts has seen the power of whole-class novels to build community in her classroom. But she's also seen too many kids struggle too much to read them--and consequently, check out of reading altogether. Kate's had better success getting kids to actually read - and enjoy it-when they choose their own books within a workshop model. "And yet," she ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published February 14th 2018 by Heinemann Educational Books
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Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kate Roberts writes with so much experience but with so much humility that you can really picture her as your colleague. I feel like she is rooting for me and my students in every part of this book. I also love how she sprinkles in personal anecdotes/metaphors that are both extremely helpful and made me laugh out loud. If you’re teaching any kind of reading in your (probably grade 4 up) classes, this book is for you.
Kara Belden
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book very much. I love that she balances whole-class novels and choice books in practical and meaningful ways. I really appreciate that she addresses every facet of the unit from mapping out the unit, to daily lesson plans, to tracking growth, etc. Student samples are provided as well as assessment examples. Surprisingly, my favorite chapter was the last - "Celebrate Achievements." As it often seems that teachers are polarized on this topic (students need to read the classics and ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: teaching
I'm actually between a 2 and a 3 on this one. This is the 2nd Roberts pedagogical book I've read, and I've come to the conclusion that her work just isn't suited for where I'm at in my career. The problem I had with this text is that tries, early on, to appeal to both traditionalists and workshop teachers rather than embracing a strong position either way. Despite the compromise in the beginning (and the subtitle), this text is almost primarily about teaching the whole class novel. There is only ...more
Rebekah O'Dell
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We all need more balance in our world right now. And our classrooms are no different. In A NOVEL APPROACH, Kate Roberts proposes the kind of balance in reading instruction that doesn't feel like compromise -- it feels like a stroke of genius.

There isn’t a teacher among us who hasn’t wondered, “How do I do all of this?” Too often, professional books leave us inspired but feeling like we need super-powers. Kate’s book is refreshingly written for the Every Teacher, one who is full of heart to make
Shayne Bauer
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If I didn't love Kate Roberts already, I certainly do now after reading this book. She is REAL! This book is full of practical application for any Language Arts classroom. What a beautiful tribute to her father.
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Some solid advice and mental frameworks for teaching whole-class novels. The biggest idea I'm taking away is the concept of explicitly teaching a reading skill (analyzing the characterization in a novel) by breaking down specific and concrete strategies students can use (paying attention to the author's word choice when we first meet a character). Roberts emphasizes that when using a whole-class novel, she values the idea of teaching specific transferable skills of good readers rather than teach ...more
Jeff Larsen
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading. Solid advice and suggestions for teaching whole-class novels and using book clubs in the ELA classroom. What I enjoy most about Kate Roberts' text is her balance of humor and humility. Like all good teachers, she knows she doesn't have all the answers, but that doesn't stop her from trying to improve every day she enters the classroom.
Nicole Perry
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love that Kate Roberts is always so down-to-earth and practical in her writing. I have a number of things to think about before the school year starts!
Kathy Mathey
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Powerful insights into teaching techniques, strategies, and approaches found here. Matches my mantra: Never Stop Learning!
Elizabeth Guillemette
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very useful with lots of applicable ideas on how to get quick data and use it. Lots of the ideas played well with the work of Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher on balancing a variety of reading experiences throughout the year.
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lots of great ideas in here focused on meeting students where they’re at and helping them grow as readers. I love the way that Roberts balances the pluses of the whole-class text with the pluses of book clubs/student choice in texts. Rather than suggesting one approach is better than the other, she offers productive and useful ways to blend these approaches in ways that make each approach more effective than it would be on its own. I also just love that she acknowledges the realities of classroo ...more
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I want to be friends with Kate Roberts. She's so humble, so real, and so much like me in other ways that it's shocking. When I first started reading this book for mandatory PD, I joked with a colleague that this book's structure was written for me: lots of theatre and Shakespeare references and an ampersand on every page! In the end, we have another thing in common-- our fathers broke our hearts by dying too soon. None of that has anything to do with the clever content of this book, but being ab ...more
Sarah Krajewski
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the perfect book for a teacher who wants to start moving beyond just the teaching of whole-class novels. I think a lot of English departments should read it together, for it will spark a lot of much-needed conversation. There were some very helpful suggestions about how to start thinking about novel units differently, as well as ways to ease into book clubs.

