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3 Effective Ways to Teach Literary Elements in Your Upper Elementary ELA Block


Teacher Teaching Upper Elementary Students About Literary Elements

I recently had a lightbulb moment regarding literary elements and my upper elementary students when I finished reading "Lessons in Chemistry"...kind of out-of-the-blue, I know!


Rewind to a few months ago, I checked “Lessons” out after hearing the non-stop hype for years. I really thought it was going to be an "ok" book that was just WAY over-promoted to sell more books. But... I liked it.


No, I really, really liked it and was totally engaged while reading it AND after reading it...in fact, I AM STILL thinking about the characters, themes, and contemplating events that happened. It is the type of story where you feel all the things – anger, laughter, heartache, joy, and so much more.

The literary elements of this book intertwined together to bring SO many levels of connections...


That's when the *it* occurred to me. Isn't that exactly how we want our upper elementary students to connect to the literature they read?💡

Stories have an enchanting power, captivating young minds and sparking their imagination. For upper elementary ELA teachers, the journey of teaching literary elements to their students can open doors to a world of deeper comprehension and connections, critical thinking, and a lifelong love for literature.


Let’s take a look at the importance of teaching literary elements to upper elementary students, and provide a few easy-to-use strategies to make your ELA block engaging and effective. And grab this free Literary Elements Scavenger Hunt resource to help!


By the end of this post, you'll be equipped to empower your students to connect with stories on a profound level and become more discerning readers.


Don't Skip Literary Elements

Exploring the 'why' behind teaching literary elements to upper elementary students is a crucial foundation. Literary elements are like the tools that authors use to craft their stories. They're the building blocks that create a rich and engaging reading experience. Let’s take a look at the compelling reasons to include them in your ELA lessons:


Deepening Comprehension

By exposing students to literary elements, they will gain a solid understanding of a story's inner workings. This in-depth comprehension helps them with the tools to untangle intricate narratives and appreciate the author's writing more fully.


Cultivating Critical Thinking

The study of literary elements encourages students to think critically about the stories they encounter as well as all aspects of life. It's about asking questions, dissecting ideas, and interpreting text, essential skills that extend well beyond the classroom walls.

Book Page Heart

Deeper Appreciation for Literature

Understanding the subtleties of literary elements enriches the reading experience. It enables students to connect with characters, settings, and themes on a personal and emotional level, fostering a profound love for literature.


Navigating Storytelling

It empowers students to navigate the intricate landscape of storytelling. They become skilled story decoders, equipped to immerse themselves in narratives and engage with literature on a whole new level.

3 Effective Ways to Teach Literary Elements

We want our upper elementary students to connect with the literature they read on a profound level. But how do we guide them in forming those connections independently? Don't worry; we're here to provide you with 3 effective and easy ways to add to your ELA program today!


1. Interactive Read-Alouds:

  • Start with the Basics: Begin by looking at the essential elements like characters, setting, and plot – the building blocks of every story. It's like learning the ABCs of storytelling.

  • Share Your Thoughts: Don't just read; chat about it! Ask students to share their thoughts, reactions, and guesses as the story unfolds. It's like watching a movie and discussing the cool parts. This makes reading not just a solo adventure but a group activity!

  • Get into the Action: Reading isn't just words on a page; it's a full-on adventure. By diving into the story and being active readers, students can really get the hang of the elements. This lays the groundwork for deeper exploration and analysis.

2. Story Analysis Activities:

  • Hands-On Fun: Use engaging activities to dig deep into literary elements. These activities provide students with a tangible way to dissect the story.

  • Map Your Adventure: Story maps are invaluable tools for visually representing the elements. They help us visualize the characters, settings, and important events in a clear and organized way. Plus it aids comprehension and retention of these elements.

  • Memorable Learning: By employing these activities, learning becomes tangible and memorable. Students can physically interact with the story's elements, which cements their understanding. Plus, we have got you covered with this FREE Literary Element Scavenger Hunt Pack; this resource is your ultimate tool for helping students dive into the world of literary elements. These fun scavenger hunts make learning real and unforgettable.

Free Literary Elements Scavenger Hunt Pack for Upper Elementary Students

3. Book Discussions and Projects:

  • In-depth Discussions: Intentionally take time to invite students to share thoughts about characters, setting, and how they connect to the big theme. Encourage everyone to share their unique ideas and thoughts.

  • Get Creative: Challenge your students to turn their knowledge into amazing projects. Students can make art, write cool stuff, or express their ideas in many creative ways. This not only deepens their comprehension but also ignites their creativity and critical thinking. Keep reading for an easy and engaging way to get started!

  • Enhancing Comprehension: Your students not only learn about the literary elements but also see how they fit into the whole story. It's like connecting the dots to make the big picture clearer.


By using these ELA methods and suggestions, you'll help your upper elementary students dive into the world of literary elements in a fun and interactive way. This will help ensure they really understand and enjoy the stories they come across.


Easily Implement Those Literary Elements

So how do you add literary elements to your already jam-packed day?! The secret...sprinkle them in with the stories you are already using!


When we first started teaching literary elements with our kids, we needed a way to let students incorporate these elements with the text they were already using at their level. Here’s what we wanted to teach them:

  • How to identify different literary elements

  • To understand how literary elements impact literature

  • How these literary elements will help them connect with literature on a deeper level

Sounds simple, right? But in order to meet every student at their level and have them succeed, we needed a resource that deliberately covered the literary elements while still being easy to follow and use!

Upper Elementary Book Report Resource

This Upper Elementary Book Report printable resource is here to guide your students through interacting with numerous literature elements. The best part? It's fully customizable! You can pick and choose the literary elements that fit your current learning objectives. This also is a perfect culminating activity for when students finish a book or novel, and it's also great for presentations or displays.


(There is also a simplified 2nd/3rd grade version or digital option available!)


Discover the amazing difference that teaching literary elements can make with your upper elementary students. It's more than just getting what the story is about; it's diving deeper, thinking more, making connections, and developing a lasting passion for books. Armed with these ELA strategies and ideas, you'll be all set to help your students become smarter readers who truly enjoy the wonder of literature!


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