Thinking About Literature

Here’s an old post for those students starting a unit on Response to Literature:

Teaching students to really think about what they read is one of the most rewarding accomplishments in my classroom.  So many people, not just students, read page after page then can’t remember what they read.  You have to think about literature in order to connect to it, and you have to connect to it in order to respond to it.

While you are reading a story, envision yourself inside it.  What does the character see?  Notice details that the author doesn’t tell you about.  What emotions are behind the actions of the characters around you (the main character)?  How does the main character feel at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story?  In most well-written narratives, the main character learns a lesson or changes somehow by the time the story is over.  Identify how the character changes, and you’re on your way to a really nice Response to Literature (book report).

Every author has a reason for writing a narrative.  Somewhere hidden within the pages is a message for you, the reader.  Finding the theme and the author’s message means you understood what the author wanted you to get from the story.  Think of the theme as a broad category, usually a single word, like: courage, honesty, greed, family, determination. . . I could go on, but you get the idea.  The author’s message is what the author wants you to know about that particular theme.  For example, maybe the author is writing about honesty (theme), and wants the reader to know that honesty is the best policy (message).

Some themes I suggested, with possible messages authors might use that my class suggested:

Courage:  Face your fears

Determination: Never give up

Greed: Sharing is caring

Think of a story you read recently.  Post a comment with the title and author of the story, the theme and the message.  Remember, the message speaks to YOU.  Different people may get different messages from the same piece!

On my Kindle:  Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

10 thoughts on “Thinking About Literature”

  1. hi mrs. ulleseit!
    I read your blog about thinking about literature. i have also been thinking about this subject matter. i have been told by my parents and several others that i should comprehend what i have been reading for the day. i agree with your point. briefly summarizing the content of the story can greatly help with understanding the plot. in class, we are also doing response to literature based on the theme of the story and character analysis. if i follow your tips, i am sure to be able to write an awesome rtl. the book i am currently reading is Sand Dollar Summer by Kimberly K. Jones. This story’s theme is to go with life’s flow and that not everything in life is controlable.


  2. I read a lot in the summer. I just finished The Sisters Grimm, The Unusual Suspects. I think the theme is that everything is not always what it seems. Like don’t judge a book by its cover.


  3. I agree that a proverb like “Sharing is caring” makes an awesome author’s message. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” makes a lot more sense than “Sometimes you can make some or a lot of good things out of some or a lot of bad things if you try a lot or very little depending on the situation” and is a lot less boring than “life can look bad, but is good”.


  4. Rick Riordan’s books (Percy Jackson series, 51 Clues, Kane Chronicles) are very good examples of great 1st person books. In fact, Riodan and Maximum Ride series encouraged me to create a ‘Movie Theater’ of sorts inside my head. That’s one of the reason i read quickly- that way, the movie won’t stop- it’ll continue going as i absorb details from the book itself.

    P.S. Kindles FTW


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