Evidence-Based Instruction for Literary Analysis

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

Sometimes the evidence is right in front of our eyes. Read this lesson to learn about successful evidence-based methods teachers can use for developing students' oral and written responses by focusing on close reading strategies and engagement.

Get It While It Lasts

Have you ever seen an infomercial and been suckered into buying some weird cleaning product or crazy glue? We've all been there, but why? Easy answer—because we believe it works. We want to know something will work out before we invest our time. The same goes for our teaching practices. Read on to learn about evidence-based instruction and strategies to help with literary analysis.

Evidence-Based Instruction

Evidence-based instruction refers to researched methods and practices that have proven successful over time. This objective data is taken directly from the classroom and analyzed to help student and teacher performance. When it comes to evidence-based instruction, researchers, teachers, and administration look at objective data to determine which methods have demonstrated success in their practices.

This lesson aims to look at evidence-based instruction in terms of literary analysis. Let's take a look at some of the methods below that have been proven to work in the classroom.

First Step Strategies

Annotation and Margin Notes

Before we begin our units, it's important to give students basic reading strategies, especially if you're working on higher level literary analysis. Annotation, the art of taking notes as you read, is an important skill set that can transfer over to any subject. Annotation can look different for every student and teacher, so before you begin, decide what the student objectives and expectations are.

For example, you can give students a key that explains how they should mark up their readings. You can have them underline key points, circle words they don't know, and bracket figurative language/literary devices.

You can also have them create margin notes. Maybe you have your students summarize each paragraph in the margin, ask questions as they read, or make predictions in fictional works. The possibilities are endless, but each type of annotation and note creates an engaged, independent reader.


Before each reading, focus on a short list of words that can help students understand context, connect the themes, or can be used to describe the reading. Break down prefixes and suffixes, along with teaching students how to use words in context. It's not simply about the definition of a word; it's about teaching students how to use words. You can give students sentence starters that connect to the current unit and give students time to practice.

For example, say you select the word ''malevolent.'' You can break down the word, showing the students the definition of the prefix ''mal,'' which means bad. From here, work through a definition of the word and give students examples of a malevolent person. As students begin to learn definitions, give student sentence starters that connect to your unit.

Take the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. You could create a sentence starter that looks something like this: ''Blank is a malevolent character because Blank.'' Not only does the student need to understand the word, they also need to know the plot of the story you're reading.

With this vocab tool, the students can use these skills as they annotate and read independently.

Student-Centered Learning

Now that we have given our students some strategies to use on their own, we can employ a technique called student-centered learning. Student-centered learning focuses on student autonomy and shifts instruction from the teacher to the student. The goal of student-centered learning is to give students the outlet to engage in the content on their own and work through problems, analysis, and material with their peers.

When it comes to literary analysis, we need to teach students tools to become confident, independent readers. We have already set up reading and vocabulary expectations. Now, we can flip the instructional model to put the responsibility of learning onto the students.

Here are some strategies that engage students in student-centered literary analysis

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