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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

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