Digital novel units give kids audio-visual experiences that paper and pencil just can’t provide. Take your students on a five-minute virtual field trip. Show a photo to illustrate a concept. Let them hear the sound an animal makes. Now, you can deepen and enrich your students’ novel experience with a click of a finger. Kids love the sensory smorgasbord of videos, photos, and sound clips.
With just a little knowledge of Google Sites, I created a digital novel unit. If I can do it, you can too. My first digital novel unit was for Little House in the Big Woods. It’s nothing all that fancy. But I’ve found it to have a mighty punch in my classroom.
Organizing a Digital Novel Unit
Before I began my website, an organizational scheme was needed. Did I want one page for each chapter? What questions, vocabulary, and/or other literary skills did I want them to explore? I decided to include vocabulary, figurative language, guiding questions, a written question, and extension activities for each chapter. You can take a peek here.
As you can see, I also decided to link PDFs of student response sheets to the bottom of the page. That way, everything the teacher needed was right in one spot.
It was time to sit down, reread the book, and take notes.
Creating a Digital Novel Unit
Next, I designed my website using Google Sites. It’s easy to use and free. The more I use it, the more uses I find for it! This quick tutorial will give you the basics.
Linking Video to Digital Novel Units
To make pioneer life come alive, I wanted my kids to see how to milk a cow, churn butter, and even butcher a hog. Did I find those things on YouTube? You bet! I searched for short videos. These hold kids’ attention better. When I found a great video, I copied the URL. Then I opened Safeshare.tv and generated a link free of advertisements. Finally, I linked the video to the correct chapter page in my unit.
Linking Other Media to Digital Novel Units
There’s truly no end to the type of media you can link to your Google Site. Whenever I get stuck, I just search the Internet for advice. If media is free of copyright, you can use the Insert menu to embed it directly into your site. Copyrighted stuff, which has been placed on the Internet by the creator, may be linked. [Note: Never embed copyrighted material into your website without express permission of the creator.]
Options for Presenting Digital Novel Units
Yes, I love the links. They bring the novel to life. But I also love the presentation options. What variety! What power!
Sure, you can project the website and lead the discussion. Or you can share it out and put kids in the driver’s seat. Let’s look at some benefits. Students can work:
- independently or in literature groups
- at your pace or at their own pace
- at school, at home, or anywhere
- on the same novel or different novels (great for differentiation)
- to catch up after an absence
You can do it! I hope you’ll consider creating your own digital novel unit.