Standard Lesson

Reader Response in Hypertext: Making Personal Connections to Literature

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Six 50-minute sessions
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In this lesson plan, students choose four quotations to inspire personal responses to a novel that they have read. Students write a narrative of place, a character sketch, an extended metaphor poem, and a persuasive essay then link all four texts to the quotations they selected. If desired, students incorporate photos into their presentation then publish the collected texts on their website. This lesson is used with novels that contain a strong sense of place, that focus on closeness of characters, and that are metaphorical in character, such as A River Runs Through It, Montana 1948, and The Bean Trees.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

This lesson asks students "to develop and explore their personal responses to literature," which Allen Carey-Webb identifies is the basic teaching strategy that "put[s] the ‘reader response' theory into practice" (6-7). As Carey-Webb explains in more detail, "Rather than lecture, recitation, or the discovery of some predetermined meaning, reader response teachers favor small- and large-group discussions, literature circles, creative writing, and dramatic and artistic activities that help students engage actively with what they read and express their individual responses and understandings" (7). This lesson adopts the reader-response techniques of asking students to engage with the texts that they read and respond individually in multiple genres.

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.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 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.
  • 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



  • Choose book(s) from the booklist or similar novels, and decide whether to complete the project as a whole class activity or based on books that students read in literature circle novel or independently.

  • Familiarize yourself with the Web editing software available for students to use to publish their final drafts.

  • Decide how you will structure the lesson. The instructional plan included here asks students to read the book and gather quotations using Quotation Journal Recording Sheet before they begin the project. If you'd prefer to have students work on the project while they are reading, you might use the Daily Response Journal instructions rather than the recording sheet.

  • If desired, make copies of handouts for project and writing assignments or arrange for overhead. Most of the assignments can also be given verbally.

  • Choose a poem to use as a model for the extended metaphor poem. Possible titles include Emily Dickinson’s “There is No Frigate like a Book,” Jane Yolen’s “Fat Is Not a Fairy Tale,” or Eve Merriam’s “Willow and Ginkgo."

  • Test the Persuasion Map on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • demonstrate their understanding of setting, character, metaphor, and theme by writing responses based on each literary element.

  • show their personal connections to a piece of literature by keeping quotation journals.

  • write short papers in various genres (description, character sketch, extended metaphor poem, persuasive essays) showing personal connections to the novel.

  • publish their project to a personal or school Website or to a disk or CD.

Reading the Novel

  1. Before students begin reading the book(s) you’ve chosen, pass out and explain the Quotation Journal Recording Sheet.

  2. As a group, choose a few quotations from the novel and complete sample entries on the recording sheet to model the technique for students.

  3. Emphasize that student responses to the text are the goal of this part of the process. Students are choosing quotations that are meaningful to them. It’s likely that students will choose different passages as they read the texts.

  4. After students understand the process of recording quotations, read and discuss the novel(s) chosen, as whole class or in small groups.

  5. Have students use their Quotation Journal Recording Sheets to stimulate group discussion.

Session One: Project Overview

  1. Ask students to review their Quotation Journal Recording Sheets, looking for quotations they found particularly meaningful as they were reading.

  2. Working in small groups or as a whole class, invite students to share the quotations that they identify and to explain why they have chosen them. This process can serve as a review of the elements of the novel in order to prepare students for the writing project they will complete in subsequent sessions.

  3. As students discuss, ask them to pay particular attention to how the quotations relate to the literary features of setting, plot, and metaphor.

  4. After students have had a chance to review their entries, pass out the Hypertext Response Project.

  5. Explain the Hypertext Response Project that students will complete:

    Create a Web page with four quotations from the book and four photographs that illustrate the quotations. These quotations each communicate a different piece of information about the novel:

    • a quotation that shows the importance of place (the setting) in the novel

    • a quotation that shows the relationship between two characters (e.g., for A River Runs Through It, the two brothers)

    • a quotation that helps establish the metaphor explored in the book (e.g., for A River Runs Through It, the river or fly-fishing is a metaphor for life)

    • the quote of the novel, the one passage or quotation that captures the essence, the true meaning, of the novel for you
    Next, write four hyperlinked pieces—an essay of place, a character sketch, an extended metaphor poem, and a persuasive essay explaining the quotation you've chosen as the quotation of the book.

