Analytical Response to Literature (2012), 4th ed.


For many decades in English classrooms, writing instruction tended to follow a common pattern: teachers assigned essays each Monday, collected them the following Friday, and in the meantime devoted class time to other activities–which most often meant reading and discussing literature in anthologies. Students turned in their essays at the end of the week; teachers graded them over the weekend and returned them the following Monday. Most of the students would glance at the grade, ignore the carefully written comments, and file their work in their notebooks (at best) or the trashcan (at worst.) Then the cycle would repeat: topic assigned, due date given, and on to other topics.

What is missing from this description is the knowledge we have from more than two decades of research on composition: that writing is an act of discovery, a way of clarifying ideas, a social activity that often thrives upon contact with others, and a recursive process requiring time, reflection, feedback, and revision.

This curriculum guide is designed to offer tested and proven ideas to teach students how to write an essay. Its purpose is to demystify the writing process for both teachers and students and make it accessible to everyone. It reflects what we (as English teachers ourselves) have found to be successful, based on the best of writing research adapted to the realities of our high school classrooms. It has been developed over the last thirty years and used successfully with students at all ability levels, grades 9 through 12. We have seen elementary and junior high/middle school teachers use it in a variety of adaptations. It has worked in all these classes.

We would like to comment on the formulaic nature of the unit. For the first two essays–which we called the training essays–we have sentence requirements for each paragraph. This lets us see if our students understand the parts of the essay. When they are ready to leave the format–when they have shown us they understand how different parts work together–they are free to wean themselves from it. They must meet the minimum number of paragraphs (4), the minimum number of words per paragraph (outlined in the chart on page 71), and the minimum ratio of concrete detail and commentary, but they no longer must adhere to a sentence requirement. The formulaic nature of this unit does not bother us because students may leave it once they understand it. Some students leave the format early in the process; others choose not to leave it at all because they like the structure and say it helps them know what to do with a blank page.

In 1999, Jane Schaffer Enterprises published Teaching the Multiparagraph Essay: A Sequential Nine-Week Unit. 3rd edition. Jane began working on the fourth edition in 2005, but had not completed it when she passed away in 2010. This fourth edition was posthumously published in 2013 in Jane’s honor and dedicated to her grandsons, Noah and Sam. The fourth edition, titled Teaching Analytical Response to Literature focuses on literary analysis, also known as response to literature.Developed in this 248-page guide are materials for both middle school and high school students of all levels and with a variety of learning styles. From the very simple model of the Cinderella paragraph to Advanced Placement® interpretations, this guide reveals an academic approach to writing. The standards-based curriculum guide demonstrates alignment with both the Common Core State Standards and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). The scaffolding of skills includes Jane’s prewriting strategies, student-centered terminology, color-coding, and Web-off-the-Word™, Jane’s breakthrough approach to commentary and vocabulary development. From terminology to final draft essays, this guide is designed to assist the English language arts teacher with strategies and techniques that yield successful writers.


1 review for Analytical Response to Literature (2012), 4th ed.

  1. I’m starting my 11th year teaching English. I taught in middle school for 7 1/2 years and am now teaching AP Literature AND AP Language AND 10th grade. Whew! In my first two years or so, our school received high praise from colleges and universities for sending out students who were good writers. In the years since, the Jane Schaffer method went by the wayside, and our students’ writing suffered. Now that I am the department chair, one of the things I looked forward to is moving back to using the method across the department.

    To that end, I purchased the updated version of Teaching the Multiparagraph Essay: A Nine-Week Sequential Unit, 3rd Ed. now titled Teaching the Multiparagraph Essay: Analytical Response to Literature Paragraph and Essay, 4th Ed. I had been through several classrooms to see if we had a complete version of the 3rd edition. Had we had at least one complete set, I probably would not have purchased the new one. I have parts and pieces, but even putting them all together, it’s not enough for one complete book; I’m still missing a few pages here and there – enough to be annoying. I digress.

    I opened my mail, and the book is spiral bound – not loose-leaf pages to put in a binder. I prefer loose leaf; others may prefer the spiral. It wasn’t wrapped in any protective bubble wrap and the cardboard USPS package was flimsy, so the metal spirals were bent in several places. Looking through the book, I noticed the contents look significantly different from the 3rd ed. It’s not as teacher-friendly. With the 3rd ed, a teacher could start with page one and teach through. However, the only reason I could teach through the new edition is that I’m familiar enough with the older material that I could work my way through some of the new stuff.

    I like the new additions. There are quite a few useful new graphic organizers. I just wish it were as user-friendly a layout as the previous edition. I’m sure attending a workshop would bridge the gap. That’s not an option for every user. I would rather see a mix of the 2 editions for one comprehensive, user-friendly curriculum.

    I guess I need to go order the 3rd edition to fill in those missing gaps…

Add a review