Writing Mini-Lessons: Response to Literature Genre

Responses to literature are a form of writing in which the writer examines the theme, plot, character, or other aspects of a chapter, story, book, or poem. In this genre’s purest form, a writer makes a claim or reacts to an author’s main point. The writer then supports the claim with details from personal experience, from prior knowledge, through connections to other sources, or by citing textual evidence. If done masterfully, this genre of writing provides enough information for the reader to learn the writer’s viewpoints about the referenced piece of literature.

In advanced response to literature writing, information about the text or story is woven throughout; however, you, as a novice writer of responses to literature, may need to write brief summaries to support your viewpoints. As you become a more skilled writer of this genre, you will learn to both summarize and respond as you begin to explore how to weave the information together to make a claim. As you, the writer, gain experience writing responses to literature, your pieces should evolve from summarizing to interpretive responses in which you make a claim or react to the author’s main point. Summarizing involves understanding the gist of what is read and then writing the main details in clear and concise sentences, always in your own words, but carefully maintaining the author’s points of view and sticking closely to the sequences of ideas or events as presented in the reading selection.

This genre of writing can be quite sophisticated and complex. Because it links to another text and requires strong reading comprehension, it is sometimes considered a difficult genre. However, one student explained, “It is easier for me to respond to writing, rather than making up my own story or thinking up a topic for an essay, personal narrative, or poem."