10+ literary analysis practice worksheets + activities for your ELA class

by mindroar | Oct 10, 2022 | blog | 0 comments

Now, our previous post was about how to teach your students to do a literary analysis or critical analysis.  By now, you might be wondering if you can easily find a literary analysis practice worksheet to help your ELA students learn critical analysis skills. 

I figured that a follow-up post of worksheets and activities that you can quickly and easily use would be in order.

So if you are teaching your students literary analysis skills and you need a little help, check out these great literary analysis activities and worksheets to use in your ELA classroom.

1. Nouvelle ELA – quote analysis

The first resource we have for you today is this PowerPoint and analyzing quotes activity by Nouvelle ELA.  

The aim of the resources is to help your students learn to analyze and embed quotes in their writing.

In this fun literary analysis lesson, students analyze movie quotes and then have scaffolded help to practice embedding those quotes into their writing.  Students practice the skills of:

  • Identifying who said the quote
  • Summarizing the context of the quote, and
  • Analyzing why the quote matters

Included in the activity are

  • an editable PowerPoint that introduces how to analyze quotes
  • an Interactive notebook lesson
  • literary quote analysis homework worksheet that is print and go
  • and an editable literary quote analysis homework sheet

2. A moonlighting English teacher – prose analysis and close reading

The second literary analysis practice worksheet we have today is this prose analysis and close reading bundle by A moonlighting English teacher.

The bundle includes activities to help students understand over 55 high-level literary terms, as well as practice and improve their skills in close reading and critical analysis.

While most of the resources were designed with specific texts in mind, most are able to stand alone as individual lessons or resources and are easily adaptable to whatever texts you are using in your class.  

Included in the bundle are:

  • a list of every literary term and definition covered in each activity  in the bundle
  • AP Literature prose analysis essay materials, including prose analysis passages and activities from The Poisonwood Bible , The Things They Carried , The Good Earth , Nectar in a Sieve , and Remembering
  • an AP Literature prose analysis essay activity that helps students break down two official sample essays
  • AP Literature prose essay materials, including advice and model outlines, a self-assessment, an a general rubric
  • seven creative activities to analyze literary devices in any novel or story, which is also distance-learning compatible
  • an activity to scaffold improving prose analysis commentary using Nectar in a Sieve
  • an activity on diction and motifs using The Good Earth
  • two quote analysis activities using The Good Earth
  • a nonfiction analysis and a rhetorical analysis handout
  • an activity on humor using The Poisonwood Bible
  • an activity on specific syntax devices using The Poisonwood Bible and an activity on the usage of low diction using The Things They Carried
  • a general AP Literature prose analysis essay practice/outline worksheet
  • creative activities on tone using The Poisonwood Bible and irony using Cry, the Beloved Country
  • and a self-created prose essay assignment 

3. Reading the rapids – identifying literary elements

Other great literary analysis lessons include these ones by Reading the rapids.  This fun bundle will help your students identify literary elements.

Students learn and reinforce their learning by watching animated shorts, using graphic organizers, applying their learning in activities, and assessing their peers.  Literary elements students learn about include:

  • direct and indirect characterization 
  • types of conflict (man vs self/man/society/technology/nature/supernatural) 
  • what is and is not an inference
  • types of irony 
  • juxtaposition
  • mood and tone
  • personification

The bundle covers many different CCSS and each lesson plan states which skills are covered in that lesson.

The author also has this great free literary device inventory and reflection to help you work out your students’ level of knowledge about literary devices.  It also uses animated shorts so that the activity is fun and engaging for students to complete.

3. Tracee Orman – showing evidence from the text

The next literary analysis practice worksheet is included in this activity by Tracee Orman. In the activities, students will learn how to adequately show evidence from the text. 

In the activity, students use three non-fiction texts and questions to practice citing evidence from the text.  Suggested answers for each question are included, as well as the evidence students should use.

The passages include interesting scenarios including

  • a woman and her son are sprayed with poop from a plane flying overhead
  • a woman takes in two kittens only to find out they’re bobcats
  • a federal court rules on whether a monkey (or other animal/non-human) can sue for copyright infringement.

The files are provided as non-editable PDFs or a Google slides version of the worksheet for students to respond to digitally.

4. Reading and writing haven – analyzing different text types

The next literary analysis practice worksheet we have for you is this bundle by Reading and writing haven. The bundle enables students to practice analyzing a variety of texts, including non-fiction, fiction, paired texts, short films, movies, advertisements, and poetry.  

The materials and the scaffolding guiding questions and prompts enable students to better understand how to analyze texts.  Included in the bundle are  

  • a direct instruction presentation and guided notes that breaks down the concept of analyzing 
  • a whole-class analyzing activity that uses a poem, a short film, and two political cartoons (suggested use is included) 
  • an assignment that contains scaffolded questions to use with any text
  • a short film analysis assignment (of Night and Day ) with scaffolded questions and an extended response (film available on YouTube)
  • seven graphic organizers to use with a variety of texts (commercials, songs, fiction, nonfiction, poems, movies, and paired texts – text suggestions/recommendations with links are included)
  • a pre- and post-assessment 
  • a literary analysis essay example to help move students from analyzing verbally to analyzing in a literary analysis format
  • an editable single-point rubric and outline with guiding questions to accompany the literary analysis essay
  • a unit overview (recommendations for order and text ideas)
  • suggested texts and links to sources to use for whole-class modeling purposes

5. Secondary Sara – finding evidence from the text

Another way to get your students to practice literary analysis when studying any novel is by using this fun activity by Secondary Sara.

The Common Core-aligned activity is set up as a “conspiracy theory” that students have to “prove”.  To do so, students practice finding and using evidence to back up a claim. 

In the activity, student groups choose a question about the novel and come up with a “conspiracy theory” (thesis) to answer that question.

While reading, small groups gather text evidence from the novel and analyze it using a four-step method: What does it SAY?, What does it MEAN?, Why does it MATTER?, How does it prove your THESIS?

Once they have completed the novel and graphic organizer, students give presentations on their thesis and the evidence they collected to support it. 

The rest of the class actively listens by following along with their own listening guide to track who said what.

You can also use an optional follow-up essay assignment to individually assess literary analysis skills.

