Inside this Post: Ready to elevate your literary analysis lessons? This post is full of engaging and effective activities to help students master literary analysis topics.
Literary analysis has become the beating heart of English classes around the world. When students read a text, we want them to peel back the layers one by one, appreciating the deeper meaning that lies within each sentence. As English teachers, many of us connect with texts easily and persevere through complex literature naturally. For our students, this process is not always as enjoyable.
In this post, you’ll find suggestions for elevating thinking with middle and high school students. These ideas can be used with paired or individual texts and can be differentiated to reach a variety of learners.
Engaging and Effective Literary Analysis Activities
Literary analysis elements are best when they are engaging and elevate thinking without frustrating students. I’ve played around with different approaches, and these are the key elements that resonate most with students.
1. Thinking Aloud
One of the best feelings as a teacher is knowing you have an entire class full of teenagers engaged. It’s amazing how every single student in a classroom is in tune with think alouds. Something about making thinking transparent challenges students of all readiness levels. With literary analysis lessons, I love providing think alouds with the whole class. Whether we do this via face to face instruction or by creating a short video for virtual classrooms, we have to model our thinking.
Here’s an example with “All the world’s a stage” from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It…
This speech, at first, seems complicated. But, Shakespeare is talking about the world being a stage, and I think there is something deeper to what he is saying. Let’s go back again and look for clues. The men and women are players on the stage. He writes that they have their exits and entrances. I’m trying to visualize that in my head now. The world is a stage, the people are actors, and when they walk on and off the stage, that is their theatrical entrance and exit. Now that I understand he is using this speech as an extended metaphor, I wonder why would Shakespeare is choosing to compare these two things?
When modeling literary analysis, we can break down our thought process. If we write a written response, we can scaffold by color coding our thoughts in order to highlight the necessary critical thinking steps.
- First, acknowledge what is confusing or uncertain about the text. What might we be missing as readers?
- Second, make observations.
- Third, apply reading strategies (in this case, I used visualizing).
- Last, teach students to ask questions that probe at the deeper meaning and reason for the writing.
2. Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers are one of my go-to strategies for elevating thinking. We can use them to differentiate and to guide students as we work in small groups. I like to keep a variety of literary analysis graphic organizers for any text on hand so that I can be responsive. If students show a need to work on analyzing a specific literary element – characterization, plot, theme, conflict, etcetera – I use a graphic organizer as we read a text or excerpt together, modeling my thinking. Then, students can practice using the same organizer in small groups, partners, or independently.
Literary analysis consists of asking a bunch of questions to lead students to deeper thinking, and graphic organizers are a bridge that walks students down that path of purposeful questioning.
Grab this print and digital literary analysis graphic organizer for analyzing song lyrics – one of secondary students’ favorite texts to pick apart!
Nothing grabs a student’s attention like an image! Visuals are amazing tools for introducing literary analysis skills. I always begin my literary analysis unit with pictures. Using an image, we can quickly show students how to differentiate between summarizing and analyzing. Then, we can walk them through the steps of acknowledging what we might be missing, making observations, applying reading strategies, and questioning for deeper meaning.
Consider using images from a variety of sources. We can try historical images, political cartoons, famous paintings, graphic novels, wordless picture books, advertisements, or even just regular photographs.
I even work this type of analytical thinking into my vocabulary activities! Students get used to interpreting photos and using textual evidence to support their thinking.
4. One Pagers
One pagers are one of my favorite literary analysis activities. In order to make them meaningful, I incorporate scaffolding. So, students have access to standards-aligned goals and questions that prompt their responses to the text. Choice helps as well. We can allow students to choose digital or traditional, response angles, and even texts.
In terms of literary analysis benefits, we can really focus on asking students to cite textual evidence to track a universal theme. While doing so, students can draw conclusions about how literary elements work together or how they provide tension to impact a reader’s overall takeaway.
5. Colorful Charts
Mood and tone can be tricky for students to analyze. So that they can understand the difference between them but also so that they see how mood and tone work in tandem, I began using an equalizer metaphor. Students can use color and amplification to analyze how mood and tone change throughout a literary work. By creating a visual representation, there’s a direct connection between the mood and the storyline.
How does setting impact mood, and how does mood impact the conflict in the story?
For instance, the quiet beauty of the Capulet garden sets the stage for a romantic balcony scene, but the noisy bustle of the lewd fighting in the Verona streets helps to define the conflict and tension between the two feuding families.
With tone, how does the author’s word choice and sentence structure in each section convey his or her attitude in the work?
As we study the amplification of tone in the play Romeo and Juliet, we see a consistent change from light-hearted comedy to an intensely poetic and tragic seriousness. Over the course of the play, one might say that Shakespeare’s juxtaposition creates an overall sympathetic tone toward the star-crossed lovers.
