Literary Analysis Peer Commentary Questions
(adapted from Analyzing Literature: A Guide for Students, by Sharon James McGee)
1. Read through the draft once for a first impression. What is your overall impression of this draft after your initial reading?
2. Now read the text again more slowly. In your own words, summarize the author's main claim. Does the author "prove" his/her point by the end of the essay? Is this claim reasonable and logical given your understanding of the original literary text? Explain. Does the claim seem unfounded or completely off base? If so, why?
3. Does the writer use effective evidence from the story to support his/her claim? Are there places where more evidence is needed to support the claim? If so, note those places. Has the writer used the evidence appropriately? In other words, has the writer accurately reflected the text author's intent? Have any quotes been taken out of context? Does the writer provide sufficient context for the quoted material to make sense?
4. Is the paper logically organized? Do the points lead smoothly from one to the next? Are there any big leaps of logic that the writer makes? If so, where are they?
5. Has the writer integrated quotes into the text appropriately? If not, note spots where the writer needs to do more.
6. Did the writer strike an effective balance between providing context for the evidence and plot summary? (Remember, an effective literary analysis does not rely on plot summary.)
7. Has the writer followed MLA documentation appropriately?
8. What suggestions do you have for this writer to improve the literary analysis?
Before revising your literary analysis, reflect on your essay now that you've had some distance from it. What do you think is the strongest part of your literary analysis? Why? What do you think is the weakest part? Why? Think about your claim: Is it reasonable and logical? Are you making a point you believe in or are you just trying to fulfill the assignment? Are you making the argument you want to make? If not, how can you revise your claim to reflect this new idea?
Consider the following points as you revise:
Is your claim clearly understood by your readers? How can you make your claim clearer?
Is your essay organized logically? Are your points connected with strong transitions to help your reader follow your argument?
Do you use sufficient evidence to support your claim? Do you need more evidence?
Have you integrated your quoted material smoothly into the text?
Did you follow proper MLA format?
Read your essay aloud. Are there any sentences that seem difficult to get through or confusing?
Opinion writing is essential for students in the upper elementary and middle grades. Writing about reading is a great place to start!
Students can use this checklist to evaluate their literary essay rough drafts before publishing. One version has a border; one version is borderless.
I developed this lesson 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 this lesson are: "The Marble Champ" by Gary Soto and "Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros. You will need copies of Soto's book "Baseball in April and Other Stories" and Cisneros' book "Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories" to read aloud.
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