Introduction to Novels

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Students will be able to analyze character by taking notes on a student improvisation activity.

Big Idea

Welcoming Huck, Jim, Antonia, Richie, and Peewee to tea--meeting the main characters of literature circle choices.


This lesson does not align to any one Common Core State Standard; rather, it is designed to create excitement for reading while giving basic background information that will help students navigate the novels.

Do Now: What Type of Reader Are You?

5 minutes

As we move into our first round of novels, I ask my students to reflect on their reading identities: fast or slow? Focused? Engaged? Interested? Do they prefer action? Romance? Horror? Grit? Knowing who they are as readers will help them make better choices for their literature circle novels.

A Character Tea Party

40 minutes

Creating excitement for novels is necessary to get students to read--today's tea party is a fun, exciting way to introduce the characters and conflicts of the literature circle choices.

I ask for six volunteers to participate in an improvisation activity. While they make their way to the hall, I ask the rest of the class to create a chart in their notes which I've already modeled on the board; it features the three novel choices, each with two main characters listed below. Students will take notes on the characters when they sit down to "tea" and chat about their lives.

In the hallway, I prep my actors with notes listing critical information about their characters (without giving away how and why they are critical, information which will be gleaned from reading the book) and help them develop a physical persona. Huck, for example, should appear confident, and Peewee from Fallen Angels should act out during the tea (he's somewhat unstable). They are to act as though they've been ripped from their novels for an afternoon tea. They can discuss where they came from, what problems they face, and what they normally act like; I'll prompt them with questions if the "tea" conversation runs dry.

Our short preparation complete, I introduce the "characters" as they walk/strut/sneak back into the classroom, where they find a table prepared in the center, surrounded by their classmates (think fishbowl format). The characters sit down, and I prompt them with a first question--what were you pulled from just now? They take it from there with the help of Fallen Angels character Richie, who acts a bit like a therapist in his book and is happy to ask questions at the party.

When the characters have exhausted their information and questions, I pull the class back together and ask our observers to report out. They each go to the board to leave one observation about a character under the appropriate chart column. Eventually, we have a full board of their observations. I synthesize their recordings and add information about each novel as I go: more on the time period, background on the author, secondary conflicts, correcting any misunderstandings from the character tea, etc.

Finally, it's time for choices. I ask students to rank the novels on their notes sheet--most to least preferred in case I cannot honor a top choice (supplies are limited, unfortunately). I also allow them to request a single partner. Their choices go into the drop box as the bell rings, and they exit with pleas for one book or another pelting through the air.