Included in the download are:

  • a rubric that clearly assesses speaking standards
  • teacher guide that provides essential questions, I Can statements, CCSS standards for grades 6-8, a sample calendar of lessons, and tips for successful implementation of the group project. 
  • directions sheet and rubric
  • thesis statement development/approval sheet
  • case file planning sheet (chart to collect and analyze text evidence while reading)
  • listening guide for presentations
  • sample PowerPoint template to give students so they know how to format and organize all of their evidence (and it helps them transition into an essay later)
  • literary analysis essay assignment (directions and rubric)
  • Google, Word, and PDF versions
  • bonus pages: a nonfiction activity to research what conspiracy theories are, evaluating evidence in a theory mini-lesson, and analyzing the quality of an essay’s claims mini-lesson 

7. Write on with Miss G – low-risk literary analysis practice

Another fun literary analysis practice worksheet is included in this speed-dating lesson by Write on with Miss G.  The discussion and literary analysis activities work with any novel.

In the activity, students are paired up to discuss questions aligned with the Common Core standards.  After each round, students rotate to a new partner and discuss a new question.

By the end of class, students will have interacted with 15+ peers and discussed 15+ questions! This means students get lots of low-risk, repeated practice in the peer-to-peer setting. 

This literary analysis practice activity enables your entire class to participate in literary analysis in a low-risk setting and set students up for success in whole-class discussions (that you can do following the speed-dating lesson).

This activity works best at the end of a novel, as it contains questions that ask about “the big picture” (theme, symbolism, etc.)

  • detailed teacher instructions
  • editable student worksheet with an exit ticket
  • 27 editable  Common Core-aligned question cards 
  • blank question cards (so you can add your own questions)

Literary elements covered in the questions include

  • author’s choices
  • author’s purpose
  • character development
  • word choice
  • point of view
  • objective summary
  • and structure

8. Tracee Orman – interactive flipbook

Another literary analysis practice worksheet is included in this interactive notebook flipbook for any novel by Tracee Orman.

You can choose to use the literary analysis activity as an interactive flipbook, or you can choose to use them as literary analysis practice worksheets.  

The activities cover six main areas.  These areas are

  • character development: students must analyze how the setting, events, and other characters have influenced each other
  • setting: students analyze how the setting affects the tone of the story and how different themes utilize the setting to convey their messages
  • point-of-view: students evaluate either first-person, third-person limited, or third-person omniscient narration–depending on the novel or story–and how different events, the setting, and other characters impact the way it is narrated; students also analyze why the author chose that perspective and how it influences different themes 
  • plot analysis: students choose different events from the novel and analyze how each contributes to the tension and conflict in the story; students also evaluate the author’s structure of the story and why/how the author uses various literary techniques for storytelling
  • literary and figurative devices: students examine the words used in various quotes and how they change or impact the tone and mood of the story; students also identify and explain various figurative language devices such as simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, idiom, and imagery
  • overall effects: students dissect a theme to see which characters, events, and elements of the setting helped deepen its meaning of it.

Using these literary analysis practice worksheets or interactive notebooks, students practice higher-level critical-thinking skills which include analysis, synthesis, inference, summarizing, and more.

The activities can be used at any point in the text and can be reused at any point, making them even more versatile. They are perfect for stations, group work, or individual independent reading.

9. Teen tech university – analyzing author’s tone

The next literary analysis practice worksheet is included in this activity by Teen tech university, which focuses on teaching students how to analyze the author’s tone in writing.  

Included in the product are

  • an analyzing tone Google Slides presentation (30+ slides)
  • DIDLS charts for strategic tone analysis – they show students how to analyze diction, imagery, details, language, and syntax
  • four poems to analyze – they are all on the same subject but have a different tone
  • teacher’s key for ALL poems and activities
  • tone tweets activity – students analyze 15 real-life tweets with a student handout and a teacher answer key
  • engaging reading passages for practice and application
  • an assessable application activity – a high school graduation where two teens with very different viewpoints
  • a writing application activity – My greatest fear
  • tone words reference sheet (positive, neutral, and negative connotation)
  • annotation activities for active reading and examples
  • teacher notes and pacing guide
  • Google Drive sharing links for all resources AND pdf handouts provided for printing options.

10. Celebrating Secondary – literary analysis of short films

Another fun way to get your students to practice literary analysis is to use short films to introduce, practice, or review the process.  This bundle by Celebrating secondary enables students to practice literary analysis in a low-risk setting by analyzing short films.

Included in the bundle are two products: Literary analysis using Pixar short films and Literary analysis using short films.  Literary topics and skills covered by the activities include:

  • characterization
  • connotation
  • social commentary
  • author’s purpose
  • and many more

The product includes links to Pixar shorts, including Bao, Lou, Lifted, Partly Cloudy, and La Luna .  It also includes links to short films, including Lambs, Nuggets, Snack Attack, Soar, and The Little Shoemaker .

A suggested answer key is included, but because the activities are analysis-based answers will vary.  

11. Miss Fits – “recipe” of a text analysis

The last literary analysis practice worksheet is included in this recipe book project by Miss Fits.

In the CCSS-aligned project, students show their understanding and interpretation of the main ideas and themes of a literary work in a fun and creative way. They will practice citing textual evidence to support their examination of a literary work, including themes and characterization. 

This activity works fantastically with books that have a large emphasis on food, such as 

Lara Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate , Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, or The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.  

However, it can also be used with other texts, with the creator saying she’s used it with a class reading George Orwell’s 1984 and another student using it as an alternative project for  The Handmaid’s Tale.

Included in the product are:

  • an assignment sheet explaining the objective and instructions for the project
  • rubric (editable version also included)
  • an imagery tracker
  • a creative symbolism exercise
  • step-by-step recipe worksheet to help students create their projects, and
  • sample entries

Want more literary analysis content?

Check out these blog posts

  • Literary analysis: how to teach your ELA students to analyze
  • 5 research-backed reasons you should be teaching mind mapping

Want a literary analysis example to show your ELA students? Sign up to have an example literary analysis of Jane Austen’s Emma delivered to your inbox.

A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis

Use the guidelines below to learn about the practice of close reading.

When your teachers or professors ask you to analyze a literary text, they often look for something frequently called close reading. Close reading is deep analysis of how a literary text works; it is both a reading process and something you include in a literary analysis paper, though in a refined form.

Fiction writers and poets build texts out of many central components, including subject, form, and specific word choices. Literary analysis involves examining these components, which allows us to find in small parts of the text clues to help us understand the whole. For example, if an author writes a novel in the form of a personal journal about a character’s daily life, but that journal reads like a series of lab reports, what do we learn about that character? What is the effect of picking a word like “tome” instead of “book”? In effect, you are putting the author’s choices under a microscope.