6. Get Moving
One of the issues when it comes to citing evidence in a literary analysis essay is finding relevant support. Sometimes, it seems like the lines students select from literature are completely disconnected from what they are writing. That may be because they don’t truly understand how their thesis connects to their main points or how their main points connect to the evidence. For some students, there are too many degrees of separation!
A kinesthetic option to address this issue involves Post-Its (or colored text boxes if you are doing this digitally) and a t-chart. At the top of the paper (use big paper or a white board if you can do this together in the classroom!), write the analytical point. What conclusion can students draw about characters, setting, or another literary element that would support their thesis statement?
Under that, label the T-Chart as “Relevant” and “Off Topic.” Then, you have some options.
BASIC: You identify support for students in advance and have them sort the support based on its relevance. Could they use it to analyze the text, or is it off topic?
ADVANCE: Ask students to find examples of relevant and off-topic lines from the text.
A MIXTURE: Provide students with a handful of lines they can sort into relevant and off-topic categories, and then ask them to find a couple more examples on their own.
To increase the engagement factor, use some washi tape on the floor in the shape of whatever makes the most sense – a character outline for analyzing character, a house for analyzing setting, a circle for analyzing a universal theme. Then, have students stick their Post-It notes inside or outside of the shape. Inside indicates that the evidence is relevant, and outside means it’s off-topic.
7. Children’s Books
We don’t always think to use picture books with older students, but they are one of my absolute favorite ways to scaffold literary analysis! Because picture books are short, we can cover an entire (and often complex) story in a short period of time. And, we can continually refer back to that text throughout the school year. Because picture books are accessible for all students, they will remember sharing the story together, and you can really make significant strides with whole-class discussions and small group lessons.
Try using picture books to teach Notice and Note signposts, language, aesthetics, and theme. One of my favorite ways to use picture books is teaching students to analyze how dialogue impacts decisions, propels action, and develops characters. For example, in the book Elbow Grease, the protagonist is motivated to participate in a race for which he is the underdog simply because some crass comments from his friends make him angry. This really is the turning point in the story, which makes it convenient to analyze how dialogue can lead to decisions and actions that change the course of a storyline.
8. Short Films
For a thousand and one reasons, I adore short films. They’re short (obvious, I know), which makes them ideal for modeling and mini lessons. Plus, they are visually captivating and apply to a wide age range. And, generally, they hold quite a bit of depth and leave room for a variety of interpretations.
During first quarter with ninth graders, I built in a yearly routine of watching short films during our literary analysis unit and having students complete their first full analytical essay. It’s fun. I can model using a short film I enjoy. Then, I get to read a wide range of responses from students who choose different texts. To scaffold for struggling writers, I suggest a few short films I am very familiar with; this way, I can guide them if they get stuck or confused.
You can also build in short films by using them with poetry for paired text analysis.
9. Reading Strategies
One of the building blocks of literary analysis is having a good foundation in apply reading strategies. It’s fun to model what readers do. We can show students how analyzing texts and re-reading for deeper meaning helps us with writing and then ask students to practice those skills.
For instance, when students begin to understand that authors have a purposeful craft that impacts their reading experience, it empowers them to pick that craft apart, studying the nuances of what makes it work. And, it gives them an advantage as authors themselves. They may think,I remember how the author’s purposeful use of short, staccato sentences and onomatopoeias increased the suspense during that scene. Maybe I should use those techniques in this part of my story to add an emotional element for my readers.
These are some of the graphic organizers I’ve used to scaffold reading strategy work with the whole class, and then students can transfer those skills to small group or independent practice, using the same organizer if necessary.
10. Social Media Activities
Social media is everywhere. We might as well use it as a relevant option for analyzing literature! One of my favorites is booksnaps, and I tie in Snapchat by having them take a photo of part of the text they want to analyze. Then, they add interpretations, images, and text as well as a caption with a more detailed analysis. I call these Snap-a-Books.I also created a Spot-a-Book analysis option, reminiscent of Spotify playlists. Students can create playlists relevant to character analysis, setting analysis, conflict analysis, and more!
And, that’s ten! I hope you’ve found some meaningful literary analysis activities to spark creative, critical thinking in your classroom.
An avid reader and writer, I've had the privilege of teaching English for over a decade and am now an instructional coach. I have degrees in English, Curriculum & Instruction, and Reading as well as a reading specialist certification. In my free time, I enjoy loving on my kids, deconstructing sentences, analyzing literature, making learning fun, working out, and drinking a good cup of coffee.
