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Novel Study Activities | ELA Lesson Plans

In ELA classrooms, teachers will often employ a variety of activities in their literary unit plans. These novel study activities can be in the form of worksheets, discussions or specific lessons to enhance students' understanding of the story as well as to broaden their vocabulary and improve their analytical skills. Using Storyboards as a part of your novel studies can help teachers utilize research-based reading comprehension strategies all while engaging students! Students will have so much fun, they will not even realize how much they are learning!

These novel study lesson plans for the classroom are designed for teachers to use with any book, as a whole class, small groups, or as an independent novel study. While we have hundreds of tailored lesson plans in our Teacher Resources, if teachers cannot find a particular book, they can find plenty of lessons and activities in the novel study resources below!

Student Activities for Novel Study

Novel Study Guide for Teachers

In this novel study guide for the classroom, teachers can pick and choose from the various activities to suit their needs for any book. The first six activities are widely used lessons when conducting a novel study: Character Map, Plot Diagram, Setting, Visual Vocabulary, Themes, Symbols, and Motifs, and finally, Favorite Quote or Scene. These generic novel study activities make use of the universally well-known story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears for the examples to help illustrate what a final product can look like for students. These activities are often used in novel study lesson plans as they encourage students' to increase their comprehension skills.

The ten additional activities offer deeper analysis and investigation into literary devices as well as more engaging ways for students to "show what they know". They can be used for a broad range of novels, plays and short stories across any grade level, and instructions can be tailored and scaffolded to meet the needs of students. With all of these novel study activities, students' work can be printed and displayed or projected onto the board and include a presentation aspect as well!

It is so easy to customize these novel study activities to meet the individual needs of your students. Teachers can differentiate by adding multiple templates for each assignment. They can include sentence starters or prompts to help students who need more support. Every lesson is designed as a springboard for teachers to customize and make their own!

Novel Study Essential Questions

Teachers can tailor the generic essential questions below to fit the needs of their novel study.

  1. Who are some of the main characters and what challenges do they face?
  2. What are some of the symbols and motifs present in the novel? How does the symbolism help you better understand the characters and their motivations?
  3. What are some of the themes present in the novel?
  4. What are some allusions and historical references within the text? How does this help you better understand the characters and their motivations?
  5. Can you relate to the challenges the character's face in the story? How would you try to overcome the obstacles they face?
  6. How does the author imply the tone and mood of the story?
  7. How can a person’s choices, actions and decisions change their life?
  8. What is bildungsroman in literature and is this novel an example of one?
  9. How can reading fictional stories affect your own life?
  10. What messages, lessons, or morals does the author try to impart to the reader?

More Information about our Novel Study Lesson Plans and Activities

Character Maps

Character maps can be used in any novel study unit and are a helpful tool for students to use as they read or after completing a book. Students can create character maps of the characters in the story, paying close attention to the physical attributes and the traits of both major and minor characters. They can also provide detailed information regarding the challenges the character faces, the challenges the character imposes, and the importance of the character to the plot of the story. Every time students meet a new character in the story, they can add them to the character map. This makes for a perfect quick assessment for teachers to gauge how far along students are in the book and how well they are comprehending the story.

Visual Vocabulary Storyboards

A popular reading comprehension strategy is to start a unit or lesson with key vocabulary terms. This aids in overall comprehension and encourages students' retention. Prior to reading, teachers can introduce a word list to students that they will encounter when they read. Students can look up the definitions and create storyboards to demonstrate their understanding.

Alternatively, teachers can have students create visual vocabulary boards while they read and update them throughout the unit. Every time students come across a new or unfamiliar word, they can add it to their storyboard!. Students can include the term, definition and an illustration to demonstrate its meaning. By defining and illustrating key terms found in the book, students will be able to better understand the story and retain the vocabulary for future use which is always the primary goal.

Analyzing Themes, Symbols and Motifs

Novels often have a variety of themes, symbols, and motifs that students can identify and analyze. This helps students gain a deeper understanding of the book.