The process of close reading should produce a lot of questions. It is when you begin to answer these questions that you are ready to participate thoughtfully in class discussion or write a literary analysis paper that makes the most of your close reading work.

Close reading sometimes feels like over-analyzing, but don’t worry. Close reading is a process of finding as much information as you can in order to form as many questions as you can. When it is time to write your paper and formalize your close reading, you will sort through your work to figure out what is most convincing and helpful to the argument you hope to make and, conversely, what seems like a stretch. This guide imagines you are sitting down to read a text for the first time on your way to developing an argument about a text and writing a paper. To give one example of how to do this, we will read the poem “Design” by famous American poet Robert Frost and attend to four major components of literary texts: subject, form, word choice (diction), and theme.

If you want even more information about approaching poems specifically, take a look at our guide: How to Read a Poem .

As our guide to reading poetry suggests, have a pencil out when you read a text. Make notes in the margins, underline important words, place question marks where you are confused by something. Of course, if you are reading in a library book, you should keep all your notes on a separate piece of paper. If you are not making marks directly on, in, and beside the text, be sure to note line numbers or even quote portions of the text so you have enough context to remember what you found interesting.

literary analysis assignment sheet

Design I found a dimpled spider, fat and white, On a white heal-all, holding up a moth Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth— Assorted characters of death and blight Mixed ready to begin the morning right, Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth— A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth, And dead wings carried like a paper kite. What had that flower to do with being white, The wayside blue and innocent heal-all? What brought the kindred spider to that height, Then steered the white moth thither in the night? What but design of darkness to appall?— If design govern in a thing so small.

The subject of a literary text is simply what the text is about. What is its plot? What is its most important topic? What image does it describe? It’s easy to think of novels and stories as having plots, but sometimes it helps to think of poetry as having a kind of plot as well. When you examine the subject of a text, you want to develop some preliminary ideas about the text and make sure you understand its major concerns before you dig deeper.


In “Design,” the speaker describes a scene: a white spider holding a moth on a white flower. The flower is a heal-all, the blooms of which are usually violet-blue. This heal-all is unusual. The speaker then poses a series of questions, asking why this heal-all is white instead of blue and how the spider and moth found this particular flower. How did this situation arise?

The speaker’s questions seem simple, but they are actually fairly nuanced. We can use them as a guide for our own as we go forward with our close reading.

  • Furthering the speaker’s simple “how did this happen,” we might ask, is the scene in this poem a manufactured situation?
  • The white moth and white spider each use the atypical white flower as camouflage in search of sanctuary and supper respectively. Did these flora and fauna come together for a purpose?
  • Does the speaker have a stance about whether there is a purpose behind the scene? If so, what is it?
  • How will other elements of the text relate to the unpleasantness and uncertainty in our first look at the poem’s subject?

After thinking about local questions, we have to zoom out. Ultimately, what is this text about?

Form is how a text is put together. When you look at a text, observe how the author has arranged it. If it is a novel, is it written in the first person? How is the novel divided? If it is a short story, why did the author choose to write short-form fiction instead of a novel or novella? Examining the form of a text can help you develop a starting set of questions in your reading, which then may guide further questions stemming from even closer attention to the specific words the author chooses. A little background research on form and what different forms can mean makes it easier to figure out why and how the author’s choices are important.

Most poems follow rules or principles of form; even free verse poems are marked by the author’s choices in line breaks, rhythm, and rhyme—even if none of these exists, which is a notable choice in itself. Here’s an example of thinking through these elements in “Design.”

In “Design,” Frost chooses an Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet form: fourteen lines in iambic pentameter consisting of an octave (a stanza of eight lines) and a sestet (a stanza of six lines). We will focus on rhyme scheme and stanza structure rather than meter for the purposes of this guide. A typical Italian sonnet has a specific rhyme scheme for the octave:

a b b a a b b a

There’s more variation in the sestet rhymes, but one of the more common schemes is

c d e c d e

Conventionally, the octave introduces a problem or question which the sestet then resolves. The point at which the sonnet goes from the problem/question to the resolution is called the volta, or turn. (Note that we are speaking only in generalities here; there is a great deal of variation.)

Frost uses the usual octave scheme with “-ite”/”-ight” (a) and “oth” (b) sounds: “white,” “moth,” “cloth,” “blight,” “right,” “broth,” “froth,” “kite.” However, his sestet follows an unusual scheme with “-ite”/”-ight” and “all” sounds:

a c a a c c

Now, we have a few questions with which we can start:

  • Why use an Italian sonnet?
  • Why use an unusual scheme in the sestet?
  • What problem/question and resolution (if any) does Frost offer?
  • What is the volta in this poem?
  • In other words, what is the point?

Italian sonnets have a long tradition; many careful readers recognize the form and know what to expect from his octave, volta, and sestet. Frost seems to do something fairly standard in the octave in presenting a situation; however, the turn Frost makes is not to resolution, but to questions and uncertainty. A white spider sitting on a white flower has killed a white moth.

  • How did these elements come together?
  • Was the moth’s death random or by design?
  • Is one worse than the other?

We can guess right away that Frost’s disruption of the usual purpose of the sestet has something to do with his disruption of its rhyme scheme. Looking even more closely at the text will help us refine our observations and guesses.

Word Choice, or Diction

Looking at the word choice of a text helps us “dig in” ever more deeply. If you are reading something longer, are there certain words that come up again and again? Are there words that stand out? While you are going through this process, it is best for you to assume that every word is important—again, you can decide whether something is really important later.

Even when you read prose, our guide for reading poetry offers good advice: read with a pencil and make notes. Mark the words that stand out, and perhaps write the questions you have in the margins or on a separate piece of paper. If you have ideas that may possibly answer your questions, write those down, too.

Let’s take a look at the first line of “Design”:

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white

The poem starts with something unpleasant: a spider. Then, as we look more closely at the adjectives describing the spider, we may see connotations of something that sounds unhealthy or unnatural. When we imagine spiders, we do not generally picture them dimpled and white; it is an uncommon and decidedly creepy image. There is dissonance between the spider and its descriptors, i.e., what is wrong with this picture? Already we have a question: what is going on with this spider?

