resources / Teaching Ideas

Adaptable Class Novel Study Activities

A photo of an apple next to a cup filled with multi-colored pencils, in front of a stack of books. At the top of the image there is pink and blue text that says "Student-Centered Reading Guides in Secondary ELA"

These class novel study activities will help increase student participation and strengthen their critical analysis!

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Even if you’ve got the most incredible unit ready for your core novels, having some generic class novel study activities in your pocket is a great idea. I once had three students in my class not allowed to participate in our Speak unit, and I had to come up with something QUICK! Having activities for any high school class novel ready to go will help you weather changes.

Class Novel Study Activities

I break my activities for high school reading into four verbs: remember, understand, create, and analyze. 


What are some basic ways you want students to show that they remember portions of your class novel? The key here is to stay out of the nitty-gritty and focus on the highlights.

  • Describe the main and secondary characters
  • Identify the setting of key scenes
  • Define vocabulary words 


Activities for any high school class novel will definitely need an understanding (reading comprehension) component. So often, students come to high school without this foundation, so it’s important to ensure we help them practice. 

  • Summarize the action in a key scene
  • Describe two types of conflict and how they were resolved
  • Explain how one character’s action impacted this section of the novel

Are you looking to replace your “classic” class novel studies? Check out this post on Rethinking the Classics.


The creative portion of my class novel study activities usually gets the highest amount of buy-in, particularly if I can show students that they’re not being graded on their artistic talent. 

  • Illustrate a scene from this section
  • Compose a poem based on this section
  • Write a personal response to two meaningful quotes


Toward the end of the class novel study, I want to see students digging deeper. I usually have a workday for this level of task and have students work in pairs.

  • Analyze one symbol in this section
  • Compare the reactions and emotions of two characters in this section
  • Ask (and answer) two critical questions about this section

These generic class novel study activities in use:

I have students create a Reading Guide over the course of our class novel study and they use these questions as a choice board along the way. I provide at least three work days spaced out through the unit to show them that I don’t just want quick answers. 

An example of a class novel study activity, a photo of the novel The Pearl by John Steinbeck on top of a notebook filled with notes taken in multicolored ink.

You can also use these activities with literature circles and independent reading. This Reading Guide approach is a type of reading response activity. If you’re not doing something like book conferences, I strongly recommend a student-created reading guide with questions similar to what I have above. 

If you want the work done for you, check out my Student-Created Reading Guide! It’s even editable in case you don’t like one of the class novel study activities I propose.

A photo of an apple next to a cup filled with multi-colored pencils, in front of a stack of books. At the top of the image there is a blue border with white text that says "Student-Centered Reading Guides in Secondary ELA"

I hope this gave you some new ideas for class novel study activities that you can use with ANY novel! If you need some inspiration for choosing a new class novel, check out my exhaustive list of diverse YA and MG novels, broken down by genre.

Happy teaching!