  6. In the process of explaining the project, make connections to the Planning Sheet, which uses a table to help students organize their ideas and the details for their projects. Explain that all the items under the "Main Page with Illustrations" column belong on the first page. The "Four Subpages" column is for the topics and the filenames for the four pages that link to the quotations on the main page.

  7. Explain any filenaming guidelines (see example) that you want students to follow and connect these guidelines to the rows where students record their filenames on the Planning Sheet.

  8. As a class, identify an example of each type of quotation, using a text that they are all familiar with to provide a model for students’ work.

  9. Remind students that these quotations are individual and there are many options, so their choices will likely be different when they work on their hypertext project. There is no single correct quotation to choose.

  10. Share the Writing Rubric that will be used to evaluate the final projects and answer any questions students have about the requirements.

  11. In the time remaining or for homework, ask students to choose four quotations for their project and to use the Planning Sheet to begin thinking about their project.

Session Two: Essay of Place

  1. To get students started on the first of their linked pieces of writing, explain the requirements for the Essay of Place assignment:

    Write a descriptive essay about a place that has had some special meaning in your life—a place that is still a part of you. Provide specific physical details about the place, and explain how this place helped form you into the person you are today.

    As you get started, take a few minutes to think about how you want to order your essay: What will you summarize? What will you dramatize? Will you use chronological order or flashback?

    Publish your essay of place on a new Web page. Link the page to the quotation of place that you've chosen from your novel.

  2. Provide an example from a book or short story that all the students are familiar with to work through the process of choosing a focus and gathering details for the piece. For example, in the novel A River Runs Through It, the characters Norman and Paul have a strong sense of place. They are part of Montana and the river, and the river and Montana are part of them.

  3. Review information on description using your textbook, LEO: Descriptive Essay from The Write Place, or Descriptive Essays from the Purdue OWL.

  4. Lead students through some focused writing with the following prompts, allowing several minutes for writing between each question, to begin gathering details and ideas for the essay:

    • Think of a place that you want to describe—why is this place important to you? why do you want to tell someone else about it?

    • Now that you have a particular place in mind, focus on your senses. First, what do you see when you look at the place?

    • Next, talk about what you hear in the place. Try to describe the sounds (e.g., gurgling water or the buzz-z-z-z-z of the motor).

    • What do you smell and taste in this place?

    • How do you feel when you are in this place? What emotions does this place bring to mind?

    • Would someone else feel the same way? What would someone else notice? Would someone else see, hear, and smell the same things that you do?

    • What do you want someone who reads your essay to know about this place? What is the most important thing that they learn about it?
  5. After gathering their ideas by responding to these prompts, students can begin drafting their essay and creating Web pages, following the instructions in the Essay of Place assignment to publish their work. Remind students to return to their Planning Sheets to check the relationships among their files and the filenames.

Session Three: Character Sketch

  1. To get students started, explain the requirements for the Character Sketch assignment:

    Write a character sketch of someone who has had some special meaning in your life. Provide specific details about the person and your relationship, and explain how this person helped form you into who you are today.

    Publish your character sketch on a new Web page. Link the page to the quotation that you've chosen from your novel, which shows the relationship between two characters.

  2. If desired, review the adjective part of speech, using the Capital Community College “Guide to Grammar and Writing” Website or your grammar textbook as a reference.

  3. Brainstorm a list of character traits or provide a short list on the board, to provide a sample for students.

  4. Working from the information on adjectives and the sample character traits, compose a class definition of the literary term.

