Both introduce who we are …

Patti is: department head of English department at Camden Hills Regional High School, newly minted NBCT, AND a Bay area writing project consultant. Patti is also a board member of MCELA

Iris is: the librarian/technology integrator at Camden Hills Regional High School and the 2017 Knox County Teacher of the Year. Iris is a board member of the Maine Association of School Libraries.

Share what we are reading

Introduce yourself to a neighbor and share what you are reading with a partner 30 seconds!

We are all readers, but many of us have students like this...

“I don’t read. I ain’t nevah read a book and nevah will.”
-- Hunter, Fall 2017

Hunter is a lobsterman, rider, Ford truck lover and loves anything he can burn rubbah in, and was proud of the fact that he did not read books. How do we get students like this to read?


Inspire you to try a choice novel study

Give you an inside look at how Patti has developed and implemented this in her 9th and 10th grade classes, and offer you some tools to help you give the Choice Novel Study a try!

Share our enthusiasm for READING… For designing opportunities for STUDENT ENGAGEMENT! And to share our enthusiasm for COLLABORATING.


When we have the opportunity to make a choice, it’s empowering. A choice novel study is not the same as free reading— although that is very important too. We define a choice novel study as a unit where students select a book to read, interpret, and analyze it.

A choice novel study inspires deep levels of engagement for our students, but it’s also the perfect platform for applying the close reading skills you’ve taught your students to an original text of their choosing. You can’t lead them through the analysis of the text — they have to do it themselves.


Whether you think of books as windows into new worlds or mirrors to understand oneself, reading is a path to self-knowledge and self-discovery.

When we invite our students to make their own selection of a novel, we are giving them agency to know themselves, and know themselves as readers.


In a choice novel study, we are called upon to engage with students differently.

When we learn about what our students want and need from their books, by chatting about book selections, sharing recommendations, through informal check-ins, and more formal conferences, we are building relationships. We are learning about who these young people are and what they value. The relationship-building piece is a beautiful benefit of the choice novel study in that it is built-in, not something we need to make extra time for.

Your book choice says something about you as a person. This becomes the opening and invitation that teachers can use to intentionally build deeper relationships in the classroom.

The other benefit to a choice novel study at the end of the school year is that it’s a great opportunity to let students fly on their own and use the skills you have been teaching them all along.

As English teachers, we often are working in deep learning with whole class novels. We can increase rigor and push our students to transfer their learning by making space in the curriculum to let students CHOOSE their novel to study. What makes this rigorous is not their book choice but how they evaluate the book and create products to show their learning.

Two different ways to create these choice novel studies:

9th vs. 10th

Iris -

The first tool is : Make books easily accessible to our students! In the next few slides we will be sharing some of the ways we’ve done this. Having a partnership with your library and librarian is a great place to start.

library partnership

Getting books to students


classroom library

Bring your students to the school library is a no-brainer! After a few book talks, students had time to browse for titles, to talk with me and Patti about their preferences, and hopefully leave with one or two books to try.

But sometimes you might need to bring the library to the students! We tried this model because the library was busy during this particular class period, and our building is pretty big too, so this model was efficient and solution-oriented.

One of the genres that flew off my cart, were the action/adventure books. I would consistently need to restock this genre!

Which led me to start genrefying my library collection. I’d been thinking about this for some time, reading literature about other school libraries that have tried it, but I was dragging my feet because it sounded like a lot of work. But seeing how easy it was for Patti’s students to find what they wanted made me realize it was time to try. And where to start? With those books we now call …

Thrills and Chills: Action, Adventure, Suspense, Thriller

Our first genrefied section!

Popularity of this section has led me to our next genre, the What If? section, aka Science Fiction!


I have to be honest with you, I never really read YA titles most of my career and my classroom library was really just a collection of spares from our department book room. Including choice reading has helped me learn more about what kids are actually reading today and inspired me to start to investing in my own classroom library based on student recommendations. This is a picture of my new classroom library, genrefied and color coded by a group of students. My students now have easy access to good books in our class and in our library.


