Preparing middle level teachers through a collaborative documentary novel study

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This article describes how preservice teachers (and one inservice teacher) gained content knowledge and pedagogical skills through reading a documentary novel, a genre that combines fictional storytelling with historical primary sources. Preservice teachers read the novel as a required text in a site-based undergraduate course focused on children’s and young adult literature, while an inservice teacher conducted a novel study with her fifth-grade class using the same text. Analysis of course documents, observation notes, and individual and focus group interview transcripts highlighted layers of learning for inservice and preservice teachers and their young adolescent students that supported curriculum and instruction characteristics of successful middle school classrooms. Findings revealed that incorporating a documentary novel study in preservice teacher coursework resulted in increased content knowledge and pedagogical skills necessary for engaging middle level students in learning experiences around integrative and challenging texts. Furthermore, purposeful instruction around a documentary novel featuring highly relatable adolescent characters and a plot that integrated world and everyday life events fostered deep thinking and connections for middle grades students around themes of justice within the context of family, friends, and school and in the shadow of a major political crisis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-35
Number of pages11
JournalMiddle School Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021


  • documentary novels
  • interdisciplinary curriculum
  • middle level education
  • multigenre texts
  • pre-service teacher education
  • reading across the curriculum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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