  5. Using a character from a work that students have read, demonstrate the process of compiling a list of character traits, using online resources such as an Internet dictionary or thesaurus or the thesaurus in Microsoft Word. Share the list of character traits with students, if desired.

  6. Introduce the character sketches by asking students to think of a person who is important to them in their lives. Provide an example that students are familiar with, from a reading, movie, or television show. For instance, in A River Runs Through It, the relationship between Norman and Paul is full of conflicts but still extremely close. Even though he is the younger brother, Paul has a profound influence on Norman's life. If Norman were writing in response to this assignment, he might write a character sketch of Paul.

  7. After students have chosen someone to write about, ask them to respond to the following prompts, allowing several minutes for writing between each question, to begin gathering details and ideas for their character sketches:

    • Think about the person you want to write about—why is this person important to you? why do you want to tell someone else about him or her?

    • Now that you have a particular person in mind, focus on giving your readers a strong image of the person. First, what do you see when you look at the person? How does the person dress? Describe the person’s gestures or facial expressions.

    • Next, talk about how the person talks. What topics does the person talk about? What kind of words does the person use? What makes you recognize this person’s voice?

    • What values are important to this person? What does the person care most about, and how can you tell?

    • Think of a specific time you were with this person. Briefly tell the story of your time together—just get your ideas down. You can expand on them later.

    • What kind of emotional reaction do you want your reader to have to this person? How do you want your reader to feel after reading about him or her?
  8. After gathering their ideas by responding to these prompts, students can begin drafting their essays and creating Web pages. Remind students to return to their Planning Sheets to check the relationships among their files and the filenames.

  9. Distribute the How to Write a Character Sketch handout to give students additional support as they write.

  10. If desired, explore the sample character sketch with students, pointing out the characteristics that make the example successful.

Session Four: Extended Metaphor Poem

  1. Read the poem you’ve chosen aloud to students, asking them to listen to the words only during this first reading.

  2. Pass out copies of the poem or display the poem using an overhead projector.

  3. Read the poem aloud again, asking students to follow along.

  4. Ask students what they notice about the poem, and list their responses on the board or chart paper.

  5. If students have not yet identified the elements in the poem, ask a student to define the literary terms metaphor and simile. Alternately, you can point to a definition in your textbook, or use the following definitions: A metaphor compares two things by stating that one thing is the other. For example, in the novel A River Runs Through It, the river or fly-fishing is a metaphor for life. A simile compares two things using like or as.

  6. Read the poem through another time, asking students to listen for these literary elements.

  7. Ask students to identify how the poem uses an extended comparison to make its point.

  8. Using the poem that you’ve chosen as a model and their observations, ask students to create a list of the characteristics of an extended metaphor poem (e.g., the first line typically states the comparison, the poem focuses on one comparison).

  9. Once you’re sure that students understand what an extended metaphor poem is, explain the requirements of the extended metaphor poem assignment:

    Write an extended metaphor poem based on a comparison similar to that explored in the book that you've read. Your poem can include both metaphors and similes. Publish your poem on a new Web page, and link that page to the quotation that you've chosen from your novel to represent the metaphor that is explored in the story.

  10. Ask students to create a T-chart, with one column labeled for the metaphor and the other for what it stands for. For instance, for the novel A River Runs Through It, the river is the metaphor (column one) and it stands for life (column two).

  11. To demonstrate the idea-gathering process, ask students to brainstorm descriptive words and phrases under each column.

  12. As a class, shape the words students have gathered into a poem, pointing to the list of characteristics the class has gathered.

  13. To begin work on their own poems, ask students to identify the metaphor explored in the novel they are focusing on for this project.

  14. Have students brainstorm a list of alternative metaphors that could stand for the main issue (e.g., metaphors for life might be a football game, a great party, or a garden).