Theme in literature refers to the main idea or underlying meaning the author is exploring throughout a novel, short story, or other literary work. Symbolism in a story is when an object or situation is more than it appears on the surface. The author is using it to represent something deeper and more meaningful. For example, an object that is the color red might have a deeper meaning of passion, or love, or devotion attached to it. Motifs are a technique employed by the author whereby they repeat a certain element more than once throughout the course of the story. This element has symbolic significance and is meant to draw the reader's attention and illuminate a deeper meaning to the story as it is repeated.

All of these literary elements can be conveyed through characters, setting, dialogue, plot, or a combination. Students can explore themes, symbols, and motifs by identifying these elements themselves or in an “envelope activity”, where they are given one or more to track throughout their reading. After identifying one or more themes, symbols, or motifs, students can then create a spider map or storyboard where they label, describe, and illustrate what they found!

Plot Diagrams

Any novel unit would be incomplete without a plot summary or plot diagram! Creating a plot diagram not only helps students learn the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and helps students develop a greater understanding of literary structures. Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc of a story with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram: the Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

Beginning, Middle, End Summaries

A simpler way for students to summarize plot is by creating a Beginning, Middle, End Storyboard! Summarizing a story in three parts is a great way to introduce plot structure and parts of a story to students in younger grades or to shorten the length of the assignment.

Students can create a narrative storyboard that summarizes the story in three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end. Their storyboard should include three cells. The beginning, which introduces the story and the problem; the middle, which showcases main events and the climax; and the end, which illustrates how the problem is resolved and the conclusion of the story.

Chapter Summaries

Creating a chapter summary helps students identify the important events in each chapter and provides teachers with an engaging "check in" activity to see how well students are understanding the story. Teachers may choose to do this activity every few chapters throughout the novel study and students will end up with a comprehensive plot summary in storyboards! These chapter summary storyboards can be printed out and made into a book to mimic a graphic novel of the story! A wonderful way for students to "publish" their work!

Storyboarding Text to Self Connections

Having students choose a favorite quote or scene from the book allows them to express which parts of the story resonated with them on a personal level. In this way, students are making a text-to-self connection that demonstrates their understanding of the characters and their development or the themes of the novel. Some students may end up choosing the same quote, but have different perspectives. This is always interesting for students to see and can open up a discussion as to how not everyone can read the same lines in the same way based on their own perspectives and personal experiences.

Storyboarding Setting

The setting of a story is the location and time frame, or the where and when of the story. Settings often play a crucial role in the story as they influence the characters, their motivations, and their actions. The setting can also include the environment, like the weather or the social and political factors within the time period both locally and globally.

Students can create a setting chart to identify the time and place of the story, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of the characters and their situation. If a story has multiple settings or time periods, they can also explain how those changes affect the characters and plot.

TWIST Analysis

A great way to engage your students in a text is through the creation of storyboards that examine Tone, Word Choice, Imagery, Style, and Theme. This activity is referred to with the acronym “TWIST”. In a TWIST analysis, students focus on a particular paragraph or a few pages, to look deeper at the author’s meaning. This can be used for poems, short stories, and novels. Using an excerpt, students can depict, explain, and discuss the story using a TWIST analysis using a storyboard!

Text-to-Text Connections

Many stories are told in different adaptations, with different points of view and in different ways across the globe. It is a great way to examine what is important in a particular culture, or how stories change and adapt as they are spread throughout the world and over time. This activity is wonderful for students to use when reading different adaptations of the same story or while comparing the movie version to a book. Students can complete a storyboard chart filling in each row and column with the texts they are comparing and include illustrations and descriptions.

Storyboarding Point of View

Understanding a book's point of view is something that helps students better understand the story. Point of View (POV) refers to who is telling or narrating a story. A story can be told from the first person, second person, or third person point of view. First person is when “I” am telling the story. The character relates their experiences directly. Second person is when story is told to “you.” Third person limited is about “he”, “she", or "they". The narrator is outside of the story and relating the experiences of a character. Third person omniscient is when the narrator is “he”, "she", or "they", but the narrator has full access to the thoughts and experiences of all characters in the story. After reading the book and discussing the point of view, students can create a storyboard that describes what type of narrator(s) the story has and the perspective(s) in the story using descriptions and illustrations. Students can provide evidence from the text by way of quotes or dialogue to support their claims. Be sure that students understand point of view vs perspective prior to this activity.