We should look for additional clues further on in the text. The next two lines develop the image of the unusual, unpleasant-sounding spider:

On a white heal-all, holding up a moth Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—

Now we have a white flower (a heal-all, which usually has a violet-blue flower) and a white moth in addition to our white spider. Heal-alls have medicinal properties, as their name suggests, but this one seems to have a genetic mutation—perhaps like the spider? Does the mutation that changes the heal-all’s color also change its beneficial properties—could it be poisonous rather than curative? A white moth doesn’t seem remarkable, but it is “Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth,” or like manmade fabric that is artificially “rigid” rather than smooth and flowing like we imagine satin to be. We might think for a moment of a shroud or the lining of a coffin, but even that is awry, for neither should be stiff with death.

The first three lines of the poem’s octave introduce unpleasant natural images “of death and blight” (as the speaker puts it in line four). The flower and moth disrupt expectations: the heal-all is white instead of “blue and innocent,” and the moth is reduced to “rigid satin cloth” or “dead wings carried like a paper kite.” We might expect a spider to be unpleasant and deadly; the poem’s spider also has an unusual and unhealthy appearance.

  • The focus on whiteness in these lines has more to do with death than purity—can we understand that whiteness as being corpse-like rather than virtuous?

Well before the volta, Frost makes a “turn” away from nature as a retreat and haven; instead, he unearths its inherent dangers, making nature menacing. From three lines alone, we have a number of questions:

  • Will whiteness play a role in the rest of the poem?
  • How does “design”—an arrangement of these circumstances—fit with a scene of death?
  • What other juxtapositions might we encounter?

These disruptions and dissonances recollect Frost’s alteration to the standard Italian sonnet form: finding the ways and places in which form and word choice go together will help us begin to unravel some larger concepts the poem itself addresses.

Put simply, themes are major ideas in a text. Many texts, especially longer forms like novels and plays, have multiple themes. That’s good news when you are close reading because it means there are many different ways you can think through the questions you develop.

So far in our reading of “Design,” our questions revolve around disruption: disruption of form, disruption of expectations in the description of certain images. Discovering a concept or idea that links multiple questions or observations you have made is the beginning of a discovery of theme.

What is happening with disruption in “Design”? What point is Frost making? Observations about other elements in the text help you address the idea of disruption in more depth. Here is where we look back at the work we have already done: What is the text about? What is notable about the form, and how does it support or undermine what the words say? Does the specific language of the text highlight, or redirect, certain ideas?

In this example, we are looking to determine what kind(s) of disruption the poem contains or describes. Rather than “disruption,” we want to see what kind of disruption, or whether indeed Frost uses disruptions in form and language to communicate something opposite: design.

Sample Analysis

After you make notes, formulate questions, and set tentative hypotheses, you must analyze the subject of your close reading. Literary analysis is another process of reading (and writing!) that allows you to make a claim about the text. It is also the point at which you turn a critical eye to your earlier questions and observations to find the most compelling points, discarding the ones that are a “stretch.” By “stretch,” we mean that we must discard points that are fascinating but have no clear connection to the text as a whole. (We recommend a separate document for recording the brilliant ideas that don’t quite fit this time around.)

Here follows an excerpt from a brief analysis of “Design” based on the close reading above. This example focuses on some lines in great detail in order to unpack the meaning and significance of the poem’s language. By commenting on the different elements of close reading we have discussed, it takes the results of our close reading to offer one particular way into the text. (In case you were thinking about using this sample as your own, be warned: it has no thesis and it is easily discoverable on the web. Plus it doesn’t have a title.)

Frost’s speaker brews unlikely associations in the first stanza of the poem. The “Assorted characters of death and blight / Mixed ready to begin the morning right” make of the grotesque scene an equally grotesque mockery of a breakfast cereal (4–5). These lines are almost singsong in meter and it is easy to imagine them set to a radio jingle. A pun on “right”/”rite” slides the “characters of death and blight” into their expected concoction: a “witches’ broth” (6). These juxtapositions—a healthy breakfast that is also a potion for dark magic—are borne out when our “fat and white” spider becomes “a snow-drop”—an early spring flower associated with renewal—and the moth as “dead wings carried like a paper kite” (1, 7, 8). Like the mutant heal-all that hosts the moth’s death, the spider becomes a deadly flower; the harmless moth becomes a child’s toy, but as “dead wings,” more like a puppet made of a skull. The volta offers no resolution for our unsettled expectations. Having observed the scene and detailed its elements in all their unpleasantness, the speaker turns to questions rather than answers. How did “The wayside blue and innocent heal-all” end up white and bleached like a bone (10)? How did its “kindred spider” find the white flower, which was its perfect hiding place (11)? Was the moth, then, also searching for camouflage, only to meet its end? Using another question as a disguise, the speaker offers a hypothesis: “What but design of darkness to appall?” (13). This question sounds rhetorical, as though the only reason for such an unlikely combination of flora and fauna is some “design of darkness.” Some force, the speaker suggests, assembled the white spider, flower, and moth to snuff out the moth’s life. Such a design appalls, or horrifies. We might also consider the speaker asking what other force but dark design could use something as simple as appalling in its other sense (making pale or white) to effect death. However, the poem does not close with a question, but with a statement. The speaker’s “If design govern in a thing so small” establishes a condition for the octave’s questions after the fact (14). There is no point in considering the dark design that brought together “assorted characters of death and blight” if such an event is too minor, too physically small to be the work of some force unknown. Ending on an “if” clause has the effect of rendering the poem still more uncertain in its conclusions: not only are we faced with unanswered questions, we are now not even sure those questions are valid in the first place. Behind the speaker and the disturbing scene, we have Frost and his defiance of our expectations for a Petrarchan sonnet. Like whatever designer may have altered the flower and attracted the spider to kill the moth, the poet built his poem “wrong” with a purpose in mind. Design surely governs in a poem, however small; does Frost also have a dark design? Can we compare a scene in nature to a carefully constructed sonnet?

A Note on Organization

Your goal in a paper about literature is to communicate your best and most interesting ideas to your reader. Depending on the type of paper you have been assigned, your ideas may need to be organized in service of a thesis to which everything should link back. It is best to ask your instructor about the expectations for your paper.

Knowing how to organize these papers can be tricky, in part because there is no single right answer—only more and less effective answers. You may decide to organize your paper thematically, or by tackling each idea sequentially; you may choose to order your ideas by their importance to your argument or to the poem. If you are comparing and contrasting two texts, you might work thematically or by addressing first one text and then the other. One way to approach a text may be to start with the beginning of the novel, story, play, or poem, and work your way toward its end. For example, here is the rough structure of the example above: The author of the sample decided to use the poem itself as an organizational guide, at least for this part of the analysis.