  15. Ask students to choose one item on their list and gather ideas for that metaphor.

  16. Have students create two columns, as they did for the example, and brainstorm details and images.

  17. If desired, students can use the two-circle Interactive Venn Diagram to organize their comparisons.

  18. After gathering their ideas in these two columns, students can begin drafting their extended metaphor poems and creating the related Web pages and linking to the quotation from the novel that establishes its overarching metaphor. Remind students to return to their Planning Sheets to check the relationships among their files and the filenames.

Session Five: Persuasive Essay

  1. Explain the requirements for the Persuasive Essay assignment:

    Focus your essay on the reasons that the quotation you’ve chosen is “The Quotation of the Book.” Persuade your readers that the quotation captures the story’s essence, or true meaning. Explain the reasons why this one passage should be saved if the book were ever lost or destroyed.

    Publish your persuasive essay on a new Web page. Link the page to the quotation that you've chosen from your novel.

  2. Have students brainstorm a list of reasons that they chose the quotation. Encourage them to take this opportunity to record initial ideas, which will serve as a springboard to further discussion.

  3. Once students have had time to gather their ideas, divide students into small groups.

  4. In their groups, ask students to share their quotation and explain why they selected the passage. As guiding questions, ask students to consider the following in their groups:

    • How does the quotation impress, intrigue, or puzzle you?

    • What about the author’s use of language is appealing or powerful?

    • What makes the language grab your attention? Is it beautiful, descriptive, or graphic?

    • Why is the passage particularly meaningful?

    • How does the passage relate to the book’s message, meaning, or theme?
  5. As they share ideas, have students take notes on their conversations to use later as they write their essays.

  6. Demonstrate the Persuasion Map, explaining how to use the tool to organize notes for the completed essay.

  7. Allow students the remainder of the class to complete the Persuasion Map for their quotations and work on their essays. Remind students to return to their Planning Sheets to check the relationships among their files and the filenames.

Additional Work Sessions

Allow students additional sessions to work on their projects. Students should be given enough time to complete their writing, publish their pages, and check their links. Once their drafts are complete, students should share their pages with at least one other student, who will check students’ links and share reactions and suggestions.

Session Six: Sharing and Peer Feedback

  1. Give students five minutes to make last-minute preparations and to check their sites.

  2. Have students share the addresses for their files with the class or in their groups.

  3. Divide students into small groups, and ask each group member to read and respond to every other group members work using the following guiding questions:

    • Of the four pieces included (essay of place, character sketch, extended metaphor poem, and persuasive essay), which did you like the most and why?

    • Which of the four pieces had the strongest connection to the quotation? What made the connection so strong?

    • Which of the four pieces did you like the most and why?

    • What suggestions do you have for the author?
  4. After students have responded to the texts of all group members, ask students to read the feedback and use the information to make any final changes to their texts before submitting them for final evaluation at the beginning of the next session (or later if you want to allow students additional time to work on revisions).

  5. Remind students of the requirements included on the Writing Rubric, which will be used to evaluate the final projects, and answer any questions students have.


  • Poster Displays
    Set aside a bulletin board or wall for students’ projects. Have students work in small groups (3-5) on the assignment, each group creating a poster display. To structure the work, ask students to divided their posters into four sections:

    1. One that shows the importance of place in the novel

    2. One that shows the relationship between the two brothers

    3. One that helps establish the metaphor explored in the novel

    4. One that focuses on the quote of the novel

    Ask students to take pictures, draw original illustrations, or go through magazines to find pictures that illustrate their chosen quotations. These are also placed on the poster board.

  • Group Publications
    In a classroom with limited computers, have students work in groups to complete the project, with one group homepage linked to related photos and quotations. Student could link their individual essays to this home page.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Part of this lesson can be evaluated by the students. Using the Self-Reflection assessment handout, ask students to compile a reflective narrative tracing the steps they took in the process, what they had problems with, how they worked out their problems, and how they feel about their final project.

  • Teachers may evaluate both the process and the final project by keeping anecdotal records of students' participation in the process. They may also wish to use the Writing Rubric for the written artifact.

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