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

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  320 ratings  ·  59 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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4.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  320 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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Rachel Polacek
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.
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
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
Colin James
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is my favorite full text we've read in the M.Ed. program so far. Many of my lessons this fall have been informed by Roberts' focus on small group work and 1-on-1 conferencing for a whole-class novel ('Lord of the Flies' for our English 10 class this first quarter). One example that stands out: my minilesson on annotations and having students transfer one annotation (on a post-it note) to their writing journals and reflecting on why it's important/how it makes them feel. It was incredibly ef ...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
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!
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
Mrs. 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
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.
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!
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!
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
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this for any middle or high school English teachers.
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 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 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
ELA books I've read pretty much fall under two camps: 80% are nitty gritty strategies (Notice and Note, Deeper Reading, Write Like This) and 20% are big picture, philosophical, or planning books (180 Days, Book Love, The Book Whisperer). A Novel Approach may sound like a strategy book, and it does have some strategies, but really and truly it is more in the second camp of big picture books than the nitty gritty. As such, I think this is an excellent book if you are new to ELA teacher life and ne ...more
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are a lot of great ideas to bring into your classroom and I appreciate Roberts’s humor and encouraging view of students. Quite often, I found myself appreciating a teacher talking about ways to cheerlead almost as much as instruct. That’s a piece of education that is all to easy to let slip away. The idea of any reading as a chance to practice skills instead of collect content I hope will change the way I teach going forward. That’s a big and important shift that I can’t wait to make.

At ti
Emily Allen
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an important resource for any teacher whose priority is to equip students with the skills and confidence necessary to read any text. Her argument for teaching skills rather than teaching the content of books is thoughtfully crafted and made me reflect on my approach to instruction. I went into teaching English because of the great joy reading and writing has brought to my life, but this book reminded me that my purpose for teaching English is to help and empower my students so that they ...more
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this "have your cake and eat it too" approach to balancing whole class novels with instruction-based reading, book clubs, and independent reading.

Chapters of this book, especially model mini-lessons, felt reused from other sources. I would have preferred to see more model units from teachers and more suggestions on pacing and differentiation strategies with a workshoppy approach to a whole class text. I felt like the model pacing guide for Fahrenheit 451 dissected the book in a way tha
Kaleigh Gibbons
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
It's always nice when you read a professional development book and think to yourself, "This is doable!" rather than feeling inspired, but wholly inadequate. The whole class novel is a yearly struggle for me, and I began to feel resentful of it. However, this book helped me reset my mindset with probably the most obvious statement in pedagogy: teach skills, not content. This book was so refreshing to me, particularly the idea that you follow up the whole-class novel with book clubs to foster the ...more
Krina Huddlestun
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent overview of how to effectively plan reading workshop. There are great suggestions for book clubs, conferencing, and structuring units. Yes, you can use a whole-class novel as a mentor text. But, if you think this book is going to say, “yes, please continue to drag your students through a one-size fits all way of instruction and let them sit there for weeks and weeks on end while you teach them your favorite book of all time,” then you will be disappointed. This book supports ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would! Instead of feeling like I was doing professional reading, I felt like I was engaged in a very honest and authentic reflection on how to be a good enough (as opposed to perfect) teacher of reading. Roberts clearly has a deep and nuanced understanding of the role a teacher plays in developing readers. Her writing is approachable and her advice is wise: embrace the whole class novel AND choice reading and focus most on the transferable skills (and let som ...more
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
The value of this book was in the chapters on pacing, assessment and differentiation. I’m using the ideas to teach A Raisin In The Sun in two weeks, and it has helped me focus my unit and lesson planning. I also love the directions for actual, effective book clubs, which I will be using next year. Every administrator and teacher in every district should read the chapter on which books to teach. I was sad that this book didn’t really give much in the way of useful quick activities to do for skill ...more
Emily Dia
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I. Love. Kate. Roberts. In this book, she uses research, literacy mentors, and her own rich experience with students to create a resource that is honest, inspiring, and practical (thoughts on text selection, backward design, management, assessment, pacing and more!). This book is a tool that I’ll keep at the ready—whether I’m teaching a whole-class novel, book clubs, or a reading skills unit. If all middle and high school literacy teachers read this work, we might just have a dynamic revolution ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: professional
I barely finished reading this book when I began to go back and reread some specific chapters. As a student I hated whole class novels (spending 12 weeks on "Gone With the Wind") because they were so slow and mind numbing as we completed worksheet after worksheet. Kate presents a valid argument for a combination of reading workshop, independent reading, book club and whole class novel work. This approach works because it ranges from the need to build a strong community to practicing specific ski ...more
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Kate Roberts was one of the foremost Welsh-language authors of the twentieth century. Known as Brenhines ein llên ("The queen of our literature"), she is known mainly for her short stories, but she also wrote novels. Roberts was also a prominent Welsh nationalist.

Roberts was born in the village of Rhosgadfan, Caernarfonshire (Gwynedd today) where her father (Owen Roberts) was a quarryman in the lo