Chapter 8: Teaching Literature

How to keep our students interested and invested!

Reader Response Theory

"By the late 20th century, our teaching focus shifted from a single interpretation of a text to the interactions between the text and its reader. In other words, what the reader brings to the reading is as important as the words in the text (Rosenblatt, 1995). This approach, known as reader response theory, has revolutionized the high school English classroom, allowing for multiple student interpretations of the same text." (p. 202)

Types of Literature Studies

  • Historical - studying literature in the context of the period in which it was written
  • Social - studied through its reflection of society
  • New - concerned only with the work itself and not with the author, period, or social influence
  • Structuralism & Deconstruction - the meaning and understanding are found
    in the text itself and that information about the author or social and historical influences has no bearing on the study of literature.

"Literary study...[should] help students develop an appreciation and enjoyment of literature."

Writing Responses

Have students respond in writing as they read!
Use these for discussion, written dialogue, dialogue between teacher and students, for writing papers.
  1. What characters remind you of someone you know? In what ways do they make you think of the person or people you know?
  2. What experiences in the text make you think of similar experiences you have had?
  3. What objects or places make you think of things you have had or places you know about?
  4. Perhaps movies or television shows come to mind as you read. Describe the connections, such as similar action, characters, or setting.

Other Response Methods

  • Story Trails
  • Create Scenes
  • Readers' Theatre
  • Timeline
  • Re-creation of event or location
  • Literature Circles (vocabulary, illustrator, questioner, note-taker)
  • Dramatization
  • Book Chat
  • Art Gallery


"Making Sense of Information"

Pre-Reading Strategies
  • What do you think this book is about?
  • Can you guess when and where it takes place?
  • What does the title suggest to you?

Other Pre-Reading Ideas

  • A song that portrays mood or theme
  • Anticipation guides
  • Art Gallery
  • Research topics and posters
  • Shorter work as a bridge


Page 5 defiant
What did Lily do to show she was defiant?
Why was she defiant?

Chapter Questions

Chapter 1

  1. Why does Jonas feel apprehensive?
  2. Do you think that all family units do the same ritual in the story? Can you imagine your family enjoying such a ritual? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think it means when someone "released"?

Reading Activities

  • Turn a story into a musical
  • Write predictions
  • Produce a talk show
  • Write a biography


  1. Read aloud and stop for questions
  2. Stop and listen to each act
  3. Watch video of acts
  4. Outline plot

Choose a character and write from their perspective, rewrite endings, write a news article, etc.

Short Stories

Should be taught throughout the curriculum...not just in one unit.
Choose multiple options and make sure they're interesting!

*"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" ACTIVITY*

  • Compare and contrast predictions from the book and from the trailer
  • Do they look like they'll match up?
  • What looks different?
  • What would you change?
Official Trailer | The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) | 20th Century FOX


Many students get tripped up on what a poem "means." However, before you dive into depth, allow them time to really absorb the images and the pictures of the poem. As you read a poem aloud (ALWAYS), have them answer these questions:
  • What images do I see as I hear the poem?
  • What do the words remind me of?
  • What feelings have I had that are similar to the ones expressed in the poem?

"Birches" by Robert Frost

  • Draw what you see while I read
  • Tell me the lines you got these images from

Teaching Language

  • Tone vs. Mood
  • Metaphors
  • Vocabulary
  • Purposes
  • Context

Sharing Books

  • Book talks
  • Interest Grouping
  • Student Critiques
  • Reading in class
  • Literature Circles