Preparing to teach a book for the first time can be tough work, especially for new teachers. You’ve chosen a text that you just know is going to help your students become better readers and thinkers—and help you reach your teaching goals for the year. So, what do you do next? Here are some ideas!

Choose Skills You Want to Teach

To put together a strong literature unit, you’ll first need to determine what skills you want to teach using the book you’ve selected. As you begin planning your unit, consider targeting these learning objectives:

Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills

  • Making inferences
  • Interpreting figurative language
  • Identifying themes and explaining how they’re developed
  • Evaluating an author’s literary techniques
  • Examining conflicts
  • Identifying aspects of literary structure
  • Determining a literary technique’s effect on the text
  • Examining the text through the lens of literary theories
  • Analyzing the author’s voice
  • Analyzing tone and mood

Reading and Writing Skills

  • Learning and using new vocabulary words
  • Writing for a specific purpose or audience
  • Synthesizing new ideas from two or more sources
  • Writing analytical essays
  • Drafting personal responses to the text

If possible, you may want to give your students a diagnostic assessment before you start building your unit to find out what skills they already have and what they may need to work on.

Choose Supplementary Resources

Are there other resources—whether or not they’re directly related to the text—that will help students better understand the book or think about it from a new perspective? Absolutely!

For a more complete unit, consider seeking out poems, short stories, or novels that share similar themes, literary styles, and other characteristics with the main text. Studying these materials in conjunction with the book can help segment your unit and keep students engaged throughout.

Adaptations, like films and stage plays, can add another dimension to your lessons. Depending on your bandwidth, you can choose to show either full movies or certain scenes. When exploring these options, keep in mind that not all adaptations stay true to the book. Some may omit characters or key elements of the plot for clarity.

Develop a Teaching Guide

To help your students get the most they can out of the text, you’ll need plenty of good, thought-provoking discussion and analysis questions. Depending on your teaching style and the needs of your students, you might also want to add class-wide activities. Try to include some or all of these elements in your guide:

  • Short-answer questions
  • Essay questions
  • Free-writing prompts
  • Vocabulary words and definitions for each chapter, act, or section
  • Explanations of allusions
  • Explanations of relevant literary theories
  • A discussion of the text’s literary genre
  • Lessons on the text’s historical context
  • Information about the author

Of course, not everyone has time to create a new literature unit entirely from scratch. That’s why we developed our ready-to-use Literature Teaching Guides. Each Prestwick House Guide takes a unique approach to literature—whether you’re introducing literary theory or encouraging students to draw personal connections to the text. Check out this page for more information about our wide range of title-specific teaching guides.

What are some steps you take when developing a new literature unit? Let us know in the comments!