  • A paragraph about the octave.
  • A paragraph about the volta.
  • A paragraph about the penultimate line (13).
  • A paragraph about the final line (14).
  • A paragraph addressing form that suggests a transition to the next section of the paper.

You will have to decide for yourself the best way to communicate your ideas to your reader. Is it easier to follow your points when you write about each part of the text in detail before moving on? Or is your work clearer when you work through each big idea—the significance of whiteness, the effect of an altered sonnet form, and so on—sequentially?

We suggest you write your paper however is easiest for you then move things around during revision if you need to.

Further Reading

If you really want to master the practice of reading and writing about literature, we recommend Sylvan Barnet and William E. Cain’s wonderful book, A Short Guide to Writing about Literature . Barnet and Cain offer not only definitions and descriptions of processes, but examples of explications and analyses, as well as checklists for you, the author of the paper. The Short Guide is certainly not the only available reference for writing about literature, but it is an excellent guide and reminder for new writers and veterans alike.

literary analysis assignment sheet

Academic and Professional Writing

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10 of the Best Literary Analysis Activities to Elevate Thinking

Inside this Post: Ready to elevate your literary analysis lessons? This post is full of engaging and effective activities to help students master literary analysis topics.

Literary analysis has become the beating heart of English classes around the world. When students read a text, we want them to peel back the layers one by one, appreciating the deeper meaning that lies within each sentence. As English teachers, many of us connect with texts easily and persevere through complex literature naturally. For our students, this process is not always as enjoyable.

In this post, you’ll find suggestions for elevating thinking with middle and high school students. These ideas can be used with paired or individual texts and can be differentiated to reach a variety of learners.

Engaging and Effective Literary Analysis Activities

Literary analysis elements are best when they are engaging and elevate thinking without frustrating students. I’ve played around with different approaches, and these are the key elements that resonate most with students.

Model literary analysis for middle and high school students with think alouds #MiddleSchoolELA #HighSchoolELA #LiteraryAnalysis

1. Thinking Aloud

One of the best feelings as a teacher is knowing you have an entire class full of teenagers engaged. It’s amazing how every single student in a classroom is in tune with think alouds. Something about making thinking transparent challenges students of all readiness levels. With literary analysis lessons, I love providing think alouds with the whole class. Whether we do this via face to face instruction or by creating a short video for virtual classrooms, we have to model our thinking.

Here’s an example with “All the world’s a stage” from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It …

This speech, at first, seems complicated. But, Shakespeare is talking about the world being a stage, and I think there is something deeper to what he is saying. Let’s go back again and look for clues. The men and women are players on the stage. He writes that they have their exits and entrances. I’m trying to visualize that in my head now. The world is a stage, the people are actors, and when they walk on and off the stage, that is their theatrical entrance and exit. Now that I understand he is using this speech as an extended metaphor, I wonder why would Shakespeare is choosing to compare these two things?

When modeling literary analysis, we can break down our thought process. If we write a written response, we can scaffold by color coding our thoughts in order to highlight the necessary critical thinking steps.

  • First, acknowledge what is confusing or uncertain about the text. What might we be missing as readers?
  • Second, make observations.
  • Third, apply reading strategies (in this case, I used visualizing).
  • Last, teach students to ask questions that probe at the deeper meaning and reason for the writing.

2. Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are one of my go-to strategies for elevating thinking . We can use them to differentiate and to guide students as we work in small groups. I like to keep a variety of literary analysis graphic organizers for any text on hand so that I can be responsive. If students show a need to work on analyzing a specific literary element – characterization, plot, theme, conflict, etcetera – I use a graphic organizer as we read a text or excerpt together, modeling my thinking. Then, students can practice using the same organizer in small groups, partners, or independently.

Literary analysis consists of asking a bunch of questions to lead students to deeper thinking, and graphic organizers are a bridge that walks students down that path of purposeful questioning.

Grab this print and digital literary analysis graphic organizer for analyzing song lyrics – one of secondary students’ favorite texts to pick apart!

Nothing grabs a student’s attention like an image! Visuals are amazing tools for introducing literary analysis skills. I always begin my literary analysis unit with pictures. Using an image, we can quickly show students how to differentiate between summarizing and analyzing . Then, we can walk them through the steps of acknowledging what we might be missing, making observations, applying reading strategies, and questioning for deeper meaning.

Consider using images from a variety of sources. We can try historical images, political cartoons, famous paintings, graphic novels, wordless picture books, advertisements, or even just regular photographs.

I even work this type of analytical thinking into my vocabulary activities ! Students get used to interpreting photos and using textual evidence to support their thinking.

Use one pagers as an engaging way to analyze literature #OnePagers #LiteraryAnalysis #MiddleSchoolELA

4. One Pagers

One pagers are one of my favorite literary analysis activities. In order to make them meaningful, I incorporate scaffolding . So, students have access to standards-aligned goals and questions that prompt their responses to the text. Choice helps as well. We can allow students to choose digital or traditional , response angles, and even texts.

In terms of literary analysis benefits, we can really focus on asking students to cite textual evidence to track a universal theme. While doing so, students can draw conclusions about how literary elements work together or how they provide tension to impact a reader’s overall takeaway.

5. Colorful Charts

Mood and tone can be tricky for students to analyze. So that they can understand the difference between them but also so that they see how mood and tone work in tandem, I began using an equalizer metaphor . Students can use color and amplification to analyze how mood and tone change throughout a literary work. By creating a visual representation, there’s a direct connection between the mood and the storyline.

How does setting impact mood , and how does mood impact the conflict in the story?

For instance, the quiet beauty of the Capulet garden sets the stage for a romantic balcony scene, but the noisy bustle of the lewd fighting in the Verona streets helps to define the conflict and tension between the two feuding families.

With tone , how does the author’s word choice and sentence structure in each section convey his or her attitude in the work?

As we study the amplification of tone in the play Romeo and Juliet , we see a consistent change from light-hearted comedy to an intensely poetic and tragic seriousness. Over the course of the play, one might say that Shakespeare’s juxtaposition creates an overall sympathetic tone toward the star-crossed lovers.