Another important tool is Book Talks. Introducing students to books that may interest them.


Booktalking is something that I do all the time, in the library, one-on-one with a student looking for a book, or here, back to that classroom visit with a class of students.

Giving a booktalk is like introducing two people who don’t know each other -- sometimes I call it speed-dating! I want to give the potential reader enough information to know whether they want to read the book, but I don’t want to tell too much! Especially in a group setting, booktalks have to be super brief - 2-3 minutes max.

In our resource document, we have a link to a video we made with some booktalking tips, and a link to some very short, Twitter-length booktalks I wrote.

But if you’re nervous or new to booktalking, the first step is to reach out to your librarian.

Iris …

Patti was not so confident with booktalking at first, so it really helped her gain confidence to watch me doing booktalks. And as she has read more YA titles, she’s started growing her own in-class booktalking practice!


An essential tool is giving students time to read in class. It may feel like we don’t have time with all of our other content, but reading is part of our content.

Inside of class reading is one way to be sure they are getting time to read - students with at-home responsibilities are not going to read for homework, students with outside activities and/or jobs may not be able to read at home. We must give students time to read in class to make reading more equitable.

Plus, giving them time in class helps build a culture of reading. I give my classes 10 minutes of free choice reading every class, no strings attached and during the choice novel study, this time is extended further little by little up to as much as 30 minutes per class.

What helps build this community of readers is using the tool of having them share their reading.

At the end of reading time, students talk about their books--what they are noticing, what they are thinking. This can be left open for a more natural discussion or you can use question cards like the purple cards shown in the picture. I picked up this question set on Teachers Pay Teachers. There is a link in our resources document. I’ve even had kids use Play-Doh to create something that represents a character from there book and while they create, they just naturally talk about their reading.

Iris: We have a present for YOU!!! We are going to give your brain a break and take a moment to give you some book talks, followed by...

The gift of time to read!!! So first we are going to booktalk a few titles, and following our booktalks you will have a chance to select a book from one of the tables, and then have some time to read!

First up: I have YA books. (IRIS BOOKTALKS)

Second: Patti booktalks!


Now it’s your chance to share your reading.

30 secs to tell your partner what your book is about (switch)

30 secs to talk about what you’re wondering, thinking about, thoughts, questions

30 secs how did it feel to have this time to read and share about a book you picked


We imagine you might have some concerns, fears, and worries! That’s OK! We are going to spend some time going through some of the common questions you might have.

Iris advances to the next slide

Give them time to take their own notes about what they are noticing in their reading. The key to these notebooks, though, is letting them decide what to include and how to do it.

Angelina started out by tracking characters and making predictions

Cameron noticed the point of view as a limited narrator in the beginning of his reading.

Ella recognized the literary technique of foreshadowing early in the novel.

Aaron wanted to reread Harry Potter, so I let him. Because this was his second read, he noticed things he hadn’t in his first reading, like the power struggle between social classes using the social class (Marxist) lens. Re-reading this book HELPED him go deeper!

For my 10th graders, I had students come up with their own inquiry questions inspired by their novels. As they continued reading, they did additional research on their inquiry questions by reading/viewing information from online. All learning for their inquiries was shared in an online class discussion board where they could learn from each other.

This is Hunter again. I used my library partnership with Iris, to help me find a few options for a tough kid that loved the outdoors but hated reading. This is the book Hunter chose to read. He made a connection to this book because of his own difficult relationship with his dad…For his inquiry, Hunter decided to learn more about how stress affects people.

Nick was reading Refugee that follows the story of a Holocaust, a Cuban refugee, and a Syrian refugee. He decided he wanted to know more about how losing one’s home affects identity because he was reading about this for the characters and he shared with me that he and his family had lost their home and had to move more than once.

How do traumatic childhood experiences change people?

How does medication change a person’s personality?

How does having friends impact a person’s identity?

