Responding to Literature
Responding to literature is the way in which one reacts to something that has been read or listened to
(Cooper, 1993). This process begins before reading as one thinks about what is to be read and continues
during and after reading (Martinez & Roser, 1991). Rosenblatt (1938/1976; 1978) has contended for
many years that individuals construct their own meanings by transacting with the text. When response
activities are the natural things one does with texts that have been read or listened to, they help
students develop deeper understandings and help them relate what they have read to their own personal
experiences (Gambrell, 1986; Hickman, 1983). It is through this process that individuals learn to
construct meaning or comprehend (Cullinan, Harwood, & Galda, 1983).
Response activities teach children to read and write in several ways:
Relates Ideas to Own Experiences
Response activities provide students with the opportunities to relate narrative or expository text to
their own personal experiences (Martinez & Roser, 1991). Through this personal transaction with the
text, students formulate their own meanings and develop their overall abilities to construct meaning
(Cullinan, Harwood, & Galda, 1983; Eeds & Wells, 1989). By responding to literature, students
see models of writing that they will ultimately incorporate into their own writing (Dressel, 1990).
Types of Response
Researchers have found that readers respond to literature in a variety of ways -- by retelling, summarizing,
analyzing, and generalizing (Applebee, 1978). Very young children are able to respond in these ways on
a very simple level (Many, 1991). As students become more experienced readers and writers, they develop
more sophisticated abilities to construct meaning by analyzing and evaluating literature (Kelly &
Farnan, 1991). Writing is one form of responding to literature (Harste, Short, & Burke, 1988). By
giving a written response to literature, students are learning to construct meaning through writing; they
are further developing their ability to think critically (Tierney & Shanahan, 1991).
It is important for the teacher to model different types of
responding behaviors for students (Martinez & Roser, 1991). For example, the teacher might show
students how to ask good questions about a book, make an oral comparison for students, or give an oral
summary of a book. Through these procedures, the teacher is also modeling the constructing of meaning
through response activities (Roser & Martinez, 1985; Cochran-Smith, 1984). When children have
opportunities to discuss books that have been read, they are also modeling responding for each other
as well as modeling the construction of meaning (Eeds & Wells, 1989).
Go on to Useful Instructional Strategies
Back to Thematic Organization
Reading/Language Arts Center |
Education Place |
Copyright © 1997 Houghton Mifflin Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms and Conditions of Use.