For myself, this book was a little too late. I am now moving beyond these steps, so Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher’s 180 Days was
Leanne Wilson
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it

This is worth the read if you’ve ever taught, or intend on teaching, a whole-class novel. I had a lot of “aha” moments. Even though what she discussed (teach reading skills, not the novel) sounds like common sense, reading this made me realize I’ve focused too much on the book as opposed to the fundamental skills students should be practicing in the unit so they can transfer those skills to another book. Roberts does a great job of breaking down the structure and organization of a whole-cl
Holly Mueller
This is a fabulous resource for teachers who want to move from teaching the traditional whole class novel to more choice while not having to give up the whole class novel - just approaching it differently. Roberts's writing voice is funny, poignant, and honest - smart without ever being condescending or judgy to teachers, acknowledging the reality of the classroom but still upholding high standards for our accountability to students. I'm excited about sharing this with teachers!
I've been skipping around in this book for awhile, but I finally sat down and just finished reading it. There's a lot of useful information and activities to work with, though a lot of it is pretty obvious; it's something that is helpful as a tool for considering teaching whole-class novels, giving you outlines of how to do certain activities and ways that could engage students.

Overall, not bad. It's given me a few ideas for what I might want to do in the future.
Kris Patrick
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have one suggestion for improvement if she later makes a revised edition. Whole class novels can be an invitation for trouble in conservative communities. Remember that Kate lives in Brooklyn. I would direct readers to Keep Them Reading: An Anti-Censorship Handbook for Educators.

Rita Shaffer
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a great book for 6-12 summer learning and I am so thankful to Kate Roberts for sharing her ideas and learning with all educators. The discussions, ideas and questions in our online conversations show that this professional read pushed all of our thinking!

I love Kate's honesty in her writing and I enjoy the conversational tone! Lots of great idea!
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really love this book. It presents reasonable and meaningful ways to approach whole class texts and balance with student choice. The whole class text approach she outlines makes sense! It’s an important shift from thinking about teaching “books” to teaching strategies and skills.

Excited about using this with my preservice teachers in their methods class this fall.
Sherry Guice
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A book I wish I had written...practical and timely addressing many issues teachers of English and literacy face--how to pace and organize teaching with depth while fostering independence and avid reading...LOVED it.
Manda Keeton
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
Roberts delivers an innovative reader-friendly guide to teaching whole class novels. Her ideas are organized neatly, making them seem easy to implement in the classroom. The most compelling part of her argument is shortening the time teachers spend on novels while focusing that time on mini lessons, choice, key activities, and differentiated instructions.

While I know the supplemental materials are available online, I would have benefited from more substantial visual aids instead of the sized dow
Sarah Johnson
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Definitely helpful for integrating independent reading and book circles/clubs well and with meaning. I’m using it to reformat some units for my sophomores as well as integrate further opportunities for choice in both my preps. Some great ideas here and a worthwhile read.
Jenny Leitsch
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Definitely some stealable stuff in here. The most helpful part for me was the appendix of teaching videos at the end. It's always helpful and affirming to watch other teachers in action and think, "Okay, I'm on the right track."
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kate Roberts's exceptional professional book is a must-read for English/language arts teachers. Her writing is gorgeous, her ideas inspiring. This is a work I will return to again and again.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this for any middle or high school English teachers.
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very helpful for student teachers learning how to structure reading-based units. I enjoyed this, and it helped QUITE a bit.
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing resource for ELA teachers. I will be pulling from this text for many department meeting discussions around how we teach reading and try to build communities of readers.
Beth Honeycutt
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Such smart thinking! I really like Kate Roberts' voice and her practical strategies for language arts classrooms.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a game changer for educators looking to incorporate workshop model into a middle school setting. The ideas in this book are practical and could easily be implemented tomorrow.

There is community in a whole class novel, there is power in choice, and there is grace for teachers willing to foster an environment where struggle and celebrations live in harmony. Well done, Kate, you’ve joined my teaching idols club!
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Few ideas felt revolutionary for me. Perhaps this would have significantly impacted my teaching had I read it the first year or two of my career, but I feel fortunate to have been exposed to most of these ideas already.

Solid ideas and philosophies, just not the jolt my particular classroom currently needs.
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