Are you considering reading Holes by Louis Sachar with your class? Don’t sleep on this blog post! I’m sharing all the details on the various activities I did with my 6th grade intervention group to bring our Holes Novel Study to life!

holes novel study

Each year, I’m one of the first to scour the new release lists and devour fresh YA literature. I love discovering new novels for my middle school students to fall in love with and finding ways to bring them into our curriculum (helloooo, book groups!). But the importance of balancing new novels with timeless classics cannot be overlooked. There’s something to be said about exposing our students to books like The Giver, Hatchet, The Outsiders, Woods Runner, and of course, Holes. These books have spanned generations and have the ability to connect old readers to young. Because of this, Holes by Louis Sachar is one of those novels that I will always reserve space for. And over the years, I’ve found ways to tweak my novel studies to meet the ever-changing needs of my students. My Holes Novel Study is a prime example of this, and I’m excited to share with you some unforgettable Holes activities that will bring your novel study to life. 

Unlock the Power of Journaling with Your Holes Novel Study

using novel-related journaling in a holes novel study

As you embark on your Holes novel study, consider setting aside time and space for novel-related journaling. It’s a great way for students to process their thoughts and emotions as they read, and it will give you a glimpse into their understanding of the novel. Plus, journaling will bring your class discussions to a new depth by helping students think critically and build a personal connection to the book!

Here are a few examples of journal prompts I use throughout my novel study:

“There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.” (pg. 1) A bit of a paradox, isn’t it? A paradox is a sentence that contains two opposite ideas that contradict each other. Create your own list of paradoxical statements. Here is a couple to get you started:

  • “To be honest, I am a liar.”
  • “I know that I know nothing.”

“I mean, why should you get a day off when you’ve only been here a couple of days?” (pg. 53) After discovering the fossil, Stanley quickly learns that there is a “pecking order” at camp. A pecking order is the sequence of authority in a social group. Is there a pecking order at school? What about at home? Explain.

Incorporating journal prompts throughout your novel study is a simple yet powerful tool that will enable your students to engage with the text on a deeper level, reflect on the reading, and make connections.

Flipping For Holes: An Interactive Review

Encourage your students to consider the essential elements of fiction as they read the novel with an interactive flipbook. A flipbook offers a fun, hands-on way for students to consider the various elements of Holes, like the setting, characters, conflicts, plot, and theme. Assembling the flipbook is the hardest part, but everything after that is gravy!

Here are some examples of questions for each section:

  • Setting: Describe the setting of the story. Choose three quotes from the text that best represent the novel’s setting.
  • Characters: Get to know Stanley. What are his values and motives? Explain how Stanley grows and changes throughout the story.
  • Conflict: How does the setting affect the conflict? Identify an example of internal conflict.
  • Plot: Create a plot diagram for Holes. Identify three key moments that changed the course of the story.
  • Theme: Record quotes from the novel that you believe are important or wise. What does the novel Holes suggest about life?

Thinking about the novel from the lens of the literary elements is nothing new; however, doing so through a flipbook will give your students a physical representation of the novel and may encourage them to take ownership of their learning.

How Paired Nonfiction Texts Can Enhance Your Holes Novel Study

Using paired texts in a Holes Novel Study

Incorporating nonfiction texts that tie into the novel is an effective way to ensure students’ informational skills stay fresh while also taking their understanding to a new level. Paired informational texts can provide additional background knowledge, context, and fresh perspectives while also playing into students’ natural sense of wonder. 

Holes touches on so many rich topics that you could explore through a quick search on NewsEla, Common Lit, Wonderopolis, or Smithsonian Tween; here are some ideas:

  • Historical context of the story
  • Juvenile detention system
  • Ecosystem of a desert
  • Discrimination

I played up the interests of my middle school students and came up with the following informational texts:

  • Clyde Livingston’s Not-So-Sweet Feet (Athlete’s Foot)
  • Coincidence or Curse?
  • Reptilian Dangers of the Desert
  • Why You Should Love a Leech

Adding a nonfiction day to your Holes Novel Study will offer your students a unique way to sharpen their critical thinking skills as they synthesize information from the novel and the nonfiction text. Not only that, but it will allow them to see real-world connections between literature and their own lives. Sounds like a win-win that will leave you feeling effective and your students inspired and eager to keep reading, right?

Elevating Your Novel Study with STEM Activities

Add STEM Challenges to your Holes Novel Study

I often survey my students to gauge their feelings about language arts. For the most part, it’s very positive. However, if there is one thing that students frequently mention, they wish language arts were more hands-on. I’d like to argue that having a book or a pencil in your hands is hands-on, but alas, I do my best to honor their request.

Adding STEM activities to your “Holes” novel study is an exciting way to make the novel study hands-on and bring the book, and your kinesthetic learners, to life. Set aside a day each week or every other week to tie in a book-related STEM challenge. I incorporated the following four challenges into my novel study:

  • Build a Dirt Mover
  • Design a Desert Shelter
  • Build a Water Filtration Device
  • Build a Treasure Chest

However, the possibilities are endless if you are comfortable with STEM challenges. STEM activities benefit the language arts classroom by providing hands-on learning opportunities and encouraging students to develop important real-world skills while problem-solving, collaborating, testing theories, etc. Plus, it’s all tied to the story. STEM challenges are guaranteed to make your exploration of the novel all the more memorable and motivating.

Breaking Out of Camp Greenlake: The Power of a Culminating Escape Room

holes novel study escape room

If your students are anything like mine, they go bonkers at even the slightest mention of an “escape room.” That’s why I had to find a way to wrap up our Holes novel study with one! I am a firm believer in educational escape rooms because I genuinely can’t think of many ways more powerful to review and apply what students have learned. Escape rooms offer a high-energy, interactive learning experience that is highly motivating to kids. By working together to solve puzzles and clues related to the story, students review what they’ve learned in a unique way. Escape rooms are also beneficial because they promote teamwork, problem-solving, logical reasoning, and creativity. All things that our students need more of!

If you’re interested in a ready-to-use escape room for Holes, you can check out mine here. If you’d like to brave making your own, here are the breakout tasks I had my students do:

  • Examine a landmark at the real Camp Green Lake in Calhoun County, Texas. 
  • Map Stanley’s journey to God’s Thumb and back to camp.
  • Decode a secret message.
  • Solve a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Complete a plot maze.

I housed it all on a Google Site because I wanted more of an escape room feeling than my typical Google Forms breakouts. It was definitely more challenging for my students but in a good way!

Teaching “Holes” is an opportunity for students to connect with a timeless classic that spans generations. With the help of journaling, paired nonfiction texts, STEM activities, and an escape room, you’ll be able to create a novel study that is not only fun, engaging, and effective but it also provides students with unique opportunities to expand their knowledge and apply what they’ve learned in meaningful ways. I hope these tips and ideas have inspired you to implement some fresh ideas into your own Holes novel study to create a memorable learning experience for your students.