Standard Lesson

Name That Chapter! Discussing Summary and Interpretation Using Chapter Titles

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 50-minute sessions
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Writing conventions, like styles in fashion, seem to change with the times. While serialized writers such as Mark Twain and Charles Dickens typically named each of the chapters in their writings, modern writers typically do not give titles to individual chapters. Consider J. D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, and Harper Lee, for example, who merely number the chapters in their works.

Students first explore novels with named chapters, noting characteristics of the chapter titles. They then turn those characteristics into a set of guidelines that they will use to name unnamed chapters in another book they are reading. As students read their novel, they name the chapters, creating a cumulative list for the novel as they proceed. Students' titles are discussed and debated before the class settles on a choice. In the process, students actively explore reading comprehension, summary, paraphrase, accuracy, and connotation.

From Theory to Practice

Current research in reading emphasizes the interactive process. By naming chapters in this lesson, students take the responsibility for their own learning. They must reflect on their reading, make decisions, choose words carefully and exactly, and be prepared to justify their responses. Chapter titles create immediate discussion and debate. Finally, the cumulative list makes it possible for the entire class or the individual student to review an entire novel, whether using the author's titles, as in the case of a novel like A Tale of Two Cities, or newly created titles, as in the cases of Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird.

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

  • 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).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Chapter novel with untitled chapters (e.g., To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, or Beloved). Chapters may be numbered or simply indicated by page breaks and white space.

  • Chart paper and markers, or chalkboard and chalk

  • For comparison, have sample chapter books that have chapter titles available (e.g., The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Tale of Two Cities, or books from the Harry Potter series).



Student Objectives

Students will

  • explore the significance and purpose of chapter titles in a variety of novels.

  • create relevant chapter titles for a novel they are reading.

  • examine titles for relevant word choice and phrasing as well as accuracy.

  • work toward a balance between accurate summary and the promise of intrigue and mystery as they explore and choose titles.

Activity Introduction

  1. Divide students into small groups and give each group a sample novel or two that include chapter titles rather than numbered chapters. Ideally, choose books that students will have read or listened to so that the connections between chapter titles and chapter events will be clear.

  2. Have students explore the novels, gathering chapter titles and noting their characteristics. You can provide these questions to guide their exploration:

    • How does the chapter title relate to the chapter content?

    • Is there anything special or significant about the chapter title?

    • What is the grammatical structure of the chapter title?

    • What stands out about the word choice in the chapter title?

  3. After groups have had sufficient time to explore their novels, assemble them as a whole class again. Based on the information that they've gathered, ask students to brainstorm the characteristics that make a strong chapter title. Write the ideas on the board or on an overhead.

  4. With students, revise the brainstormed list into a series of guidelines that students will use as they create their own chapter titles for the novel that they are reading.

  5. For homework, have students create titles for the chapters they are reading.


Name that Chapter Activity

  1. At the beginning of class, ask students to share titles for the chapters that they have read. You can either share ideas as a full class or in small groups. If you have read more than one chapter for the class meeting, each group can consider a different chapter.

  2. Once possible titles are listed on the board or overhead projector, discuss the accuracy, word choice, and connotation of the titles. Ask students to consider whether the title offers summary, identifies a key term, "baits" the reader, or offers a bit of intrigue.

  3. After discussion and debate, the class can choose a title for each chapter and include the title on a cumulative list for the novel.

  4. Alternatively, students can fill out the Name That Chapter Handout, outlining the relationship between the title and the chapter itself. The sheets can provide a chapter-by-chapter summary of the novel that students can use to review their reading.

  5. As part of the chapter naming process, you can provide a mini-lesson on capitalization and punctuation of titles using information from your grammar handbook or the Purdue OWL.


Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Class discussion and debate of the possible chapter titles will provide students with feedback on the relationship to the chapter content, the title's phrasing, and its word choice.

  • If students complete the Name That Chapter Handout individually, use the Name That Chapter Rubric to evaluate their finished drafts.

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