Movement in ELA; sticky note activity for literary analysis #LiteraryAnalysis #MovementinClassroom #SecondaryELA

6. Get Moving

One of the issues when it comes to citing evidence in a literary analysis essay is finding relevant support. Sometimes, it seems like the lines students select from literature are completely disconnected from what they are writing. That may be because they don’t truly understand how their thesis connects to their main points or how their main points connect to the evidence. For some students, there are too many degrees of separation!

A kinesthetic option to address this issue involves Post-Its (or colored text boxes if you are doing this digitally) and a t-chart. At the top of the paper (use big paper or a white board if you can do this together in the classroom!), write the analytical point. What conclusion can students draw about characters, setting, or another literary element that would support their thesis statement?

Under that, label the T-Chart as “Relevant” and “Off Topic.” Then, you have some options.

BASIC: You identify support for students in advance and have them sort the support based on its relevance. Could they use it to analyze the text, or is it off topic?

ADVANCE: Ask students to find examples of relevant and off-topic lines from the text.

A MIXTURE:   Provide students with a handful of lines they can sort into relevant and off-topic categories, and then ask them to find a couple more examples on their own.

To increase the engagement factor, use some washi tape on the floor in the shape of whatever makes the most sense – a character outline for analyzing character, a house for analyzing setting, a circle for analyzing a universal theme. Then, have students stick their Post-It notes inside or outside of the shape. Inside indicates that the evidence is relevant, and outside means it’s off-topic.

7. Children’s Books

We don’t always think to use picture books with older students , but they are one of my absolute favorite ways to scaffold literary analysis! Because picture books are short, we can cover an entire (and often complex) story in a short period of time. And, we can continually refer back to that text throughout the school year. Because picture books are accessible for all students, they will remember sharing the story together, and you can really make significant strides with whole-class discussions and small group lessons.

Try using picture books to teach Notice and Note signposts, language, aesthetics, and theme . One of my favorite ways to use picture books is teaching students to analyze how dialogue impacts decisions, propels action, and develops characters. For example, in the book Elbow Grease , the protagonist is motivated to participate in a race for which he is the underdog simply because some crass comments from his friends make him angry. This really is the turning point in the story, which makes it convenient to analyze how dialogue can lead to decisions and actions that change the course of a storyline.

8. Short Films

For a thousand and one reasons, I adore short films. They’re short (obvious, I know), which makes them ideal for modeling and mini lessons. Plus, they are visually captivating and apply to a wide age range. And, generally, they hold quite a bit of depth and leave room for a variety of interpretations.

During first quarter with ninth graders, I built in a yearly routine of watching short films during our literary analysis unit and having students complete their first full analytical essay. It’s fun. I can model using a short film I enjoy. Then, I get to read a wide range of responses from students who choose different texts. To scaffold for struggling writers, I suggest a few short films I am very familiar with; this way, I can guide them if they get stuck or confused.

You can also build in short films by using them with poetry for paired text analysis .

Reading strategy activities for middle and high school ELA #ReadingStrategies #LiteraryAnalysis

9. Reading Strategies

One of the building blocks of literary analysis is having a good foundation in apply reading strategies. It’s fun to model what readers do. We can show students how analyzing texts and re-reading for deeper meaning helps us with writing and then ask students to practice those skills.

For instance, when students begin to understand that authors have a purposeful craft that impacts their reading experience, it empowers them to pick that craft apart, studying the nuances of what makes it work. And, it gives them an advantage as authors themselves. They may think,  I remember how the author’s purposeful use of short, staccato sentences and onomatopoeias increased the suspense during that scene. Maybe I should use those techniques in this part of my story to add an emotional element for my readers.

These are some of the graphic organizers I’ve used to scaffold reading strategy work with the whole class, and then students can transfer those skills to small group or independent practice, using the same organizer if necessary.

10. Social Media Activities

Social media is everywhere. We might as well use it as a relevant option for analyzing literature! One of my favorites is booksnaps , and I tie in Snapchat by having them take a photo of part of the text they want to analyze. Then, they add interpretations, images, and text as well as a caption with a more detailed analysis. I call these Snap-a-Books.  I also created a Spot-a-Book analysis option, reminiscent of Spotify playlists. Students can create playlists relevant to character analysis, setting analysis, conflict analysis, and more!

And, that’s ten! I hope you’ve found some meaningful literary analysis activities to spark creative, critical thinking in your classroom.

Engaging and effective literary analysis lessons and activities for middle and high school ELA #LiteraryAnalysis #MiddleSchoolELA #HighSchoolELA

You May Also Enjoy:

5 poetry and short films combinations for paired text analysis #highschoolela #analyzingpoetry

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  • How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.

Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :

  • An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
  • A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
  • A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.

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Table of contents

Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion, other interesting articles.

The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.

To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.

Language choices

Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?

What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).

Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

  • Who is telling the story?
  • How are they telling it?

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?

Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.

The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?

Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.

  • Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
  • Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
  • Plays are divided into scenes and acts.

Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.

There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?

With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.

In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for  dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

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Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.

If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:

Essay question example

Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?

Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:

Thesis statement example

Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.

Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.

Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.

Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:

Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:

The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:

Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.

Finding textual evidence

To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.

It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.

To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.

Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.

A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.

If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.

“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The introduction

The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.

A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.

Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!

If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.

The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.

Paragraph structure

A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.

In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.

Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.

Topic sentences

To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:

… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.

Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.

This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.

Using textual evidence

A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.

It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:

It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.

In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:

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The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.

A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

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10.1: Assignment: Critical Analysis Essay

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Assignment Sheet–Essay #1: Critical Analysis (700-1000 words)

For this essay, you will be doing a critical analysis on any of the literary readings assigned for this class. The purpose of this assignment is to get you to move beyond the surface level meaning of a text and to analyze its deeper meaning.

Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to-

  • move beyond summarizing the story
  • assess or analyze what you read
  • offer interpretations and judgments about what you read
  • give evidence to support your evaluation

A Successful Essay:

  • Will properly introduce the story and author
  • Will provide a clear thesis that makes a claim about a story and uses evidence to support that claim
  • Will thoroughly analyze a reading, not merely summarize it
  • Will properly integrate evidence from the reading in MLA format
  •  Analyze the plot, the meaning of the sequence of events in one of the literary readings. When analyzing the plot, one should not simply list the events that occur but rather WHY they occur. You want to make your assertion arguable. Perhaps you want to argue about a cause or an effect of a certain event. Perhaps you want to show how an event changed a character or what the underlying message is behind the event. Why did the author make a certain event occur? What was the effect on the audience?
  • Analyze an important symbol or motif (series of interlinked symbols), in one of the readings.  Tell us what you think a certain symbol in the story represents.   For example: In “A Good Man is Hard to Find” religion symbolizes____________ or In “Everyday Use” the quilt symbolizes____________ .  Be sure to use direct description from the text to describe they symbol and use examples to prove what it symbolizes. Remember that colors can also be symbolic.
  • Analyze an important character in one of the readings. Why did the author represent a character in a certain way? What underlying message is the author trying to send? Is the character stereotypical or unusual in any way? Why would the author portray him/her that way? What are the motives of the character? What actions characterize him/her? Did the character have a change of heart? What caused it?

