Novel in a Day? A Collaborative Reading Comprehension Lesson

I am always looking for ways to keep reading interesting and exciting for students while still working on comprehension skills and reading behaviors and processes. I have done this novel in a day activity for more than 20 years, and I thought I’d finally put it in a more useful format!

What is it?

Novel in a Day is a way to take a chapter book, divide it into sections, assign a section (typically a chapter) to a student, partnership, or small group—and then have the class work together to make the story unfold!

Why would we ever take a novel or chapter book and only have students read part of it?  Lots of reasons!  Check these out—and you can probably think of even more.

  • Working on a project as a class (or small group) can build excitement about reading and books.
  • By working together on a task where groups rely on each other, it can help to build classroom community.
  • Showing how each chapter of a book is actually a “story within a story” helps students build comprehension and an understanding of how chapter books work.
  • By giving students exposure to a common text, you can use it as an anchor to refer to throughout the year.
  • This project allows you to do strategic partnering to help support readers who may need additional support.
  • This allows you to work on reading comprehension in a number of different ways, including summarizing.
  • Using a Novel in a Day allows you to help teach about prediction and sequencing—two essential comprehension skills.

So how do you get started?

1.  Select a book to use.  Consider finding a book that is accessible to your students—and consider how to do partnerships or small groups to support readers who need it. Use a book that you have multiple copies of or—and kids love this—buy a copy (even used is great!) and literally cut it into sections.  This TOTALLY  builds engagement to have a chunk of a book (and it keeps students from looking back or looking ahead!)

novel study, reading comprehension, novel in a day, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, comprehension activities

2. Form your partnerships or groups based on how many chapters or sections you plan on dividing your text into.

3. Explain to students WHY you are reading a novel in a day!  (Forget why?  See above!)

The teaching begins…

4. Explain to students how chapter books are organized…that chapter 1 often gives a TON of information (I usually read chapter 1 to the entire class to set the stage for the book.  You may choose to have a group do it as a part of the project, but by giving everyone chapter one they will have met the characters and so on which can really help. Students also need to understand that each chapter of a book is a little “mini-story” with a beginning, middle, and end.  Although this is obvious to many students, it is NOT obvious to all students!  You can also start to track key information and model exactly how they can do the same for their chapter or chapters.

novel study, reading comprehension, cooperative learning, independent reading, reading lesson

5. Show the students the note-taking page they will fill out as they work.  Make sure they understand that they need to really understand their section so they can share it with the entire group.  They should be thinking about what might have happened BEFORE their section and what might happen AFTER.  Remind them that this is what readers do when reading their own book as well!

6. Give students work time!  They can read together, work on notes, and do whatever components of the project you have selected for them!

The coaching continues…

7. Circulate and coach.  Help students think deeply and make inferences and give hints when needed.  Help monitor partnerships to make sure they are capturing the key elements of their section so that the entire story will make sense!

8. Help students prepare to present.  You need to decide how you want this to happen.  What are your options?

  • Each group writes a 2-3 sentence summary and presents to the class in chapter order.
  • Students make a visual illustrated summary to share and display.
  • Student groups share their chapters while the class works to write a one-sentence summary that gets recorded on a large story mountain.

9. After sharing, have a class discussion about the book!  Use the discussion questions included or make up your own!  These can also become writing prompts for students after the entire novel is shared.

10. Students self-assess!  You can assess as little or as much as you want.


So…if you are interested in trying this, go for it!  If you want some ready-made forms–I have put some all together with these directions in the resource listed below.  Just click the cover!

novel study, reading comprehension, cooperative learning, independent reading, reading lesson