Using Novellas: 5 No-Prep Ways To Read

Teachers have had many questions regarding the use of novellas in the classroom. While the easiest is to simply have them available for students to read, I’ve taken a more cumulative approach to setting aside time for independent reading this year. Here are 5 different no-prep ways to read novellas:

**ALL novellas available for Free Voluntary Reading (FVR)**
1) Whole-Class & Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) Intro
2) Whole-Class & SSR
3) SSR & Expanded Readings (ExR)
4) Audiobook, SSR & ExR
5) Poetry of the Week

Keep reading for a LOT more detail…

**ALL novellas available for Free Voluntary Reading (FVR)**
All books—whether read as a whole class, or intended to be read as a whole class later—were available from the start of the year. N.B. we didn’t officially begin FVR until the 35 hour mark in November, so none of the students even sat in the FVR reading area until then.

1) Whole-Class & Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) Intro
The first novella, Quīntus et nox horrifica, was read over 6 classes. During these classes, there was least one other activity per day. A total of just 11 minutes over 2 days was given for reading that same novella independently. During the whole-class reading, I read aloud, assigned sound effects, asked Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA) in Latin, and comprehension questions in English. After a couple days, students volunteered to read aloud dialogue, or be the narrator. On the final day, students worked in groups to complete a novella study sheet.

2) Whole-Class & SSR
This process above mostly continued for the second novella, Drūsilla in Subūra, after the December holiday break, which followed exploring the topic of Roman housing. This book was read over 9 classes. Students were given much more independent reading time for a total of 44 minutes of SSR. They also had 40 minutes of FVR on Fridays, meaning some students chose to continue Drūsilla at their own pace, while others began reading different texts. N.B. by the time we finished this second novella at the 77 hour mark, students banked a total of 89 SSR, and 99 FVR minutes since the start of the year.

3) SSR & Expanded Readings (ExR)
The third novella, Rūfus lutulentus, was read at the same time as exploring Roman public spaces. You might find it surprising that the lowest level book (i.e. 20 unique words) was actually third to be read. However, this is commensurate with the amount of independent reading done since there wasn’t any whole-class component planned for this novella. Students were on their own, without my help. N.B. you might think this book could be read within minutes at this point in the year, but not so. I’ve found that expectations for independent reading must be more realistic than we think.

This book was read over 10 classes, and I made use of the additional Expanded Readings (ExR) that accompany this novella. In class, students were given copies of Rūfus et Lūcia: līberī lutulentī, or printed handouts from the Teacher’s Materials to be used with various writing tasks.

The daily process was 4 minutes of SSR using the novella, a reading activity with a partner using the first ExR (e.g. Volleyball Reading, Silent T/F Reading, etc.), and then a reading activity with the second ExR (e.g. mendax!, Annotation Task, etc.). Every other Annotation Task (e.g. “circle what Rufus is imitating,” or “underline the word that tells us how Lucia is sculpting”) was collected and scored. N.B. by the time we finished the third novella at the 92 hour mark, students banked a total of 129 SSR, and 126 FVR minutes.

4) Audiobook, SRR & ExR
During the exploration of Roman gladiators in the coming weeks, Rūfus et arma ātra will be read in a fourth way that combines everything from before. In addition, this novella has an accompanying audiobook, which will take the place of my voice over the 7 classes we’ll take to read it, at a pace of 1 chapter per day. Here’s what I have planned:

  • listen to audiobook and follow along, pausing to discuss w/ PQA and comprehension Qs, etc.
  • listen to the faster version of the chapter once all the way through
  • students have 10 minutes of SSR to read through the Expanded Readings (ExR) at their own pace beginning with the first Expansion, which adds cognates only, and then subsequent Expansions, which each add ~6 new words that are recycled throughout
  • partner reading activity with third Expansion
  • other reading activity, likely to be turned in, for the fourth Expansion, printed from Teacher’s Materials

5) Poetry Of The Week
fragmenta Pīsōnis has been playing a particular role since January, independent of any Roman topic exploration. This use of a novella is unique to the content of fragmenta, meaning I don’t know that its reading process could be applied to other novellas, but it exists for Latin teachers nonetheless. The poetry sections of Rūfus et arma ātra and Agrippīna: māter fortis in fragmenta should line up quite nicely with the reading of those novellas, respectively.

Next Novellas?
I plan to read Syra sōla as a whole-class while exploring animals in ancient Rome, and then finish the year with Agrippīna: māter fortis, using its companion, Līvia: māter ēloquens as a book, and printed handouts from the Teacher’s Materials in a way much like the Expanded Readings (ExR) in the Rūfus novellas. By that time, we should be wrapping things up for first year Latin.

It’s worth noting that I’ve seen Pīsō perturbātus, Drūsilla et convīvium magārum, and even Pīsō Ille Poētulus being read during FVR despite not planning to read with students in the ways I’ve shared above. That’s also in addition to all the other novellas in the library authored by other teachers. This is why simply making novellas available is the first step.

Next Year(s)?
As I become more comfortable with the flow of exploring Roman topics, I anticipate reading more novellas related to more topics, and sooner on. For example, I already plan to begin Rūfus lutulentus in December, pushing everything up about a month. I also foresee exploring a bit of mysticism, for which Drūsilla et convīvium magārum could be read. This means that I might meet the original goal of reading Pīsō Ille Poētulus with first year Latin students at the end of the year.

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