Teachers College Literary Essay Lesson Plan

After attending a great summer institute breakout session at the Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College this summer, I came back with a slightly deeper understanding of how I might move my students into writing stronger literary response essays, in less time. The most important thing that I took away was that I realized that I needed to lift the level of the way my students were closely reading and interpreting text, in order to lift the level of the baby literary essay. Here's the gist:

  • First, students read the text. (start off with short texts such as short stories, picture books, or excerpts from longer texts)
  • Reread to interpret the text 
  • Rehearsing
  • Fast Drafting

As students are working through the Reading to Interpret the Text phase, they can ask themselves questions such as:
  • Whose story is being told?
  • What kind of a person is the character? What traits could I use to describe the character?
  • What does the character want at this point?
  • What are some of the emotions and feelings the character has during this part?

As students continue reading through the middle of the text, they can ask themselves questions such as:
  • What gets in the way of the character getting what he wants?
  • Have the character's feelings and emotions changed? How and why are they changing?
  • Are there any problems or issues starting to arise?

As students continue to read and interpret the text through the end, they can ask questions such as:
  • What is the message the author wants us to notice?
  • Is there a life lesson being taught?


Literary Essay Framework:

Book title: 

Author's name:

Brief summary of the text:

Sentence about the theme, or big idea, from the text:

Product Description

Opinion writing is essential for students in the upper elementary and middle grades. Writing about reading is a great place to start!

Included in this bundle are:
* 10 scaffolded powerpoint lessons with objectives, learning targets, and exit tickets
* 3 original exemplars
* 3 mini rubrics
* 1 revision and editing checklist.

UPDATED! I have added bare bones power point slides that you can edit yourself. The content is still there, but the clip art has been removed.

I developed these lessons using:
Literary Essay: Opening Texts and Seeing More, Grade 5
By Katie Clements, Mike Ochs, Teachers College Reading & Writing Project, Colleagues from The Reading and Writing Project, Edited by Lucy Calkins, Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Columbia University.

The touchstone texts for these lessons are: "Spaghetti" by Cynthia Rylant, "The Marble Champ" by Gary Soto, and "Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros. You will need copies of Rylant's book "Every Living Thing", Soto's book "Baseball in April and Other Stories", and Cisneros' book "Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories" to read aloud.

Purchased separately, these materials would cost $28.
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Eleven Exemplar
Marble Champ Exemplar
Wringer Exemplar
Mini Rubric Introduction
Mini Rubric Body Paragraph
Mini Rubric Conclusion
Revision and Editing Checklist

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Teaching Duration

2 Weeks


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