Books Guiding Discussion

I have been puzzled by a question that I see a lot lately on various Teacher Social media pages. “How do you teach (insert novel or book name)” I was so grateful when One of my teaching idols Kylene Beers posted the following


I love using novels as a shared point of discussion, I love using mentor text to assist my students in finding themselves as writers. The books are a gateway to teach concepts and skills. Turing books into a unit breaks them down to nothing but a series of activities and unfortunately, booklets to be sold by “world-class educators” on sites like Teachers Pay Teachers. When we look at the skills and concepts that we are responsible to teach and then utilize wonderful books to teach those concepts we treat the text as a whole. As the adventure, they are intended to be. We don’t reduce it to a series of fill in the blank questions. I can teach theme with multiple sources that we can love for their own unique qualities.

Last year I read Outsiders with my students. I saw a million different packets out there to “teach” Outsiders. Instead, I opted to teach the concepts around character development and theme. My students responded to discussion points, we shared our opinions around characters and what ideas stuck out to us that guided our discussions around the ultimate theme of the story. We notice signposts and discussed them, we wrote BHH reflections around the lose of different characters. We read and read and read. My students reflected that they loved the book and they learned through the discussions we had. I think this distinction of heavy on the reading and targeting in the “work” is key to not spoiling the text and leading to Readicide as we try to “teach a book”.

Today I sat down a read a little of my book “Nightbooks” by J.A White. Chapter 1 was awesome and creepy and changed the direction of my lesson. We had planned to work on BHH reflections with picture books, a favourite activity of mine. Instead, this incredibly creepy first chapter led to a lesson on the strategy of making predictions to check for comprehension. If you were planning to do signpost (introducing on Thursday) it is rich with COntrast and Contradictions throughout. I introduced Double Entry Diaries and as I read we wrote, reflected and visited. The gasps as predictions came true, the smiles from readers who at times struggle as they realized they could be a close reader and discover the secret before the reveal made the change of direction so worth it.

Mr.Gilson Keep Reading!

Mr.Gilson can I read that next?

Mr.Gilson lets read all next class…

I don’t teach books, I teach readers and we love it.


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