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Reading Response Essay Prompts

In March, I shared how I create reading response prompts for my 8th grade ELA students. Since then, I have gotten inquiries from other content areas about what sorts of prompts are appropriate for nonfiction texts. Many of my students choose to read nonfiction, but there are times when we all read nonfiction together. Other content areas tend to exclusively use nonfiction, and the Common Core State Standards suggest that 70% of the reading students do be nonfiction (this reading is not exclusive to ELA, but across the span of all of their courses).

Below are twenty reading response prompts I use frequently when my students are asked to read nonfiction texts. When creating prompts for nonfiction, I keep in mind the skills students need to read closely and think critically: What is Written (summary), How it is written (author choice), Why it is written (author message/purpose), and Connections (to reader and the wider world).

 

  1. Copy a short passage that you found to be interesting. Explain what made it interesting for you.
  2. Write a summary of what you read today.
  3. What confused you about what you read? As you read further did your confusion dissipate? Why or why not?
  4. Explain some of the things that you have learned so far that you are not likely to forget in the near future.
  5. What does this text NOT tell you? What does it assume? What does it fail to assume?
  6. Why did you choose the book/topic you read about today?
  7. Compare/Contrast this text with another one using a Double-Bubble Map.
  8. What was the author’s purpose and how do you know?
  9. Who is the audience and how do you know?
  10. What is the tone of the text and how do you know?
  11. What are the most relevant supporting details from you text? Why?
  12. How is the book/text you read today structured? Why do you think the author choose to do it that way?
  13. Do you feel like the author is believable? Does he/she write with any bias? Explain.
  14. What would you change about the book/text you read today? Explain.
  15. Create a Cause-Effect map of the causes/problem/effects.
  16. What connections did you make while reading today?
  17. What information was already familiar to you?
  18. What two important things will you remember from today’s reading?
  19. What is something you would like to share with someone else? Why?
  20. What more do you want to know about the topic? Why?

Students tend to approach content-specific nonfiction or other informational texts as if it is intrinsically more difficult than reading fiction. As seasoned readers, we know that this is not necessarily true. By posing prompts such as the above to your students, you help them break down what they read and where their confusion was. You also allow them to have a voice in evaluating the relevance and effectiveness of the text.

Utilizing prompts such as these often enough also helps students habituate questioning nonfiction. I think students see nonfiction as “truth” and you don’t question truth; however, as adults we know that, depending on author’s purpose, facts can be left out and biased words can be used so that, while not false, it’s not all the truth. Teaching our students to question while they read will be build more critical readers and thinkers.

 

Related

Reader Response Organizational Tools

 

The following documents may help your readers organize their reading response pieces, reading logs, etc. all in one place.
 
REMEMBER:  Reading response doesn"t have to happen in a spiral notebook only via letters to the teacher.  Students can respond through post-it notes, anchor charts, graphic organizers, multimedia, etc.

 

 

Sticky Note Tracker

Reading Log

Chapter Books vs. Picture Books Tally

Books I Plan To Read

Form of a Friendly Letter

Genre Graph

Guidelines for Reading Workshop

Mini-lesson Handout Table of Contents

Opening Letter to Reader

Reading Notebook Rubric

 

Suggestions for Reading Response Topics

 

Click on links below to download examples for use in your classroom:

 

100 Reader Response Prompts - Intermediate

Reader Response Prompts - Primary

 

Scroll down to see some sample starter prompts:

 

 

Story Elements

  • Explore how the main character changed throughout the story.
  • Write about something that surprised you or that you found interesting.
  • Describe an interesting or important character in your book.
  • Write about your favorite part of the book and why it was important to the story.
  • Tell your thoughts or feelings about the theme of the story.
  • Write a letter to a character in the book or a letter from one character to another.
  • Compare two characters in the book to each other by describing their similarities and their differences.
  • Describe places where the author gives good descriptions of the characters, setting, problem, or solution.
  • Write a diary entry in the voice of a character in your book.
  • Compare a character in your book to a character in another book you have read.
  • Describe what you notice about the illustration.  What purpose do they have?  Do they add to the story?

 

Recall

  • Summarize the chapter you just read.
  • Describe in details the setting of your book and how it fits into the story.
  • Draw a picture of the climax of the story.
  • List five adjectives that describe the book’s main character.
  • Describe the setting of the story and illustrate it.
  • List five facts you learned about the topic covered in the book or article.
  • Retell the ending of the story AND write your feelings about it.