A Checklist

  •  Make sure your final version is in MLA format (Times New Roman, size 12, double-spaced) including in-text citations when referring to the reading and a works cited page.
  • When referring to the reading, remember that the author isn’t necessarily the one telling the story. If it is fiction, it probably has a narrator. Thus, you would want to refer to the “narrator” or “speaker” when referencing the reading.
  • Come up with your own title. The title of your essay should not be the title of the reading you are analyzing. The title should make it clear what your essay is about. Do not underline, bold, or italicize your title.
  • There is no need to say “I think” or “I believe” as you are writing this essay. Because you are the writer, we inherently know that these are your beliefs.
  • In the introduction, be sure to formally introduce the reading that you are analyzing it by mentioning the title and the author. Also, provide a brief summary of the story. For example:  In the short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, we read about a family who goes on a road trip to Florida where a series of events leads to their eventual demise.
  • The thesis should come at the end of the introduction. It should consist of a claim + evidence. For example: In “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the grandmother tries to manipulate her son, her grandchildren, and the Misfit in order to get her way. Because of her manipulative ways, her entire family meets its end.
  • When writing about literature, one must always use present tense.
  • Be sure each body paragraph starts with claim and NOT summary.

Claim : The grandmother tries to manipulate her son, Bailey, in order to get her way.

Summary : In the beginning of the story, the grandmother and her son Bailey are sitting at the kitchen table. The grandmother is reading and newspaper and tells her son that they should not go to Florida because there is a misfit on the loose.

You always want to start with a claim and then go to the story for evidence. i.e. The grandmother tries to manipulate her son, Bailey, in order to get her way. One example that shows how the grandmother tries to manipulate her son is when she tells him that they shouldn’t go to Florida because there is a criminal on the loose. She tells him that it would be dangerous to take his children there. She’s trying to manipulate Bailey by making him feel like a bad parent for putting his children in harm’s way when the real reason she doesn’t want to go to Florida is because she wants to go East Tennessee instead. Another way the grandmother tries to manipulate her son is when she…. So on, and so forth.

A handout of this assignment can be found here .

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What is the purpose of this page?

Creating rubrics, assignments, and lessons takes up too much of my time. I created this as a way to share the things that I have created/collected over the last ten years. In turn, I hope that other teachers would share their great handouts, rubrics, and lessons they have created to make all our lives a little bit easier. 

Where did these papers come from? 

I apologize if I have not given you credit where credit is due.

Feel free to use any of these materials for educational use  and edit to meet your instructional context.

Last updated 3/28/07

Thanks to Zack H. by 2nd semester T.A. for his hard work updating this page

&   Literary Analysis Paper &

Prewriting: Read the short stories which were distributed in class. Read " The Story of an Hour ." In class, you will read a student essay which analyzes it.

Assignment: You will write a 2-3 page standard literary analysis that explains your interpretation of short story.

These handouts may help you:

  • good questions to ask yourself when trying to interpret and analyze a story
  • a suggested structure for your literary analysis
  • Integrating quotations well in a literary analysis

  "Where to Put Your Hands" by Lee Tonouchi

"Say Yes" by Tobias Wolff

"Dog Life" by Mark Strand

"Can-Can" by Arturo Vivante

         Your aim is to convince readers that you have a reasonable analysis based on a thoughtful and imaginative reading of the story. Make sure you tell the reader in your first paragraph which story you're analyzing and who the author is.   Use quotation marks to enclose whatever you quote.   Use the MLA style of documentation. Do not make a separate Works Cited page for this assignment, since you are using only one source; instead, make a Work Cited entry at the end of your paper.   (600-750 words, typed, double-spaced). Click here for the information your need to do your Work Cited entry.

For the standard literary analysis, you might answer one of the following questions.   Your answer to the question will be your thesis.   Your interpretation of the story is valid as long as you can support it with quotes and information from the story.

Questions for your Literary Analysis paper: The answer to the question is your thesis.   Choose only one story to write about.

"Where to Put Your Hands" by Lee Tonouchi

What is the significance of hands in "Where to Put Your Hands" and how do they illustrate the narrator's growth in the story?
   What   do you think and/or feel about the husband's character in this story and what do you think Tobias Wolff is suggesting about the nature of racial prejudice through the husband's character and other images or descriptions in the story? What is the possible symbolism of the imagery of the domestic chores in "Say Yes" and what do they imply about the main characters' marriage?
What do you think the story is really about?    What descriptions and events in the story contribute to your interpretation?

"Can-Can" by Arturo Vivante.  

What do you think the author is suggesting about infidelity   in "Can-Can?" Support your interpretation with evidence from the story.

  Deadlines:   Rough draft due Monday, June 23.

                 Final draft due Tuesday, June 24.

Grading Criteria for regular literary analysis:

English 1101

In the News: Researching and Writing about Current Events

English 1101

V. Literary Analysis

Feel free to print out the entire Unit V, if necessary for easier access.

11/28 – 12/12

Story telling is a craft with roots stretching back to the beginning of humankind. It has been at once an art form, a science and a catalyst for the development of critical thinking skills. Critical thinking skills are necessary for – “parsing”, researching and writing about current events and related controversies. Composing the Literary Analysis unit requires transferring such critical thinking skills. Analyze the short story by identifying and describing problems, comparing and contrasting and explaining cause and effect relationships.

The short stories (see the list of short stories under “Readings” below), are assigned based on general themes selected at the beginning of the course. For more information on writing the literary analysis, see the links immediately below. Use the Literary Analysis Planning Worksheet to brainstorm, plan and get feedback during the planning stages of the Literary Analysis Essay.

For practice in analyzing short stories, use the Short Story Worksheet below to analyze short stories found in the videos listed below. Feel free to being the completed Short Story Worksheet to class as a resource for contributing to class discussions.

