This post originally appeared on the blog The Teaching Bank.
Funny thing about educational research is if you look hard enough, you can usually find studies to support both sides of an issue. Very rarely do you find a straight yes or no answer to what is good or bad theory or practice. Generally, it boils down to the common sense of the teacher in regards to his/her individual students and the level of freedom the teacher is given from administration.
Sadly, in today’s standardized test-heavy climate, teachers are given less and less freedom to choose what is best for their students. So many curriculum guidelines have become so rigid that teachers are not able to modify or enrich with their own lessons and materials.
Once I got my feet wet a bit in the classroom, I started to develop novel studies for books where a short excerpt had been made in the basal. It is only common sense that reading the whole book is more enjoyable and leads to a much greater understanding by the student. Of course, I was careful to incorporate the skills taught in the basal in my units. I started teaching these novel units alongside the basal stories and the change between reading the basal vs. the novel was amazing. I had kids who were reading at a 2nd grade level actually focused and challenging themselves reading the chapter books that were at a 4th grade reading level. They actually wanted to read them vs. just getting through some worksheet assignment from the basal. More and more, these lower level readers were chiming in on class discussions about the books and picking up age-appropriate books by choice in free time. As a teacher, I found it easier to use Bloom’s higher order questions using a novel instead of a short excerpt because you could really dive so much farther into the story and the characters.
I see similar experiences with my own children when they are allowed to read a “real” book vs. a text-based short story. They’ve never come home from school excited about something they read in a basal, but they have many times come home and we’ve had lengthy discussions about novels that they are reading!
I started my adventures in education over 25 years ago. The majority of my teaching time was in the fourth grade, but I have also worked with third and sixth grades. One of my favorite things to teach was novel studies. I loved the community a book could create among the classroom. The deep discussions and laughs we all shared as we discussed a common book were my favorite times. I loved to see a student who was a reluctant reader get hooked on a book, especially when in many ways they only knew reading as being something tiresome coming from a basal. Students going on to choose additional books to read for pleasure by authors that we read were my greatest feelings of success.
After my autoimmune hearing loss worsened to a degree that required me to leave the classroom, I began The Teaching Bank as a way to stay connected to the education field and continue in the work that I love. The obvious choice for me was to expand on the novel studies that I had created in my own classroom, which continues to be the main focus of my store and my favorite thing to create. Over the years, I have added other curriculum items for social studies and math to use with my own children at home to supplement what they are doing in school and for their teachers to use as well. I stay current with best practices volunteering in the classrooms and schools of my own children, collaboration with other TpT Teacher-Authors, reading educational publications, and attending professional conferences. My teaching style is to be a facilitator of learning. I believe in guiding my students to become independent learners and thinkers using a hands-on interactive approach. My goal at The Teaching Bank is to provide quality lessons and units that are practical and ready to teach to help other educators lead their students to become independent thinkers.