Literature & Reading Tools

The Dialectical Journal & Rubric:

A Dialectical Journal is one of my favorite tools for novel study, an active reading strategy. Readers are instructed to select a portion of a passage from a text, commenting or responding with a discussion about the passage’s significance.  Dialectical Journals are presented in a “T-Chart” format, with text evidence and page number on the left and responses on the right side of the page. Assign 1 or more entries per chapter, and lead students to search for passages that reflect the literary elements. Distribute this Dialectical Journal Rubric – teachatx at the beginning of the assignment to encourage self-analysis and purposeful selection of passages. Keep More Ideas For Novels Than You’ll Ever Use In a School Year handy for “any time” reading activities.

Allusions & Archetypes:

All students should become critical readers, having the ability to read a text and to analyze it for quality, value, relevance and more.  They should be able to answer the question, “What makes this book a quality piece of literature, a classic?”  When we give them the tools to use, they can do this with ease and at an early age.  When teaching English, I always introduce ALLUSIONS early in the school year.  In studying the classics, Shakespeare, and great literary works, we find that references to Greek mythology and Bible simply abound throughout most of the works.  We taught a Greek Mythology and Bible unit so that students could list and identify the symbols and stories for using in the analysis of other literary works. If a student can recognize the allusion, the symbol, in the text he/she is reading, he can better interpret and analyze the novel or book on a much higher level.  For example, a good reader will recognize that an apple (in a story) might mean something more, such as the character is about to be tempted, an allusion to the Fall of Man in the Bible. Don’t be overwhelmed at the number of terms listed.  Just scan the list and select one or some that might work well with your topic, selection, or unit, and be sure students know that they might see similar stories, situations, and symbols in other places.

ARCHETYPES…like allusion, archetypes are everywhere! Students who can recognize archetypes in literature and film will easily become critical readers and viewers.  I found this Power Point presentation online, which can be easily shown in part or in its entirety.  Then have students read a selection or watch a movie and find the archetypes.  In my previous life as an English teacher, we would learn about allusion and archetype first.  Then we would watch “The Lion King” and find examples of both.  There are SO MANY good movies to use as teaching tools.

IN A NUTSHELL – I prefer to introduce students to stories from Greek mythology and Bible.  When they know the stories, they can find the allusions.  Introducin a simple archetype, like the Hero’s Journey compliments a study of allusion.  When the student can understand the Hero’s Journey, he/she will recognize it in other literary forms.  Then you can talk about allusions and archetypes that may be present in the books they read for pleasure, in movies that you watch together, and more.  My students were amazed at how often they would recognize allusion and archetype outside of the classroom…which really is the goal, creating lifelong learners.


Shakespeare & Shakespeare Tales (paraphrased versions of the plays) – “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is recommended for younger readers.

The Giver by Lois Lowrey

The Chronicles of Narnia – by C.S. Lewis