Literary Analysis Essays

Literary Terms

The due dates for  the following articles and videos are listed in the Unit Schedule, at the end of this unit.

Adici, Chimamanda Ngozi, “A Private Experience” [Women]

Eco, Umberto, “The Gorge” [Environmentalism]

Far, Sui Sin, “In the Land of the Free” [Immigration]

Hughes, Langston, “Seven People Dancing” [Racism]

Muslim, Kristina Ong, “Day of the Builders” [Technology]

Wong, Elizabeth, “China Doll”

Dassani, Rajeev, “A Day’s Work ” [immigration]

DUST, “Seam” [Technology]

Griffiths, D.W., “The Painted Lady” [Women]

Kampenhout, Willem, “The Surface” [Environmentalism]

Lemon, Kerith, “A Social Life” [Social Media and Entertainment]

Sanger, Erin, “The Bombshell” [Racism]

Literary Analysis Worksheet

This Literary Analysis Worksheet can be used to brainstorm about how given authors (or filmmakers) use literary and dramatic elements to make specific persuasive points. Use this worksheet to analyze assigned short stories and video dramas. is useful while analyzing assigned short stories and videos that contain short dramas. When answering. type the name of the work of short story or video being examined in the space provided at the top of the form. While answering the various questions, be sure to include evidence from the short story or video to support the points that you make. Refer to your completed worksheet during class discussions and small group collaborations. To access the worksheet, click on the link below.


Literary Analysis Essay Planning Worksheet

This worksheet is useful during the brainstorming phase of composing the literary analysis essay. completed worksheet can also serve as a basis for creating an outline that helps to create the first draft of the essay. It might help to first study the Literary Analysis Assignment Description below. Then complete the planning worksheet immediately below. In answering the questions, be sure to reference specific sections or pages of the short story. For this assignment, select the story [see the list above] that most relates to the overall theme assigned to your small group at the beginning of the course. Be sure to type the name of the story in the appropriate space at the top of the worksheet. To access the worksheet, click on the link below.

Literary Analysis Essay Assignment Description

After selecting the short story that most directly relates to the theme selected at the beginning of the term, be sure to consider the short story in the light of information gained while composing the first three assigned essay of the term. Information gained through the brainstorming phase of this assignment (using the Planning Worksheet) will also be useful. In composing the essay, be sure to answer the following questions:  

  • What is the main problem addressed in this short story?
  • What statement about this problem does the author appear to be making? In other words, what point is the author trying to make?
  • In what ways does the author arrange the elements of the plot and characterization in order to make this point?
  • In what ways does information from your earlier essays help to understand the story?
  • Is the author’s story consistent with or contradictory to your own conclusions from earlier research?
  • If not, what changes would you have made in the story so that it would be more in agreement with your own viewpoint?

  Possible Outline

  • Very Brief Plot Summary
  • Very Brief Statement of Problem with which the Story Deals
  • Thesis: Point Author is Making in this Story
  • Itinerary: Brief Summary List of Main Ways the Author Makes His Points
  • Author’s Strategy #1 [Plot?]
  • Author’s Strategy #2 [Characterizations?]
  • Author’s Strategy #3 [Other Literary Elements?]
  • Other Observations [Considering your Previous Research]

Unit Five – Literary Analysis

Unit Six Schedule

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Literary analysis assignment sheet.

Saundra Scott , CUNY College of Staten Island Follow

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This is an assignment sheet for a literary analysis paper. The Literary Analysis paper is based off of two articles + a short story. The short story, "The Lesson" is an innovative and compelling story about young Black/African American Children understanding how the world doesn't favor those who are considered "poor;" they learn about social injustice.

The two articles by Elizabeth Peterson: "How "Bad English" Works Against Us" and "African American English" help students strengthen the connection between what African American English (AAE) is to how it is portrayed in Bambara's short story. Peterson explains the grammatical features of AAE and where it originated from.

This assignment sheet is useful for intro linguistics courses or first-year composition courses (particularly ones focused on research or even higher level English courses).

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Tips to Do Literary Analysis Assignment

Literary analysis refers to the cat reading a text closely to examine it and judge why the author made certain choices. It involves coming up with arguments on the topic an author has written about. It always applies to short stories, plays, novels, and any other literary writing.

The following are the tips on how to start a college literature analysis paper:

  • Generate good ideas for the text first

You should generate the literary analysis essay assignment outline to guide you when writing English paper assignment. Consider whether your assignment gives a specific critical approach or not. Ensure that you look for words that will tell you what to do. For example, look for words such as compare, contrast, interpret, and so on. Then you are now ready to give your literature homework answers.

  • Choose the appropriate method of analyzing the text

When writing your English paper assignment, your assignment may specify a particular method of giving your answer, or sometimes it may not. If it doesn’t specify, three literature homework help approaches you may use to give your literature homework answers.

To begin with, focus on the text itself. Ensure you trace the development and expression of the theme, character, and language used to convey the work. Try to pay more attention to how these aspects bring particular meaning, tone, and so on.

Also, you can give your response as a reader. One of the literature homework help gives you a leeway to explore how a text affects you as you try to read through it. Begin by reading closely, and you should notice various elements that will shape your responses.

Lastly, you may focus your response on the context. This means that you will have to analyze the text as part of the larger context, for example, a certain culture.

  • Read your work several times

When handling an English literature assignment, there are things that one experiences; the story, plot, and the overall meaning of the text. Experiencing this work every time can help you see how its effects are achieved, what pieces are and how they fit each other. You will also realize how the other crafted the work.

  • Write a convincing thesis

Your English literature paper assignment thesis should be brief, specific, and open to disagreement by others. Also, it should be rational, and it should not be evaluative. Your goal should focus on suggesting one way of seeing the text.

  • Back your claim with proper evidence

The parts that you examine in your close readings are the ones that you will use as your evidence when giving out your literature homework answers. Discuss how the text creates an effect and then prove it with evidence from the text.

  • Consider the style that has been used

Literature homework help tends to analyze how certain conversations are using verbs and pronouns. When you are dealing with informal papers, it is ok to use the first person, but you must make direct assertions informal essays.

Literary analysis involves reading a text closely and coming up with judgments and criticisms. It always applies to plays, novels, short stories, poems, etc. The above points in this article give you a way forward to do literary analysis without struggling. Success as begin doing it!

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