Types of Activities that Promote Literary Response and Analysis. Some examples of effective literary response exercises include graphic organizers such as story maps, plot diagrams, and Venn diagrams. These help students understand plot and other literary devices in a visual format.What activities promote literary response and analysis? ›
Types of Activities that Promote Literary Response and Analysis. Some examples of effective literary response exercises include graphic organizers such as story maps, plot diagrams, and Venn diagrams. These help students understand plot and other literary devices in a visual format.What are 3 things a literary analysis needs to have to be effective? ›
These are: The genre and type of the analyzed piece of literature. A thorough examination of the main characters. An outline of the work's plot and the main ideas present in the piece.What are some literary activities? ›
- Story telling / writing.
- Book reading.
- Fancy dress.
- Read the text carefully. ...
- Brainstorm a topic. ...
- Collect and interpret the evidence. ...
- Write a thesis. ...
- Develop and organize your arguments. ...
- Write a rough draft. ...
- Refine your arguments and review.
- Be organized around and related directly to the thesis or research question you are developing.
- Synthesize results into a summary of what is and is not known.
- Identify problematic areas or areas of controversy in the literature.
- Choose your text carefully. ...
- Decide and choose what elements you want to focus on. ...
- Formulate your controlling idea. ...
- Find your evidence. ...
- Organize your ideas as evidence. ...
- Plan and write your essay.
The elements to be analyzed are plot, setting, characters, point of view, figurative language, and style.What are the 5 steps of literary analysis? ›
- Step 1: Reading the text and identifying literary devices.
- Step 2: Coming up with a thesis.
- Step 3: Writing a title and introduction.
- Step 4: Writing the body of the essay.
- Step 5: Writing a conclusion.
Activities like talking, singing, reading, storytelling, drawing and writing help to develop your child's literacy. For babies and younger children, try nursery rhymes, sound games, 'I spy', and books with rhyme, rhythm and repetition. For school children, look for words in billboards, signs and supermarket items.
Literary works help learners to use their imagination, enhance their empathy for others and lead them to develop their own creativity. They also give students the chance to learn about literary devices that occur in other genres e.g. advertising.What are 5 literary texts examples? ›
- contributions to collective works.
- compilations of data or other literary subject matter.
Literary analysis skills are the actual strategies you use to analyze the parts (characters, plots, setting) that bring meaning to literature. These skills allow you to understand the meaning of the text and then form your own perceptions of it.What are the basics of literary analysis? ›
Literary analysis involves examining all the parts of a novel, play, short story, or poem—elements such as character, setting, tone, and imagery—and thinking about how the author uses those elements to create certain effects.What are the 4 C's of literature? ›
One of the approaches that aid students in developing their writing skills is integrating the 4Cs in writing content areas. They are creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.What are the 5 techniques in teaching literature? ›
- Diversifying Classroom Texts. ...
- Complementing Novels With Films. ...
- Scaffolding Student-Led Literary Analysis. ...
- Utilizing Creative Student Reading Responses.
There are six approaches in the teaching of literature. They are the (1) Language-Based Approach, (2) Paraphrastic Approach, (3) Information-Based Approach, (4) Personal-Response Approach, (5) Moral-Philosophical Approach, and (6) Stylistic Approach.What are the 5 rules for writing a literature review? ›
- Rule 1: Define a Topic and Audience.
- Rule 2: Search and Re-search the Literature.
- Rule 3: Take Notes While Reading.
- Rule 4: Choose the Type of Review You Wish to Write.
- Rule 5: Keep the Review Focused, but Make It of Broad Interest.
- Rule 6: Be Critical and Consistent.
- Rule 7: Find a Logical Structure.
An evaluation of existing research. An argument about where your research fits into the field. A way of positioning the argument for your project. A simple summary of research.What are six ways to write literature review? ›
- Narrow your topic and select papers accordingly.
- Search for literature.
- Read the selected articles thoroughly and evaluate them.
- Organize the selected papers by looking for patterns and by developing subtopics.
- Develop a thesis or purpose statement.
- Write the paper.
- Review your work.
Four levels for this text literal comprehension, interpretation, critical thinking/ analysis, and assimilation are: Literal Comprehension The essay 'The Library Card' was written by Richard Wright…What are the 8 steps in reviewing a literature? ›
- Define the research question (for more) ...
- Determine inclusion/exclusion criteria. ...
- Choose databases and conduct the search. ...
- Review your results. ...
- Synthesize the information gathered. ...
- Analyze the information gathered. ...
- Write the literature review.
Literary elements include plot, theme, character and tone. In contrast, literary techniques are non-universal features of literature and include figurative language, irony, and foreshadowing.What makes a strong written analysis? ›
Answer Questions that Explain and Expand on the Evidence
Questions can take the form of explaining the evidence or expanding on evidence; in other words, questions can give context or add meaning. Asking both kinds of questions is crucial to creating strong analysis.
They are the essential ingredients that make up a story, poem or play. Without literary elements, there would be no literature. Literary elements include plot, conflict, character, setting, point of view, and theme. They are essential because they provide a framework for the writer to tell their story.What are the three basic components of a literary analysis essay? ›
In general, your essay will comprise three parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.What are the 6 literacy skills? ›
- Print Motivation.
