Teaching Literary Analysis to Middle School students can be challenging. But we truly believe we’ve come up with an incredibly effective and streamlined framework that is going to wipe out a large majority of those challenges.
While we strongly believe that to become better writers, students should read, read, and read some more, we also know that explicit writing instruction is necessary. Yet, we notice that often writing time is not included in classroom schedules, aside from creative writing (definitely still important!). So many teachers have told us that they simply don’t have time to teach evidence-based writing skills, it takes too much time to grade all the essays, or they simply don’t know how to teach writing.
Well, we’ve got you covered …
At some point, we’ve all encountered students who simply abhor writing essays because they don’t feel confident in expressing their thoughts, don’t know how to start, don’t know how to end (the dreaded conclusion paragraph!), or don’t feel like they have anything to say.
We were tired of seeing our students frustrated and wanted to provide them with more concrete writing lessons. So, we developed a guide to teaching literary analysis / argumentative writing. (Note: By argumentative writing, we’re not talking about a “Convince your teacher why you shouldn’t have homework” essay. Rather, we mean crafting responses to literature using evidence from the text and justification to support student claims.)
In this post, we’re going to break down how to teach literary analysis to middle school students (or as we call it, evidence-based writing).
First, we start off with a simple mystery story that we wrote called “The Mystery of the Broken Vase” that has an open-ended conclusion. Kind of like a “whodunit” story. Students must play detective and find evidence in the text and corresponding illustration to see which character is responsible for breaking a precious crystal vase. Although the story is simple, we’ve found it’s necessary to start with simplicity for students of all grade levels because this really allows them to practice searching for evidence in the text and justify their reasoning.
We use an evidence tracker for students to gather evidence. The evidence tracker is a life-saver because it allows students to organize their thoughts (independently, in small groups, even whole class) BEFORE writing a final essay, which we’ll get to later…
Then we explain to our students that throughout the year when reading our novels, short stories, poems, historic articles, etc., we will be analyzing essential questions and writing responses to literature using evidence from the text and justification – just like we did for this whodunit story.
Here’s where the concrete writing instruction comes in. We use the graphic organizer and spend A TON OF TIME going through each component of a response to literature. We break a response to literature down into specific components for our students.
Having this format really helps those students who don’t know how to begin or end their essays. It provides them with a super clear roadmap to express their thoughts. Speaking of expressing thoughts, writer’s block is pretty much eliminated since students have already gathered all their evidence and justification using their evidence tracker. It’s simple, straightforward, and extremely effective.
We believe so strongly in this process that we sat down and spent months creating a complete guide to teaching literary analysis writing and filled it with literally everything you could ever need to teach literary analysis writing in your classroom. From background information for the teacher to TONS of graphic organizers that will help students gain confidence in their writing AND become stronger writers capable of crafting claims, and finding just the right evidence to justifying their thinking, this guide has it all.
We firmly believe that teaching writing this way has profoundly positive effects on your students’ ability to craft a strong, cohesive, in-depth, analytical essay.
Over the last five years we’ve worked with thousands of teachers from around the world to implement this approach to teaching writing through The EB Writing Program. You can learn more about our program and share information with your admin here: https://www.ebwritingprogram.com/