Just a few more student inquiry examples.


Informal daily check-ins during note taking for pages read.

I used my class roster as my tool for taking notes on student reading progress for these quick informal check-ins. Jotting down titles what page each student was on at the end of the day’s reading. This helped me to see who was progressing in their reading and who wasn’t, for these folks I was able to catch them earlier and have a discussion about finding a new book.

Conferencing with students about what they are reading builds individual relationships and confirms student reading progress/growth.

This is my conference with Kevin. In 9th grade, he was very busy in the school musical, so let me know right up front that he didn’t have time to read. Now, in my second year with him, Kevin loves reading both in our conferences and often during break.

Not knowing what the book was about actually helped me not talk so much! Not knowing the book made me ask questions from my own curiousity and allowed students to answer.

That’s my “I’m trying to think of a question pose” with Kevin. It’s important to take time to think of and ask genuine open ended questions and wait patiently for their answers. It’s the most validating moment for students when their teacher interacts one-on-one with them and sees them, listens to them. Conferences help us understand if students are comprehending their reading, help us guide them to read more deeply, give us knowledge of their needs, and most importantly, help build relationships.

Streamline and let go

My whole class novel units used to be so filled with activities, worksheets, quizzes and more! I would find or create new ways to help my students read closely, always adding and never subtracting, so that my novel units would get longer and longer. By the end of the novel and the gotcha quizzes, a book I had hoped my students would enjoy and learn from became more of a frustrating chore.

When I decided to focus on clarity and engagement, I streamlined my units by determining my purpose, engagement and standards to address. Then, I focused my lessons on these purposes only and let go of the rest. A quicker more focused whole class novel read, provided close, deep reading skills and helped students stay engaged. For my 9th graders, a whole class novel study set the stage with a community read and skill building.Then, guided to independent short story reads, gave students opportunities to try out and experiment with the skills taught with the whole class novel modeling, and ended with the choice novel study which gave them a chance to build their own reading interests and transfer their learning. With my 10th graders, I started with book groups to build a community of readers discussing and presenting on identity and/or social justice issues represented by their books. Then, we came back together with a whole class novel read where I modeled how to develop an independent inquiry inspired by the novel, and ended with a choice novel study that engaged students and gave them an opportunity to transfer skills from previous units.

When doing a choice novel study, you will need to create a readers’ writers’ workshop structure that works for you.

Reader’s Workshop

Writer’s Workshop

15-30 minutes


5-10 minutes


5-7 minutes

reading group discussions

5-10 minutes

Writing Challenge

30 minutes

Free writing

This is my class structure for reading balanced with time for students to work on their narrative writing. I started their reading time at just 15 minutes and had longer writer’s workshop challenges and mini-lessons. Each class I added 5 minutes to their reading time and shortened my writing lessons. Because my students had built their reading stamina over the year and were engaged with their choice reading, they begged me to push their reading time to 30 minutes after my first 5 minute extension.

Grade reading, notebook ,and discussions with self-assessment.

Graded on critical thinking and evidence--this is metacognition.

According to John Hattie,

meta-cognition influences student learning with an effect size of .83

which is higher than teacher feedback at .7

or formative assessment at .48.

Link to Hattie’s complete list of factors influencing student learning.

9th grade student notebook reflection excerpt

As I read I found out that the narrator is just making up what the girls look like, act like and sound like but the girls are real and missing. I tried tracking the characters in my notebook. When the therapist tells Lauren that the rock has no meaning, Lauren stops seeing some of the girls and goes more insane. It was weird to have believed they were real, but Lauren’s experience caused me to to doubt her. Throughout the book I believed Lauren’s story, only some parts made me question her thoughts and actions. I was proud of myself for realizing she was an unreliable narrator.

Add pict of book

Have students apply the writer’s craft they observed in their reading to write a story of their own.

Include reflection on writer’s choices

Grade on standard of writing narrative text

This is Olivia’s 10th grade student short story introduction where she was working on imagery and parallelism.

