The Class Book Recipe for Building a Community of Readers

The holiday season is behind us and it's the beginning of a new year. Take time to plan something new for your students that will get them actively engaged in reading and also get them reconnected to the class. Teaching a class book is a great way to bring about unity and common ground in your heterogeneous class, as well as teach respect for diverse perspectives.

Here’s how a class book can benefit students:

  • It prepares students for their English classes when they exit READ 180
    It gets them on the College and Career Readiness track
  • Gets all students on the same page with understanding setting, characters, plot, theme, conflict, author's purpose, tone, and more
  • Teaches students how to stick with a book during its uninteresting or challenging sections
  • Teaches students what good readers do while reading a book: engagement, interaction, questioning, analysis, reflection
  • Use the interaction to highlight useful language and strategies to be respectful to others

Get started!

1) Find a book that meets the average Lexile level of the class...remember that you are teaching the book and reading it with the students, so the reading level can be a stretch  for the students

2) Give each student a composition book that they will use as an Interactive Notebook for the book. In this notebook, students can record notes about the book, complete writing and homework assignments, record quick write (stop and jot responses), keep a vocabulary log, create a collage, and more!

Use this easy-to-follow class book kit:
(Key literary elements and key facts to include during instruction)
Date Published
Meaning of the Title
Point of View
Rising Action
Falling Action
Outcome (Resolution)
Quotes- Important quotations and analysis

For each chapter, include brief notes for the following:

  • Setting
  • List of characters: major and minor ones
  • Conflict: Internal conflict and external conflict
  • A chapter summary (synopsis): Bullet points for the plot
  • Theme
  • Mood
  • Predictions

Basic Definitions for Key Terms:

Setting: time and place in which a story takes place

Plot: the important events that make up a story

Characters: the people or animals in a story

Internal Conflict: this conflict takes place in the mind of a character who must resolve something

External Conflict: this conflict takes place between two characters or between a character and a force of nature, society, or the unknown

Theme: an important message about life that the author wants the readers to take away from a story or poem.  The author tries to help readers understand the theme by using the whole story - the title, plot, setting, and other literary elements such as repetition

Mood: describes the attitude of a group of people or the feeling of a film, novel or piece of music. It is a habitual or temporary state of feeling, expressed through verb inflections that tell how the action or state is understood by the speaker.

Exposition: the section of a story that explains the basics of the tale.    Exposition        is important to set the scene, so the rest of the story makes sense. It is a brief account that sets forth the meaning or intent of a piece of writing

Motif: the idea or object that keeps appearing in a story — they are reoccurring elements that move throughout and shape music, art and novels.

Symbolism: When authors use objects, shapes, signs, or characters to represent something else or something deeper about a character or a story. 

Climax: When the plot reaches its most important or exciting part. The climax is a high point. It is the decisive moment in a novel or a play.

Writing Activity Suggestions for the Book:

  • Have students write letters to the characters
  • Have students write a different ending to the book
  • Have students write a letter to the author
  • Have students write a book review 

Finally, have students create a collage that represents the key symbols, themes, and take-aways from the book. They can decorate their composition book (Interactive Journal) with the collage. For the collage, encourage them to use pictures and words from magazines, newspapers, computer graphics, Word documents, and even their own sketches.

Here is a collage project description for the book Buddy by MH Herlong. Attached to this description are photos of sample collages.

Now all you need to do is find a high-interest book that meets the needs of your students.  I highly suggest Buddy by MH Herlong, and The Giver by Lois Lowry for students in grades 6-8.


So, what are you waiting for?  Teaching a class book will unite your class, bring coherence to the skills taught in the rBook and independent reading books, and get your students hopping on the College and Career Readiness track.

Plan for a class book now so that you will have time to order the books, Interactive Journal Composition Books, and create engaging activities for a great start of the book in early spring

System 44 Educator
  • Great suggestions, Sally! I also like to add a class book, but have included on toward the end of the school year. You have given me food for thought about maybe adding it earlier as a motivator and change of pace. Thanks!