 

Prediction

  • How do you think the story will end?
  • Which character do you think will change the most by the end?  Why?
  • Who do you think the culprit is?  Why?
  • Based on the title, what do you think the book is about?
  • How do you think this conflict will be resolved?
  • Draw a picture of what you think will happen next.  Describe it.
  • Write your predictions about the story and tell whether or not they were right.

 

Connections

  • How is this book similar to another you have read by this author?
  • Create a Venn diagram that compares the setting of this story with the area where you live.
  • What were your feelings after the first chapter?
  • What advice would you give a character in this book?  Why?
  • What character would you most like to be?  Why?
  • If you were a character in this book, how would it affect the plot?
  • Describe a character’s personality trait that you’d like to possess.  Why do you like this trait?
  • Explain how the book reminds you of yourself, people you know, or of something that happened in your life (T-S Connections).
  • Explain how the book reminds you of other books, especially the characters, events, or setting (T-T Connections).
  • Describe how this book is like other books by the same author, on the same topic, or in the same genre.
  • Do any of the characters remind you of friends, family members, or classmates?  Explain.
  • How have you changed after reading this book?  Explain.
  • If you could be related to a character, who would it be and why?

 

Opinion

  • Why do you think the author chose the opening line he or she did?  Did you like it?  Did it make you want to read further?
  • Who is your favorite character?  Why?  Draw a picture of this character.
  • What do you think of the antagonist’s actions?  Are they right or wrong?
  • What do you think is the most important scene in the book?  Why?
  • How would a different setting affect the story?
  • Was the cover design effective?  Did it make you want to read the book?  Create a new cover design for this book.
  • Did you like the ending of the book?  How would you have liked it to end?  Rewrite a new ending for the book.
  • Write a question you would like to ask the author.  How do you think he or she would respond?
  • Do you agree with the point the author is making?  Why?
  • Did the graphs and diagrams help you understand the text better?
  • Do you like the ending of this book?  Why or why not?  Do you think there is more to tell?

 

Language

  • Copy a sentence from the book that you think is well written.  Why do you like this sentence?  Illustrate the sentence.
  • Find examples of figurative language in the text.  Write them down.
  • List five words from the book that you find interesting or unfamiliar.  Write their definitions and use them each in a sentence.
  • Describe the author"s craft: What was good about the author"s writing?  What things might you try to do in your own writing that you learned from this author?
  • Describe how the author makes you feel through their writing.

 

Evaluation

  • Did you enjoy the book?  Why or why not?
  • Was the book hard or easy to read?  Why?
  • What didn’t you understand in the text?
  • Would boys and girls enjoy this book equally?  Support your reasons.
  • Would you like to read more books by this author?  Why or why not?
  • Do you think the author chose a good title for the book?  Why or why not?
  • What did you learn about the time in which the story took place?
  • Write about an important lesson that was learned in the story.
  • Describe parts of the book that puzzled you or made you ask questions.
  • Explain why you think that your book is popular with students in the class (if it is popular with other readers in the class).
  • Would you recommend the book to another reader?  Explain why or why not.
  • Describe what you would change about the book if you could rewrite it.
  • Explain what you want to remember about this book and why.
  • Make a list of “lingering questions” you have after finishing the book.
  • Make a list of things you don’t understand, find confusing, or have questions about.

 

Alternative Responses

  • Write a “book-fommercial” to convince or persuade others to read this book.
  • Write a poem about your book.
  • Write a eulogy (a speech honoring someone after death) for one of the characters.
  • Create a slogan for the book and explain why you chose this.
  • Illustrate a book cover different from what is on your book.
  • Write a feasible solution for a problem a character has that is different from anything suggested in the book.
  • Pretend that you are the author and writing a sequel to this book.  Explain what should happen.
  • Give 3 reasons why this book should be taught to the whole class.
  • Choose a food that represents this book and explain why.
  • Create a theme song with lyrics for the book.
  • Write a letter to the author of your book.
  • Choose a character of the book, decide what would be an appropriate birthday present for that character and explain why.
  • Discuss a portion of the book that was too predictable.
  • Create an award for this book.  Explain the award and why this book received it.
  • Make a list of the characters in your book and then create a cast of famous people that you would choose to portray that character if you were making a movie.
  • Write a letter to a character in your story.
  • Make a comic strip story, (minimum of 3 frames)
  • Make a timeline of the events (minimum 5 events) in this story.  You must illustrate each even and label each event with a caption or description.
  • Make a list of character in your book.  Transform the major characters in your book to animals.  Decide upon an animal for each based upon personality traits.
  • List 10 interesting words from you book and…(choose one):
    • Tell why each word is interesting.
    • Write a definition for each word.
    • Use each in a sentence of your own.

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