Literacy, Uncategorized

Starting a Primary School novel spine

Once students become fluent readers and have surpassed the decodable readers in the Primary School, what next? Short chapter books and novel Studies are a great option for students who need to be extended with reading comprehension. In some Primary Schools, it is expected that every child in the class read the class novel within the given time-frame. Unfortunately, this is not always possible and often leaves many students with the task of reading a text that is far too difficult for their decoding and comprehension level. With extremely varied literacy levels in most schools (and all of the classes I have ever worked in within the Kimberley),  a class novel study  would be an impossible task.

So how can we extend the students who have surpassed short chapter books whilst still provide appropriate reading material for students who are learning to decode?

We can do this by incorporating a novel study into reading groups. My partner, who is a Year 6 teacher, actually uses the novel sets for his ‘high’ guided reading group, but then reads the text to the whole class for ten minutes each day. The other reading groups focus on reading material more appropriate for their level in guided reading sessions (i.e. Catch-up Phonic Books, short chapter books) but are still exposed to the novel during shared reading. This allows them to participate in whole class discussions and activities based around the novel, while focusing on fluency and decoding using simpler texts during reading groups.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time researching appropriate novels for Primary School students and there are SO MANY! At my current school, we now have a novel spine – a list of novel sets available for each year group. Novel spines are a great idea for a number of reasons

  1. The sets are ready to use each year – there is no need for teachers to have to research and buy their own novels for the class!
  2. By assigning novels to each year group, you prevent the same novel being done by two different year groups  (and thus preventing students from reading the same book twice).
  3. Overtime, you can develop a bank of resource to go with the novel sets available at your school. We have started to upload resources and novel study guides for each novel set on the school shared drive so that teachers can access the resources in years to come! You can also write your own novel study and share it for less common texts!
  4. This will be a very useful tool for new graduates or teachers who are teaching  a new year group for the first time. It can be a challenging task choosing a novel for a class, especially when you haven’t taught that year before.

There are a lot of factors to consider when selecting a novel to use in guided or shared reading sessions. You need to consider cross-curriculum priorities and curriculum links as well as student interests. I also believe it’s extremely important for the students to be exposed to a wide variety of literature from different cultural backgrounds, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.  Here are some suggestions taken straight from my school’s novel spine!

Lower Primary:

Fantastic Mr Fox  (Roald Dahl)

The BFG (Roald Dahl)

Matilda (Roald Dahl)

Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)

Bungawitta (Emily Rodda)

Upper Primary:

Coraline (Neil Gaiman)

Blue Back (Tim Winton)

The Barrumbi Kids (Leonie Norrington)

Wolf Brother (Michelle Paver)

The Pear Shell Diver (Kay Crabbe)

Us Mob Walawurru (David Spillman)

Don’t call me Ishael (Michael Gerard Bauer)




3 thoughts on “Starting a Primary School novel spine”

  1. Hi there,
    Are you able and willing to share your novel spine to me? I am looking at starting something similar in my school and would love to see what you have come up with.
    Thank you.


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