Johns Hopkins University Secondary Support Initiative (JHUSSI)  




Reading novels and fiction is an important component of English class for students of all ages. When readers become engrossed in a work of fiction, their brains are working on many different levels. Readers use the fundamentals of reading to decode words and attribute meaning to sentences, while developing a mental picture of the characters and action contained in the plot (McGann, Griffith, & Kremer, 2001). Readers must use their background knowledge and previous life experiences to make inferences about the lives of the characters and develop opinions about the characters’ actions and motivations. The extended plot of a novel allows students to study how a story develops and climaxes as the characters change over time. By analyzing the plot, readers can gain insight into themes that apply to real world settings and situations (Carter, 2000).


The following lessons describe strategies used to build comprehension skills, synthesize information, and make connections amongst literary themes and real life situations when reading novels. While the Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, is the focus of these lessons, the strategies can be applied to any novel across grade levels.