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Home > Educator Resources > Literature Reviews

Literature Reviews

Reviewing literature promotes students' development of critical writing. Also, students are encouraged to express personal beliefs about literature. Literature reviews are useful strategies for increasing student interest in both reading and writing. Critical thinking skills like synthesis and analysis can be emphasized.

Standards for the English Language Arts

Sponsored by NCTE and IRA


1. 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.



Other materials:
  • Suggested reading
  • Links to other materials that can be obtained from libraries or elsewhere on the web.
  • Writing materials - paper, pens, pencils

Instructional sequence:
  • Devise a format for the book review that is compatible with students' skill and experience. Most book reviews are subjective reflections, and include the reviewer's opinion about the quality of the writing and the importance of the subject matter. Reviews often compare more than one book on a particular topic, or more than one book by a particular author.
  • Offer students a range of writings to review. You may want to make books from a variety of eras and authors available, or focus on just one topic, or a handful of authors.
  • The focus of the review may also vary. Younger students may focus on why the book is, or is not, a good book to read. Older students should be encouraged to think critically about the book and/or to place the book in the context of a certain era, topic, or writer.
  • Students can be encouraged to use the World Wide Web or other research materials to locate biographical information, regional information, historical significance, and so on to include in the review. Through book talks or other presentations of literature reviews, students can encourage their peers to read.

  • Instead of a book review, students could write a "foreword" or "afterword" for a particular book that works to place it and/or the author in a particular context.
  • Students could pretend to be a particular author now "updating" his or her writings to reflect current conditions. In other words: How would Thoreau respond to a plan to build a subdivision on the site of Walden Pond?
  • Students could investigate music and visual art from the same era, review those materials using the above methods, and also compare and contrast the thought behind the writing, music, and art of that era.
  • Publish (preferably on your school's website) a literary magazine focused on students' reviews of books about wildlilfe and the environment.

  • For younger students, a simple check-off sheet or rubric could be used to ensure that the review follows the prescribed format and that expectations for content, spelling, and so on are followed.
  • For older students, assessment should focus on whether or not the student shows evidence of having read the book closely and of having thought critically about it. Knowledge of the book's content, of the author's viewpoint, and so on should be evident as well.

Literacy advancement:
This lesson requires that students read, reflect, infer, and analyze one or more texts.

Author: MacAllister, Mark
About the author:

Mark MacAllister is the Project Coordinator for Field Trip Earth.

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