Literature Response Activities for Elementary Students

Elementary students enjoy responding to literature in small discussion groups.
... Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

Literature response activities require elementary grade students to go beyond summarizing their reading selections. In a literature response, students must connect to the story, through their empathy toward characters or insight into the cause and effect of plot events. Planned literary response activities draw students into literature to experience the power it has to change lives.

1 Promote Discussion

Form literature circles in your classroom to give students a chance to discuss the book they are reading. This works well with students in third grade and up. Divide students into groups of four that meet once or twice a week to discuss literature. First, have groups summarize what has been read so far and give them prompts which will guide them into productive discussions. For example, discuss certain actions of the characters that caused events to proceed in a specific direction: How did you feel about the character’s actions? What would you have done in that situation? Did the characters surprise you? What questions do you have about the story that you would like to discuss? What do you think will happen next?

2 Create Literary Trading Cards

Students in all elementary grades can choose a character from a book the class is reading and design a character analysis trading card for that character. Make sure each character is analyzed by more than one student. On the front of the card, describe the physical attributes of the character through an illustration. On the back, list attributes of the character such as strengths, weaknesses and personality traits. Gather the cards together and compare and discuss how different students described the same character: Were the descriptions similar? What was alike about the descriptions? What was different? What does this say about a reader’s subjectivity?

3 Design a "Literature Makes Sense" Bulletin Board

Create a bulletin board titled “Literature Makes Sense.” Give each student a 4 inch by 5 inch piece of card stock and instruct them to draw two columns of five rows. In the first column, list the five senses. On the spaces next to each sense, list an element of the story where the author appeals to the reader’s senses. For example, in Kate DiCamillo’s book “The Tale of Desperaux,” students could write “Despereaux Tilling was a tiny mouse with very large ears” in the sight column. For sound, “Toulese heard cake crumbs falling to the floor.” For taste, “Merlot liked the taste of the glue in old books.” Use several different books and hang the cards on the bulletin board.

4 Modify Cause and Effect

Core curriculum standards require students as young as third grade to understand how a character’s actions affect the sequence of events in a story. Brainstorm with students to list the sequence of events in a plot. Write the events on the board. Focusing on specific events, ask how the actions of the characters contributed to that event. Ask how things may have been different if characters had behaved differently. Have students choose an event in the story and rewrite it as if one of the characters had made different decisions.

Debbie McCarson is a former English teacher and school business administrator. Her articles have appeared in "School Librarians’ Journal" and "The Encyclopedia of New Jersey." A South Jersey native, she is a regular contributor to "South Jersey MOM" magazine.