- Print Awareness.
- Letter Knowledge.
- Narrative Skills.
- Phonological Awareness.
Conventional literacy skills refers to such skills as decoding, oral reading fluency, reading comprehension, writing, and spelling. The use of these skills is evident within all literacy practices, and they are readily recognizable as being necessary or useful components of literacy.How do you develop critical thinking in literature? ›
One way to develop higher-order thinking skills is to have students evaluate a text. This involves judging the merit of a text; that is, saying whether one liked/disliked the storyline and why, or what, in the reader's opinion, are the special merits/demerits of the text.What are the 8 functions of literature? ›
- Literature helps a lot in the development of language.
- Literature creates awareness of one's society and that of others.
- It teaches moral lessons.
- It corrects wrong doings. ...
- Literature recognizes achievements and achievers.
- Start with short stories. Use short stories to develop a student's knowledge of narrative principles and structure. ...
- Focus on a story's elements. ...
- Involve reading methods. ...
- Use engaging texts. ...
- Show age-relevant media. ...
- Visualize concepts. ...
- Meet with students one-on-one. ...
- Assign small-group discussions.
Have you ever felt pretty overwhelmed by all the different types of literature out there? There is a lot, but luckily they all fit under just three major genres. The rest are all sub-genres, and even the subgenres have subgenres. The three major genres are Prose, Drama, and Poetry.What are the big 5 in literature? ›
The Big 5 are: Alphabet Knowledge and Early Writing; Background Knowledge; Book Knowledge and Print Concepts; Oral Language and Vocabulary; and Phonological Awareness.What are the 3 types of literary text? ›
The text types are broken into three genres: Narrative, Non- fiction and poetry. Each of these genres has then been sub-divided into specific text types such as adventure, explanation or a specific form of poetry, e.g. haiku.What are three literary analysis? ›
There are three basic components to literary analysis. They include comprehension, interpretation, and analysis.What are response activities examples? ›
Response activity means evaluation, interim response activity, remedial action, demolition, providing an alternative water supply, or the taking of other actions necessary to protect the public health, safety, or welfare, or the environment or the natural resources.What is literary response and analysis? ›
Literary analysis is a type of literary response in which the reader examines a text to increase their understanding of the work.What are activities for responding to reading? ›
During and after reading, they can engage in purposeful talk to construct both personal and collective meaning. Talk can also be the starting point for a variety of response activities. Such activities might include research, role-playing, storytelling, brainstorming, questioning, writing, and reading aloud.What are reading response activities? ›
Reading response activities are designed to foster intentional reflection on an experience with a text. With this type of reading assignment, students read with a purpose in mind—such as exploring setting or tone in a novel or reading to gather information from evidence within a text.What are responding strategies? ›
Responsive Strategies are the last of the specific strategies for challenging behavior. They are effective ways to respond to behaviors that will reduce the chances of them occurring again.
- Correct, Independent Response. I included correct and independent together because it is always possible to have the opposites (i.e., correct-prompted and incorrect-independent). ...
- Prompted Response. ...
- No Response. ...
- Incorrect Response.
Response. Actions carried out immediately before, during, and immediately after a hazard impact, which are aimed at saving lives, reducing economic losses, and alleviating suffering.What are the 5 forms of responses to literature? ›
Prepare your students to analyze and respond to literature by practicing five types of responses: predictions, questions, clarification, connections, and opinions.What activities improve in reading? ›
- Find the secret word. Great for: Kindergarten to 2nd grade. ...
- Read aloud as a class. Great for: All grades. ...
- Partner reading. Great for: 1st to 3rd grade. ...
- Find the synonym. Great for: 2nd to 5th grade. ...
- Word searches. ...
- Keyword bingo. ...
- Decoding games. ...
- Thumbs up, thumbs down.
Intensive reading activities include skimming a text for specific information to answer true or false statements or filling gaps in a summary, scanning a text to match headings to paragraphs, and scanning jumbled paragraphs and then reading them carefully to put them into the correct order.What are examples of reading and writing activities? ›
Sample Reading and Writing Activities:
Conduct a Word Hunt for other words that follow spelling patterns used in a Making Words lesson. Listen to a book on tape and read along in the book. Read a story on the computer. Tell a story to a friend using the felt board for a book you read or a story you wrote.
Beach and Marshall in Iskhak (2015) put forward the reader response strategy consists of seven strategies are: to engage, describe, explain, conceive, interpret, connect, and judge.What are the three types of reading responses? ›
- RETELL: Write a brief summary of the passage.
- RELATE: Make connections to prior knowledge or experience.
- REFLECT: Offer a personal response such as a question or opinion or thought about the plot, characters or author's craft.