Reading Response Exercise #26: Comprehension: Setting and Plot

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read.

What would it be like if you were to experience what the main character is experiencing in your reading? What would have to change about the way your life is now for this to be possible? How would these events impact the way you think and behave?

Write or discuss your response. Question the responses of your reading partner. Challenge yourself to dig deeper into what you think and believe and how it relates to the text.

For Pre-readers:


Play With Your Words Prompt #25: Fiction/Imaginative Prompt

Write a short story or scene that includes the words, “going down the drain.” Write in any genre you want—contemporary, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, or anything else you might choose.

When done, share your story or scene with your writing partners. Compliment each other on the strengths in their writing and any particular lines or ideas you like.

Share your story or scene as comment. I’d love to see what you came up with!

Beauty and Fragility: The Intersection of Life and Literature

The following post was written as I was traveling home from California earlier this month:

I am on a train, zipping north to Sacramento. I have just attended the funeral of my mom’s best friend (who I had always considered my “spare mother”), and I have just finished reading Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, a novel narrated by Death and set in Nazi Germany. I am haunted by the last words of Death, which close the novel—“I am haunted by humans” (550).


I am haunted by the beauty of loving hearts, the laughter of those who believe life is to be lived and their fragility and strength in the face of a world that can contain lover’s kisses, baby’s smiles, Nazi Germany, and terminal cancer.

It is deep night, and lights like shooting stars, streak past my window.

I thank God for blessing Mom and me, and all our family with the loving, exuberant, encouraging, and life affirming friendship of Marie Hebel Gonzales.

And I thank Him for the gift of words and for writers like Zusak who in the midst of being real while depicting a country in the grip of war and a hate-filled madman, can also report with remarkable beauty the depth of familial love, the joy of friendship, and the courage of those who refuse to heed the words of power and hate.

Marie was that kind of person. She loved her husband, she loved her kids, and she loved everyone who came into contact with her so that each believed him or herself to be her favorite person. Marie loved, and when faced with a choice, always chose the way of “we.”

Our family and all her friends were blessed to have known her. In the words of my stepfather, “She will be sorely missed.”

Reading Response Exercise #25: “News Writing” Style Summary–Plot/Reading Comprehension

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read. Use the 5 W’s and an H newspaper writing strategy to write a summary of your reading.


  • Who was active in the passage you read?
  • What happened?
  • When did it happen?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Why did it happen?
  • And how did it happen?

Combine the information you collected and write a short paragraph about your reading.

Write, and then discuss your response.

For Pre-readers: Ask your listener each of the pre-write questions above. Discuss what he or she thinks in response to each question.

Play With Your Words Prompt #24 Which Would You Rather Be? Persuasive Writing

Which would you rather be a fish or a bird? Breakfast or dinner? A novel or a film?

Pick one of the above questions or create your own combination of items to compare.

Prewrite:  List the pros and cons of either option.

Choose which of the two options you would rather be.

Write a three paragraph persuasive essay explaining which of the two options you would rather be and the reasons for your choice. Try to convince your reader that the option you have championed is the best.

When you’re done, share your writing with each other. Point out the strengths of each other’s writing. Post your response as a comment here on the site.

If you are working with a preschooler, ask the child which he or she would rather be and discuss why. Think up some pairings that would appeal to a small child’s interests. Have a real conversation together. Share your thoughts and ideas in response to the child’s.

Have fun!

P.S. Another comment option: share our own pairs of things to consider for this writing question.

Reading Response Exercise #24: Character Valentines–Characterization

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read.

Pick two characters from your story.

Get out your colored paper, felt pens, glitter glue, stickers, whatever “crafty” materials you might have on hand. Make a valentine that you believe one of these characters might send to the other.

Share your valentine creation or write a written explanation describing why this valentine suits the character it is from and why it is the sort of valentine this character might send to the intended recipient.

For Pre-readers: let your little listener choose two characters and make a valentine as explained above. When he or she is done, ask the child to tell you about what he or she has made.

Play With Your Words Prompt #23—Description/Point of View/Characterization

Write a description of yourself from the point of view of someone you dislike or with whom you feel uncomfortable. What would this person notice about you? What is it about their personality that would guide what they would observe to write about in a description of you? Consider how they would view your appearance, behavior, attitude, manner of speaking, etc.

Share your description with your writing partner or partners. Compliment each other on the strengths in the other’s writing and the things you like, enjoy, or with which you were impressed.

Share your description as a comment. I would love to see the ways you found for your viewpoint character to describe you.