Analyzing Figurative Language

Many novels and stories have examples of figurative language that enhance the reader's understanding and help them visualize the events of the story, the characters, their motivations and their emotions. Figurative language is a technique used by the author to describe something by comparing it to something else. The words or phrases are not literal but use metaphors, similes, hyperboles, personification, and other examples to describe the object, feeling, or event they are talking about. With a figurative language storyboard, students can identify different instances of figurative language and illustrate the examples from the text.

Storyboarding Literary Conflict

Literary conflict is often taught during ELA units. Different examples of 'conflict in literature' are: person vs. person, person vs. self, person vs. society, person vs. nature and person vs. technology. An excellent way to focus on the various types of literary conflict is through storyboarding! Students can identify and choose a type of literary conflict and illustrate examples from the text in a storyboard chart.

Analyzing Allusions

Allusions are present in many stories, referencing actual people, places, events, art, and literature. They help to plunge the reader into the time period in which the story takes place. Allusions can reference the political, social, artistic, and technological influences that are present in the characters' lives and, therefore, provide greater insight into the characters' thoughts and motivations. Analyzing allusions is also the perfect way to tie in social studies and provide a cross curricular opportunity for students. Students can create a spider map or chart to identify different allusions referenced in the story and describe them in words and illustrations.

Character Comparison Venn Diagrams

Novel study worksheets such as Venn diagrams are an effective tool to compare characters or events. Comparing characters is a great way for students to understand how different people are, and how different characters affect a story. Using a Venn diagram, students can identify similarities and differences between the main characters in the book. Using Storyboard That to create your Venn Diagram is even better! Students can add images and words to represent the characters, their experiences, personalities, and interests. Using the outer portions of the ovals, they can identify traits, experiences, and attributes that are singular to the character and in the overlapping portions, they can list the ways in which the characters are the same.

Newspaper Front Page Project

Retelling the events of a story doesn't have to be as simple as a written summary. An alternative is to create the front page of a newspaper! This can be done for any book, though historical fiction books may allow students to also "report" on important events that would have affected the life of characters. Students can retell key events from the story as if it were a newspaper. They can include a catchy headline, create images, and write descriptions for each to imitate the look of the front page of a newspaper highlighting the key events of the story.

Book Movie Poster Project

Movie posters are a fun way for students to boil down the most important aspects of a novel. After reading the novel, students can create a movie poster that showcases the setting, characters and a chosen scene or overarching themes of the story. Students can include the title and author of the book, a catchy tagline, and a "critic's review" informing the audience why they should go to see the movie and briefly describing the compelling story. There is a great amount of complex critical thinking involved with creating a movie poster for a book, however, students will be having so much fun, they won't even notice!

Graphic Novel Project

A Graphic Novel Project is the perfect way for students to summarize the plot of a graphic novel that they have read or transfer their knowledge of another piece of literature into graphic novel form! Many popular novels have been turned into graphic novels to meet a broader audience and introduce students of all abilities to rich literary content. Students can summarize the entire story into a graphic novel poster or they can create a poster for each chapter or section of a book. There are many ideas for graphic novels to choose from!

More Storyboarding Ideas for Post Reading Activities!

In addition to our premade activities above, here are some ideas that teachers can customize and assign to students to spark creativity in individual students, pairs, or small groups for a final project. Several of these ideas include Storyboard That template that can be printed out or copied into your teacher dashboard and assigned digitally. All final projects can be printed out, presented as a slide show, or, for an extra challenge, as an animated gif!

  1. For Groups: Choose a scene from the story and write a short play to reenact it to the class. Use the traditional storyboard layout to plan out your scenes. You can add text to your storyboards, or simply use the cells to visualize each scene of your play.

  2. Using the timeline layout, retell the story in chronological order. Our timeline layout gives you the options to include year, month, day, and even hour! You may also choose to omit these altogether.

  3. Choose a setting from the story and create a map of the setting using the small poster or worksheet layout. Use free form or other text boxes to include a key or label the different parts of the map.

