How to Teach Literary Analysis in Middle School

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. And more importantly, we’ve got your students 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.)

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In this post, we’re going to break down how we introduce evidence-based writing to our students. (It's a lot of info, but totally worth reading! We promise!)

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 this 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 this 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 the following components for our students:

  • Introduction
    • TAG (title, author, genre)
    • Summary
    • Claim
  • Body Paragraphs
    • Premise
    • Introduce evidence
    • Evidence
    • Justification
  • Conclusion
    • Restate claim
    • Summarize evidence
    • Lesson learned

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. We want to give you part of this resource for free so you can start implementing some of these strategies in your classroom TOMORROW. 

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Our complete How to Teach Literary Analysis Writing Guide includes EVERYTHING you could possibly need to effectively teach this type of writing in your classroom.

Additionally, we also have a 7-Day Bootcamp to Teaching Literary Analysis Writing if you just want to get your feet wet! Please note that this bootcamp is included in the Complete Writing Guide. 

Have questions or want to learn more? Feel free to send us an email at any time at! 

Don't forget to grab your FREE resource by CLICKING HERE !

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Teaching argumentative writing to your middle school and high school students can be SO hard! But this blog post and free step-by-step guide will really help teachers in their classrooms as they implement writing skills and strategies!

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