Benchmark Advance Novel Studies - Markers & Minions
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Benchmark Advance Novel Studies

Something I see come up time and time again as a pleasantly shocking surprise is the fact that Benchmark Advance has novel studies. They are available in grades 2-6 and can be found online on Benchmark Universe. First, click on your grade level, and then click on Small Group. Scroll to the bottom until you see the section for the novel study. There, you’ll see the e-book for the novel and a novel guide. In the novel guide, you’ll find your reading lessons, writing prompts, a plot summary for each section of the book, and some student blacklines you can print out. With each novel study, there are close reading lessons and three different writing prompts (narrative, opinion, and informative).

The novel studies typically replace unit 4, but you can probably get away with replacing any of your fictional units with the novel study, as long as you’re incorporating the essential theme and standards for that unit. Another option is to incorporate the novel study in addition to your regular unit lessons (assuming you have all day to teach ELA, ha!). One way to do this is to use the regular unit lessons during your whole group time, but then during your workshop time, ditch the usual independent practice and do the novel study in small groups.

I have linked each novel to the Amazon listing using my affiliate links. If you choose to purchase class sets or teacher copies using my links, the cost is the same for you, but I’ll receive a small commission that supports my website. Yay! Alternatively, you can look in the Scholastic catalog for these titles to see if there are any deals on class sets. 🙂

Second Grade

The novel study for second grade is Dragon’s Hometown, written by Dong Hongyou. I would say this is more of a long picture book than a novel. Full disclosure – I noticed that this is published by Reycraft Books, a sub company of Benchmark Advance, which publishes great cultural and social/emotional texts. In this story, the narrator travels with her family from LA to China, where she will attend the Lantern Festival and look for dragons. Some of the lessons you’ll cover with this mentor text are summarizing key events, making predictions, analyzing setting, and analyzing character. This would be a good novel to study in place of unit 4. If you’re using this in place of this unit, be sure to also focus on point of view, which is the essential skill for this unit.

An alternative title you can use is My Father’s Dragon, written by Ruth Stiles Gannett. This is more of a chapter book. While it doesn’t have the cultural aspect that Dragon’s Hometown has, it is a story that you can easily incorporate character and point of view lessons into. You can find it on Amazon using the link above, or you can usually find deals on it in Scholastic at certain times during the year. I’ve purchased class sets for $1 each in the past.

Third Grade

The novel study for third grade is Tornado, written by Betsy Byers. This is a chapter book that tells a story about a family that is taking shelter from an oncoming tornado in a storm cellar. While the storm rages outside, the farmhand tells stories about a dog named Tornado. Being an extraordinary pup, the family is distracted by the stories and forget about their fears until the tornado passes. Some of the lessons you’ll cover with this chapter book are summarizing key events, analyzing character (making inferences and drawing conclusions about characters), and cause & effect. Teachers typically like to replace unit 7 with this novel study because unit 8 then focuses on natural disasters, but this will also fit well for a unit 4 replacement. If you’re using this in place of unit 4, be sure to also focus on point of view, which is the essential skill for this unit. 

Fourth Grade

There are two novels to choose from for a fourth grade novel study. The first novel study for fourth grade is Black Beauty, written by Anna Sewell. There is an e-book for Black Beauty on the Benchmark website. The second novel is Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo. There is no e-book on the Benchmark website for this novel. In unit 4, the Benchmark Texts for Close Reading book (student consumable magazine) has excerpts from both of these titles, so either one of these could be used as a replacement for this unit. The lessons you’ll cover with these titles include summarizing key events, analyzing character, cause & effect, theme/central message, inferencing, figurative language, and compare/contrast. Be sure to open up the novel guides for each text to see which lessons pertain to each one. If you’re using this in place of unit 4, also make sure to also focus on point of view, which is the essential skill for this unit. 

Fifth Grade

The novel study for fifth grade is Esperanza Rising, written by Pam Munoz Ryan. This is a novel that tells a story about a family that must emigrate to California from Mexico, and begin life in a Mexican farm labor camp. Esperanza must find a way to overcome the difficult challenges and injustices that she faces in her new life. In unit 4, the Benchmark Texts for Close Reading book (student consumable magazine) has an excerpt from this novel, so this can be a replacement for unit 4. The lessons you’ll cover with this novel are analyzing plot, analyzing character, analyzing setting, problem & solution, cause & effect, and analyzing proverbs. If you’re using this in place of unit 4, be sure to also focus on point of view, which is the essential skill for this unit. This can be purchased on Amazon using the link above, or you may be able to find a deal on class sets on Scholastic. They sell it for $1 a book at certain times throughout the year.

Sixth Grade

There are two novels to choose from for a sixth grade novel study. The first novel study for sixth grade is Journey to the Center of the Earth, written by Jules Verne. There is an e-book for this novel on the Benchmark website. The second novel is The Dark is Rising, written by Susan Cooper. There is no e-book on the Benchmark website for this novel. Some of the lessons you’ll cover with these novels are analyzing character, setting, and plot, analyzing symbols and word choice, conflict & resolution, theme, visualizing, inferring, cause & effect, and analyzing narrator and author’s craft. Be sure to open up the novel guides for each text to see which lessons pertain to each one. 

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