  4. Using one of Storyboard That’s board game templates, create a game based on the book for your classmates to play!

  5. For Groups: Divide the chapters of the book amongst your group members. Each member of the group creates a storyboard for their assigned chapter. This can be done as a collaborative project, or separately for longer novels.

  6. Using the worksheet layout and Storyboard That’s worksheet assets, create a test or a quiz for other students in the class. You can create all kinds of questions such as multiple choice, short answer, and even matching! When you are done, be sure to make an answer key.

  7. Using one of Storyboard That’s biography poster templates, create a poster about the character of your choice. Be sure to include important biographical features such as: place and date of birth, family life, accomplishments, etc.

  8. Choose a chapter from the novel and create a storyboard that shows that chapter from another character’s point of view. For an extra challenge, use the T-chart layout to compare the original point of view with another character’s point of view!

  9. Create a book jacket of the novel using one of Storyboard That’s book jacket templates. Use Storyboard That art to create the cover, and write a summary of the story on the back, just like real books have!

  10. Using one of Storyboard That’s social media templates as a starting point, create a social media page for one or more of the characters in the novel. Be sure to think how the character thinks while creating this page.

  11. Create a scrapbook page made by one of the characters in the novel. Storyboard That has lots of premade templates that you can use as is, or change to fit your character’s personality! Check out our scrapbook templates today!

  12. Teachers can include storyboarding as a way for students to answer comprehension questions after each chapter. It can be a requirement for certain questions or a choice activity as an alternative to paragraph or essay writing. Teachers can require students to include quotes, dialogue and other text evidence to support their analysis.

How to Encourage Students to Reflect on Their Personal Responses and Connections to the Novel Through Guided Journaling or Reflection Activities in a Study Guide


Set the Stage for Reflection

Introduce the concept of reflection and its importance in understanding literature on a personal level. Explain to students that reflecting on their personal responses and connections can deepen their engagement with the novel and enhance their understanding of its themes and messages.


Provide Guiding Questions

Create a list of guiding questions that prompt students to reflect on their personal responses and connections to the novel. These questions should encourage students to explore their emotional reactions, relate the events or characters to their own lives, and consider the relevance of the novel's themes to the world around them.


Model the Reflective Process

Model the reflective process by sharing your own personal responses and connections to the novel. This can be done through a think-aloud activity or by providing a written example. Emphasize that reflection is subjective and that there are no right or wrong answers, as it is a personal exploration of thoughts and feelings.


Engage in Journaling or Reflection Activities

Provide students with dedicated journaling or reflection activities in the study guide. These activities can include open-ended prompts, specific scenes or quotes to respond to, or guided questions that target different aspects of the novel. Encourage students to write freely and honestly, allowing their thoughts and emotions to flow.


Encourage Sharing and Discussion

Create opportunities for students to share their reflections with their peers. This can be done through small group discussions, whole-class sharing, or online platforms. Encourage respectful and constructive feedback to foster a supportive learning community where students can learn from each other's perspectives.


Synthesize and Apply Insights

Guide students in synthesizing their reflections and applying their insights to other aspects of the novel or their lives. Encourage them to make connections between their personal responses and the larger themes or messages of the novel. Help them see the value of their reflections in developing a deeper understanding of the text.

Frequently Asked Questions about Novel Studies

What is the purpose of a novel study guide for the classroom?

Using Storyboard That's lesson plans to delve into a novel study with your students gives them the opportunity to develop their reading comprehension with all different types of literature. It allows students of all abilities to engage in high-level thinking about literary elements and display their understanding in a unique and equitable way. It also affords them the chance to have greater retention of the concepts and terms as they are actively creating while they learn and not just passively learning or utilizing rote memorization. When using a novel study with a small group or whole class, students get to engage with each other fostering a community of learners all while developing a deeper understanding of the novel and a love of literature.

What are the main elements of a novel study?

Novel studies can explore a range of topics but primarily are focused on plot, characters, setting, point of view, new vocabulary, new concepts or allusions in the novel, themes, symbolism, figurative language and other literary devices.

What are the 4 C's in reading?

Storyboarding encourages the 4 C's of reading and learning: Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration. Storyboard That helps students of all abilities reach their potential by promoting student agency and active learning.

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