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Lesson Plan

Review Redux: Introducing Literary Criticism Through Reception Moments

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Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 60- to 90-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Wendy Preston

Martinsville, Virginia


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



Using Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, this lesson introduces high school students to the idea that literary works do not contain fixed meaning but are open to interpretation. Students are invited to participate in this interpretation using information about the author, her culture and historical period, as well as today's context. Exploring literature in this way also provides an opportunity to introduce literary criticism that is suitable for secondary class instruction. Working collaboratively and alone, students develop critical responses to the play based on research and analysis. This lesson can be modified using different authors and historical periods.

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Sullivan, P. (2002). "Reception moments," modern literary theory, and the teaching of literature. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literature, 45(7), 568Ė576.

  • Literary works do not contain a single "correct" meaning. Creating meaning from them involves collaboration among the author, the reader, the reader's culture, and the author's language.

  • Classroom teachers can help students learn more complex ways of interpreting texts by showing them how language, culture, and history influence the way we react to things we read, regardless of when they were written.

  • Specific reactions to texts in the forms of reviews, critical essays, and even statements banning a work can be introduced as "reception moments" and used to encourage student discussion of literary interpretation.

  • Literary theory can be introduced as a way to find answers to the questions about interpretation and meaning raised in classroom discussion.

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