Analyzing Fiction and Nonfiction Strategies

With the adoption of the Common Core Standards, and other states that have implemented parallel standards of their own, the English department has been given the task of supporting students’ growth in understanding texts, fiction and nonfiction, in a deeper and more analytical manner.  An inch-deep, mile-wide approach to reading analysis is no longer acceptable.  Teachers must wrap their minds around teaching skills as opposed to texts.  This means that we must change the way in which we teach students to approach reading.

1.  Close Reading

Essential Aspects of Close Reading:

  • A close reading is a careful and purposeful reading AND rereading.
  • Students really focus on what
    • the author had to say
    • the author’s purpose was
    • the words mean
    • structure of the text tells us
  • A transaction between the reader and the text
  • Getting what the author had to say and bringing some of your own ideas to bear on that text.

“Close Reading and the CCSS, Part 1.” – Common Core State Standards TOOLBOX. Web. 29 July 2015.

Some Close Reading strategies:


It seems as though there are a thousand-and-one resources available for reading and analyzing literature.  You can purchase entire unit plans complete with daily assignments, guided reading questions, collaborative activities, assessments, and powerpoint presentations!  They are a new teacher’s savior and an experienced teacher’s rejuvenation.  When I started teaching AP Language and Composition, I searched for nonfiction text analysis resources, and while I found some wonderful lessons, I felt empty-handed.  I was given just enough information and guidance to be able to meander through my first year, but I knew that it would become my objective to really customize those materials to best support both my students and myself.

2.  SOAPSTone

Any AP English teacher can tell you that the go-to strategy for analyzing any nonfiction text is the SOAPSTone method:

After reading a nonfiction text, a student would analyze the piece to identify each of the SOAPSTone elements.  This allows them to gain a greater understanding of the text, make connections, and therefore use a more critical eye while evaluating the efficacy of the piece.  For example, if a student was unaware of the political background or historical impact of a piece, they may view its argument in a much different way than what was intended.  Additionally, the tone plays a major role in how a piece is interpreted.  A sarcastic, humorous tone will lead the reader in a much different direction than a didactic one.


Thanks to the wonderful resource, and foundational element of my Pre-AP English course last year, The AP Vertical Teams Guide for English, I was able to identify another text analysis method: SIFT

  • Symbol: Examine the title and text for symbols
  • Images: Identify images and sensory details
  • Figures of Speech: analyze figurative language and other devices
  • Tone and Theme: Discuss how all devices reveal tone and theme


4.  Fourfold Method

analysis of drama, fiction, poetry, and nonfiction

  1. Literal or historical level: the things that are happening in the story are literally happening on a surface level
  2. Political level: the level on which human beings relate to others in a community and in the world
  3. Moral or psychological level: the way in which the self relates to the realm of ethics
  4. Spiritual level: the universal level on which a persona relates to the cosmos, the way of the pilgrim soul

5.  Aristotelian Theory




  • Cornerstone of critical theory
  • Poetics laid out the basis for traditional analysis of drama (dramatic fiction)
  • “the imitation of an action; a writer’s attempt to represent reality or truth in artistic form”
  • Structure and purpose of tragedy is:
    • Unity of Action:
      • tragic plots must have a clear beginning, middle, and end
      • action should be ordered and continuous
      • cause and effect process
    • Catharsis:
      • events should inspire pity and terror
      • vicarious experience to attain emotional purgation, moral purification, or clarity of intellectual viewpoint
    • Tragedy
      • reversal of fortune/fall from greatness brought on by error or frailty
      • hamartia inner weakness or inherent error
        • usually through excessive pride or hubris
        • reversal of fortune is characterized by “reversal of situation” and “recognition”
      • “Scene of Suffering”     

The AP Vertical Teams Guide for English. 2nd ed. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 2002. Print.

The Reading I Didn’t Do and Classroom Bootcamp

I won’t bother showing you an update on my Goodreads account because I didn’t actually get in any reading yesterday.  Well, I take that back: I read about 30 pages of The Dinner last night before falling asleep.  Any reading is good reading.  I spent the day with a girlfriend who had a tremendously long to-do list, and found that she was much more efficient at completing tasks if she had someone with her.  Is it a “misery loves company” or “guilt into action” situation?  I’m not sure, but I’ll use any excuse to eat Panera and chat with a friend while being productive.  While she worked on her projects, I spent the time analyzing my English IV Bootcamp content.

Let’s start with what it’s not:

  • Classroom management strategy
  • Scare tactics
  • A system to weed out the weak from the strong
  • A simple review of content from previous years

What is Classroom Bootcamp?

My definition for classroom bootcamp can best be described by its purpose: to support future learning by establishing a solid foundation of the key components and skill necessary for mastery.

There are many different ways that teachers can create a classroom bootcamp, but for my purpose and grade level (AP Language & Senior English), I prefer a systematic clustering of key concepts presented in a way that allows students to make connections between themselves, their world, and other content areas.  Each class period is constructed with:

  1. an introduction/anticipatory set through the Bell Ringer/Bell Work activity
  2. activity to allow students to engage their prior knowledge
  3. collaborative activity, even if it’s just a “Think-Pair-Share”
  4. application to a real-world event or problem
  5. application to a text

Because I will be working with older students, there will be two main topics focused on during my classroom bootcamp: vocabulary and analysis.

Analysis and Vocab Bootcamp


It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

What are you reading monday

On the treadmill yesterday, I began reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, but only got through the first two chapters.  It’s not exactly a scenario that allows for deep, contemplative analysis.  I am reading On the Road for the first time and am completely green to the beatnik writing style, which means I put on my Researching Cap and found out that:

Beat Generation Info

(Source Info)

Want to know more about On the Road?  Check out this great presentation on ShareSlide: