Standard Lesson

Focusing Reader Response Through Vocabulary Analysis

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 50-minute sessions
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Adding one word at a time, students compile a list of words associated with a novel they have recently read, ranging from details about the plot to feelings about a character. Small groups of students then arrange the collected words into at least four categories using an online tool. Finally, students share their work by creating and presenting posters, which are discussed by the whole group. The discussion ranges from vocabulary and comprehension to literary analysis and reader response. Words from The Hobbit are used in the lesson as an example, but the lesson would work with any text students have read.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Literary analysis can be intimidating to students who want to find the "correct" interpretation. When given the opportunity, however, "students are very capable of discovering a great deal . . . simply by exploring their thoughts, ideas, and feelings, instead of worrying about whether their analysis matches [the teacher's]" (Anzul, 30). Through reader-response activities, such as this one, students are guided by their own thoughts, experiences, and questions instead of those of the teacher or textbook. At all times, the focus is on the importance of students creating their own meaning, independent of their teachers, in order to see that analysis is an active process.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

Materials and Technology

  • Class set of a novel

  • Supplies to create posters



Student Objectives

Students will

  • analyze a novel or another piece of literature.

  • classify a list of self-selected words related to the novel.

  • explain the classification system behind their choices.

  • evaluate their own and other students' classification systems.

Session One

  1. Write the name of the novel on the board, an overhead transparency, or a piece of chart paper. Students will use the list for several sessions so be sure to choose an area of the board that will not be erased or use chart paper or transparencies.

  2. Explain that the class is going to compile a list of words associated with the reading, with each person in the class contributing at least one word.

  3. Share an overhead or handout of The Hobbit Word List as an example and answer any questions.

  4. Move through the class, asking each student to share a word, building the class list word-by-word.

  5. If students need additional support, ask them what they remember, feel, question, and see when recall the novel. Stress that there are no wrong answers.

  6. As each students provides a word, add the word to the board, transparency or chart paper. You may also ask students to write the words down in their notebooks so that they have their own copies.

  7. Continue going around the classroom until each student has contributed one word. No word is unacceptable if the student can explain it. For example, if a student suggests “boring,” accept it if it is how the student feels about the novel.

  8. Once every student has contributed, open up the floor and invite students to share additional words. Manage the process in the way that works best for your students—free sharing, raising hands, and so forth.

  9. Continue the process until you have 30 to 40 words in your class list. This portion of the activity usually takes 15–20 minutes.

  10. Once you have a complete list, explain the next step of the activity:

    Working in small groups, you'll create a classification system that all the words will fit into. Your system will include at least five categories and each category will include at least four of the words on the list. You may use a word in more than one category, and you can may add words from the book.

    Once your categories are ready and your words all sorted, your group will make a poster and prepare to present your system to the rest of the class.

  11. Share the Hobbit Word Categories with the class, using the example to demonstrate the process of creating categories for a word list.

  12. Distribute and discuss the Word Categories Rubric, which explains the artifacts that students will produce and the assessment guidelines for their work.

  13. Explain that groups will have the remainder of this session to begin work on their categories.

  14. Answer any questions about the project, and arrange students into groups.

  15. Allow students the rest of the session to begin creating their categories.

  16. As students work, walk around the room, asking students to explain some of their choices and/or guiding them when they seem stuck on a word.

  17. A few minutes before the session ends, explain that work will continue during the next session and have students wrap up their ideas.

Session Two

  1. Remind students of the requirements of the project, pointing to the Word Categories Rubric.

  2. Explain that presentations will cover each group's basic classification system and will work through all their choices for one of the categories.

  3. Pass out copies of the Hobbit Word Web, or display a transparency of the document.

  4. Explain how the Hobbit Word Web shows three categories of words from The Hobbit Word List.

  5. Demonstrate the ReadWriteThink Webbing Tool, and remind students of the requirements for the word webs. The Webbing Tool will make it easy for students to move words from one category to another as they try out categories and combinations.

  6. Remind students to print copies of their word web for everyone in the group plus one copy for you. If desired, students might print out a copy of their web on a transparency so that they can easily share it with the class during Session Three.

  7. Ask students to use the session to finish arranging their words into categories and creating posters for their presentation.

  8. Point students to classroom supplies for making their posters (e.g., markers, colored pencils, poster board, and paper).

  9. Watch time during the session, and remind students of their goals. About half-way through the class, encourage students to have finished creating their categories and making their word webs. With 30 minutes left in the class, students should be working on their posters and planning their presentations.

  10. If necessary, students can continue working on their posters for homework.

  11. Remind students that they should come to the next session with everything they need to present their categories to the class.

Session Three

  1. Give groups a few minutes at the beginning of the session to make last minute preparations for their presentations.

  2. Have each group display their poster and, if desired, their word web.

  3. Ask each group to present their basic classification system and to work through all their choices for one category.

  4. Once all the presentations have been made, ask students to share their impressions of one another's classification systems.

  5. For homework, ask students to write a paragraph (or a longer piece of writing) that explains one category from their classification system fully. The paragraph should let the audience know why the selected certain words fit the category.

  6. Use the Word Categories Rubric to remind students of the requirements for their explanations.

  7. Share the Sample Explanation and discuss how it meets the criteria.

  8. Answer any questions, and remind students of the work they will submit at the beginning of the next session (their poster, word web, and explanation).


Create a class glossary for the book, based on your word list. Ask each student to create at least one page that explains a particular word on the list and its relationship to the story. Use the Alphabet Organizer to publish the pages and create your class book.

Student Assessment / Reflections

For formal assessment, use the Word Categories Rubric, which includes criteria for all of the artifacts that students produce during this activity. Additionally, you can ask students to freewrite on how and why this activity affected their understanding of the novel.

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