Activities and Lessons
for Language Arts

Ideas for Responding to Literature with Individualized Reading

Literature Response Task Cards

Self-selected literature response cards are categorized by genre and include several levels of comprehension questions. This is a method I used for years with a variety of grade levels.

One version:

Using four clear plastic boxes that I bought years ago, the boxes labeled "Fantasy Fiction," "Realistic Fiction," "Non-Fiction," and "Non-Fiction/Animals," I have several cards in each box, each card with one prompt or question. The prompts are printed (literally) on colored paper that matches the boxes and are mounted on index card paper and laminated. I made up all the prompts/questions myself. There are about ten or so prompts for each box. I used these boxes for about seven years, with third and second graders.

Another version:

Using just two "flat" baskets big enough to hold 4x6 cards, the baskets labeled "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction," I have abouttwenty or so cards in each basket, each card with one prompt or question. These are all white cards with colored line borders around each card, using five colors: red, blue, green, yellow, purple, to designate order of difficulty. I
didn't "advertise" the order of difficulty, but they matched the book levels on my shelves. This way I could say to a student, "How about using a blue prompt next time?" if I wanted them to do something harder or easier than they had been doing. Again, I made up the questions myself, as many as I could think of, then just sorted them into fiction and non-fiction, then sorted again to make the easy to hard range of color coded borders. I created these cards when I was working with at-risk students in second through sixth grade, and needed materials that covered a large range of reading and writing levels (hence, the color coding).

For both these versions, when students finished reading a book, they were to select one or two prompts according to what genre of book they had read (and depending on the student). My only rule was that they couldn't use the same prompt over and over. I tried to have prompts that addressed different strategies and modalities and literature elements, so that there was a wide variety.

The prompts I used are as generic as possible.

Examples for fiction:
- Tell how the main character is the same as and different from you.
- What might the main character have done differently?
- Tell about the main character's conflict and how it was solved.
- What was your favorite part of the story, and why?
- Compare the main character to a character in another story you've read.
- Draw a picture of something you learned from this book.
- If you could talk to the author about this book, what would you say?

Examples for non-fiction:
- Tell four things you learned by reading this book.
- Draw a detailed illustration showing something you learned.
- What questions do you still have after reading this book?
- What more would you like to learn about this subject?
- Write a letter to a friend telling them why they should read this book.

Charted Prompts Based on Mosaic of Thought Strategies

When I was working with a 4th/5th grade mixed-grade class of students with limited self-regulation, I didn't want to give up my Individualized Readers' Workshop but found that they needed a set structure with limited choices. I used ideas from Mosaic of Thought to develop a list of very basic question prompts. I wrote them on chart paper which I posted over a window, out of the way but very visible to all students. As part of their independent reading workshop, they responded in writing every day to their reading for that day, whether they had finished a book or not. The questions were something like:

(first chart)
Why did you choose this book?
What do you think the book will be about?

(second chart)
What has happened so far?
What do you think will happen next?
What images did you create?
What connections can you make?
What comparisons can you make?

My students always chose their own reading materials. They read silently and alone every day for about 20 minutes, and then wrote about their reading for 10 minutes max. (Other writing took longer of course.) If the students had just started their book, I asked them to write to one of the prompts on the first chart. If they were continuing with a book, they chose one prompt from the second chart. With books that took several days (hopefully most books they read), I asked them each day to respond to a *different* prompt on the second chart than they had responded to the day before. This helped them personally focus on different strategies during their reading. When a student finished a book, they wrote a three paragraph essay:

1st P: introduce the book (main idea statement, character and setting description);
2nd P: write a summary of the story (including beginning, problem, solution, end);
3rd P: tell your opinion of the story and back it up.

For non-fiction there was also a three paragraph essay, but with some modifications, of course, still introducing the book in first paragraph, telling four or five things learned in the second paragraph. (OK basically it was a book report). This particular class of students REALLY needed a set structure or they went wacko, so this set format worked for this group. With other classes I have had a much more open-ended independent reading workshop format, with self-selected prompts on task cards and other student choice strategies, but that's another story.

Find out more details about Renee Goularte's Individualized Reading Program at
Access a detailed lesson on Literature Circles at

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