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Scaffolding novel studies for students with autism can seem impossible. How do we expect them to be able to read and analyze a story? Sometimes just expecting them to remember what happened yesterday seems like a challenge. However, if your students possess the reading skills, novel studies are completely possible for them, assuming of course you scaffold them correctly.
I love reading!
I also love writing. Really I love words and language in general, but for now, let’s focus on reading.
Some of my favorite memories in school are the read-aloud books we’d do as a class. I remember reading My Side of the Mountain, the Secret Garden, and so many more wonderful books with my classmates.
It was storytime, and it was a bonding experience. However, now as a teacher, I recognize that those Novel Studies didn’t just provide entertainment to break up the monotony at school.
They also expanded my vocabulary, and ability to understand text features and analyze what was happening in stories.
Novel Studies offer incredible value to our students, as it provides them with the opportunity to work on vocabulary, inference making, and comprehension.
However, often students with autism do not get to experience this joy, because teachers are confused about scaffolding novel studies for them.
To avoid this pitfall, read on to learn my tips and tricks for scaffolding novel studies for children with autism!
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Pick the Right Book
When crafting a novel study for students with special needs, the most important thing you can do is pick the right book.
You want to consider, how much language your student can process, their vocabulary, cognitive abilities, reading skills, and social skills.
Yes, I did say social skills.
All fiction books show relationships and characters interacting. Often inference-based questions ask students to interpret those scenes to look for feelings, traits, and relationships, as well as how all those things change.
If your students cannot interpret such things in their everyday life then it’s unfair to expect them to be able to do it in a book, while learning.
If that is the case then I recommend picking a book that still shows emotions that are genuine, but not difficult to interpret due to heavy levels of nuance.
A book, I love to use for this is Drita My Homegirl by Jenny Lombard, because she demonstrates characters having strong feelings, but it’s easy for students to identify them as well as the character’s relationships.
Click here to check out Drita My Homegirl.
Decide on How You’ll Read It
So a big thing that is an obstacle to scaffolding novel studies is that not all students respond to having stories read aloud to them.
Some of my students, who are nonverbal, prefer to have stories read aloud to them, and I’ll read them whole books.
On the other hand, I have a lot of students with an auditory processing disorder, who only understand a few words of what is said aloud.
For more information on auditory processing disorder, click here!
They respond better to being able to read the book themselves, or read it with you and engage with it as they read.
With these students, I might do popcorn reading where we each take turns reading a sentence, or read it aloud to them and have it reread on their own. It depends on their personal preference and what they respond to better.
I can make that decision because as a one-on-one teacher, I can choose how we read. However, I know many classroom teachers do not have that luxury.
If you’re a classroom teacher, looking for tips on scaffolding novel studies, then make sure to watch how quickly you read to these students. The faster you go the harder it is for them to process. Speak slowly and clearly and enunciate your words.
I also recommend making time for students to reread chapters to themselves or aloud to you or a para during intervention time or free reading, that way they get a second chance to hear the information.
Children with processing problems almost always benefit from rereading.
Decide on the Output
How are your students going to demonstrate their learning?
As if processing problems weren’t enough, some students also struggle with expressive language.
To learn more about how to tell the difference between expressive language problems versus processing problems click here!
Students with expressive language problems might need ACC devices, letterboards, or simple choices or fill-in-blank options to demonstrate their knowledge base.
Many teachers might be tempted to use demonstrating learning in Novel Studies as an opportunity to work on the student’s expressive language skills. That’s fine and you can do that, but then you can’t hold your students to high standards when it comes to learning the vocabulary, inference, and comprehension skills from the story.
Teachers in this situation must decide what their priority is.
Since this post is about scaffolding novel studies, though, I’m going to assume your priority is the novel study.
In this case, pick whichever method of expression your student is most familiar with and utilize it for how they will show what they’ve learned.
For some students, this might mean they need to spell out all their answers on a letter board and for others, it might just be circling multiple choice questions on a printable worksheet. It depends on their individual situation.
Whatever method you pick should be a method of expression they are comfortable with.
But the prep work!
If going through novel study and adding choices sounds like too much work, then consider purchasing my premade choices novel study for Drita My Homegirl!
This novel study still asks students to form their own opinions and select evidence to support their decisions but gives them either-or choices in order to demonstrate their learning and understanding of the story.
It’s printable, comes with an answer key, and a vocabulary assessment, plus it saves you hours of prep time!
Scaffolding Novel Studies for students with special needs can be a challenge when you consider all the elements you have to decide on and modify.
However giving these students access to this learning opportunity is vital, as part of the national trend of making sure all students have access to the general education curriculum.
And while it might be a lot of work, I know it’s going to pay off for your students, while helping you learn and grow as an educator!
To stay up to date on all my posts and get access to my free resource library, make sure to join my email list, by clicking here!