The walls of her room told a story. The paint chipping away from her earlier years, when she used to scratch and tear at them endlessly. Her mattress was worn from years of endless nights, spent thinking little of the life she knows, and more racking her vague memories for any scrap of what exists on the outside. 13-year-old Addilyn Bryant has been in the Norberry County Mental Institution for 8 years now. Eight years since sunlight has touched her pale skin. Eight years since she has experienced any human contact. Eight years since that horrible night that ripped her from her family and home…

Olivia did not pass English the year before.

Essay--students choose what to write about to share their own interpretation or analysis of the novel.

Graded on standards of reading comprehension, reading interpretation and writing informational or argument text

9th grade essay thesis statements

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling reveals that the Malfoys hold the power because of their wealth, position, and the fact that they were born into power

as pure bloods.

Through the character of Jose in Hurricane, Terry Trueman demonstrates the qualities of being a hero.

10th grade essay thesis statements

In Brandon Skyhorse’s memoir Take This Man, we see the cycle of abuse take place through Brandon’s grandmother, June, and his mother, Maria.

Paul Doiron uses the character of Mike Bowditch, a Maine Game Warden, in his novel Bad Little Falls,

to show how difficult relationships can lead someone to being a

lone wolf.

Bonus: More variety in what you have to read and no plagiarism!

Student creates a product of any kind to spotlight something they noticed in their book or researched beyond the book. We called these media projects where they had to include text, visual, and/or sound.

Include reflection where students share their thoughts on their creation process and product decisions.

Grade with student self-assessment


Media Project

This is Isabella’s project about trauma after she read The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle. When she handed me this, I didn’t understand the point of the cats at first, but then noticed the scars on the ear and head of the cat on the right.

Book Media Project

Remember Kevin with the pink hair from earlier, the one who didn’t have time for reading his 9th grade year? This is his media project after reading Lauren Oliver’s novel Delirium. He was really interested in the concept of love presented in so many ways in the novel.

Book Media Project

This is Chloe’s collage showing how drugs can make life more difficult for people. She was so curious about issues in her book that she actually researched two inquiries throughout her novel study.

The final tool that we want to share with you today is to have students reflect on themselves as readers and writers. I used a selection of reflection questions from 180 Days by Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher and had students write or record their reflections to their choice of question from the list.

Link to the questions I used here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1itr4vUWO_i-fs6KLgXzPBMjMS-E4z3MX5Bsbfs267rk/edit?usp=sharing

“The skills i learned as a reader were how to read and picture what’s going on in my head. It helps me read a little bit faster. I am very satisfied with the amount of reading i did this semester because i successfully completed my first book in highschool and even read anotha’ one.”

-- Hunter

Remember Hunter from the beginning of this presentation, my “I ain’t nevah read and book and nevah will” student? This is an excerpt from his final reflection about himself as a reader:

“The skills i learned as a reader were how to read and picture what’s going on in my head. It helps me read a little bit faster. I am very satisfied with the amount of reading i did this semester because i successfully completed my first book in highschool and even read anotha’ one.”

We want to share one more piece of evidence of why doing a choice novel study supports reading stamina. My students and I tracked our pages read during one month of the choice novel study. As you can see, it is more than they “supposedly” read during our whole class novel study. The first day after my informal reading check in, I added up the total pages read by each class and posted the amount on the board. The next class, students asked me to keep adding to their total, so I did this each class for one month of our choice novel study. When we did a whole class novel study, my 80 students should have read 8,560 collective pages, if they really did the reading. With our choice novel study students were engaged and given the gift of time to read which added up to a collective total of 13,553 pages actually read. Choice and the gift of time to read is how we can...

...make more real readers!

And now we have a gift for you. BOOKS on the tables can go home with you! A gift from Patti’s son!

Readers’ reflections

Resource doc

Questions if time


MCELA Student Centered English Class (Forster/Eichenlaub) - Google Slides