Welcome to The Literacy Cookbook

Recipes for Effective Literacy Instruction

Analyzing Literature

Most of us become teachers because we love to read. If we do our jobs well, our students will love it, too. This section includes handouts (in the Download Zone) that you can use with literature to engage students in higher-level thinking.

BIG PICTURE ADVICE: Check out this TLC Blog post: "CLOSE READING STRATEGIES: Literature Edition."



Check out this TLC Blog post on "Teaching Students How to Set a Purpose for Reading."

Focusing on CHARACTERS?

Looking at characters' values/virtues?  This Website provides some helpful background information about different values/virtues and includes relevant quotations. (Thanks to Giselle Salandy for this lead!)

Studying vocabulary on characters' traits?  Here are some useful links:

Working on literary devices/terms?  This handy Website provides definitions and examples of dozens and dozens.

Discussing tone and mood?  Here's a handy reference with an overview and lists of tone and mood words.  Consider also the hilarious Dog Diary vs. Cat Diary.  Another piece that deals with perspective in a humorous way is Russell Baker's NY Times "Observer" column retelling "Little Miss Muffet" from various perspectives.

Teaching symbolism?

Teaching hyperbole?  Consider the Monty Python skit "The Four Yorkshiremen," which is completely hilarious.  Here is the text.  Here is the YouTube video of the skit.

Inferring themes?  Read this blog post and download the "How to Infer Themes ORGANIZER."

Focusing on genre?



Media Literacy?


This Website run by the Poetry Foundation is FANTASTIC, offering a great selection of poems.

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has assembled a great list of resources, including information on national poetry festivals and Websites where you can find awesome poems.

Check out "Poets in Performance" by Bill Moyers & Company.  Here's what you'll find: "Over the years, Bill Moyers has welcomed some of America’s best poets to share their works and inspiration. Many of those writers have performed at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, which Bill and his colleagues covered for television specials including Fooling with Words (1999), The Language of Life (1995) and Sounds of Poetry(1999). Below, enjoy a showcase of such poetry from past productions and very recently from Moyers & Company, performed by the poets who dreamed them up, or by other artists who, like Bill, simply adore poetry."

For grades 3-5, see also Poems to Play With (in Class): Sample Unit of Study for Grades 3-5 by NYC Dept. of Education.

See also 28 Must-Share Poems for Elementary School and 24 Must-Share Poems for Middle and High School.

See also Poetry in America: "Poetry in America gathers distinguished interpreters from all walks of life to explore and debate 12 unforgettable American poems. Athletes, poets, politicians, musicians, architects, scientists, actors, entrepreneurs, and citizens of all ages join together with host and Harvard professor Elisa New to experience and share the power of poetry."

This MiddleWeb blog post on "Ideas to Integrate Poetry Throughout the Year" by Megan Kelly has some great suggestions!

Also, see these resources in the Download Zone:

Trying to teach MAIN IDEA through FICTION?

Looking for an alternative to “questions about the chapter”?

For tips on how to help students write strong paragraph responses, see this MiddleWeb blog post, then use these tools:

Here are some additional tools:

Trying to prepare students for standardized tests?  Check out the Test Prep page and related sub-pages.  For additional excellent resources on reading instruction (esp. nonfiction text support), even if your state doesn't use PARCC assessments, check out the PARCC Prep page.

Are you a history teacher looking for ideas?

Interested in LITERARY CRITICISM?  Check out this Website, Introduction to Modern Literary Theory, which provides a comprehensive overview of numerous types of criticism, including key terms and many useful resources.  This Website is A MUST for high school (and college) English teachers!!! 


DESIGNING A CURRICULUM?  Check out the Curriculum Resources & Links page!


 Appleman, Deborah.  Critical Encounters in High School English: Teaching Literary Theory to Adolescents.  New York: Teachers College Press, 2000.





IN THE DOWNLOAD ZONE for Analyzing Literature:


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