Sometimes the best way to teach students how to write a GOOD response is by having them write a BAD one – and making it better.

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Here’s a mini lesson on Writing about Reading from Lori’s new book Marvelous Minilessons for Teaching Intermediate Writing, Grades 3-8.

Learning Goal: Students will be able to identify an effective response and apply it in their own writing.

I DO: Show students some examples of extended responses at different levels of quality, such as those below:

In Jack in the Beanstalk, who is the villain and who is the hero?  Why do you think so?

  1. Jack is the hero.
  1. Jack is the hero and the giant is the villain because Jack is good and the giant is bad.
  1. The giant is the villain because he is mean and bloodthirsty. He threatens to eat Jack and drink his blood. Jack is the hero because he gets food for his mother.
  1. Jack is really the villain because he broke into the giant’s house and stole his magic hen and golden harp. The giant was only protecting his own property. There is no hero in this story because Jack was a thief and the giant threatened to kill Jack.


WE DO: Talk together about what makes some responses more or less effective than others. You might want to construct an anchor chart of criteria for an effective extended response. Better yet, develop some criteria for different levels of responses, such as:

GREAT!  Shows critical thinking about the text.  The answer goes deeper than the obvious. There is direct evidence and examples from the text.

GOOD!  Shows understanding of the text and the question. There is good support from the text.

OKAY –  Shows some understanding of the text and the question, but didn’t offer much support from the text.

NEEDS WORK –  Doesn’t show understanding of the text or response to the question.

Provide a prompt or question related to a familiar text and have students collaborate to construct a basic level response.  Then work in teams to improve that response to make it Good or Great.

YOU DO:  This might be a good time to introduce a formal Rubric for Reader Response.  Revisit the criteria for effective responses frequently and make students accountable for considering these criteria whenever they are tasked with writing a written response.

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