Jr. High Literary Terms Jr. High Literary Terms

Teaching rhetorical devices (lit terms) has been a constant of English teachers for decades - even when I was in school. The transition in teaching these elements, however, changed with the advent of the TAKS test and has evolved even further with the STAAR test.  Prior to this time, the middle school reading test was based more on basic reading skills - comprehension, predictions, fact vs. opinion - that one needed as an adult whether college bound or not.

With the TAKS test and now the STAAR test, students are required to analyze literature more deeply. Rather than asking basic questions such as "Where did Kellen go after the party?", students may have a question such as "Why did Kellen choose to leave the party without Meredith?"

So... what does this have to do with lit terms? Previous state reading tests required students to identify elements of plot and basic rhetorical devices. The current STAAR test does as well BUT there may also be questions such as "How does the use of hyperbole affect this selection?" or "Which of the following sentences is an example of indirect characterization?" If students don't know what the terms hyperbole or indirect characterization mean, then they will merely be guessing at the answer on the test.

Ultimately, we are trying to prepare students for high school and students will need to analyze literature in high school. In 7th and 8th grade reading, we work hard to build on the foundation students received in elementary school so that they know these terms as well as they know the multiplication table and the rules of baseball. Once they've memorized the term, then we work to have them identify it in literature and of course, use the device in their own writing. We can then have students work to identify the author's purpose in using the term and discuss how writing is affected by the use of personification or metaphors or even polysyndeton.

When learning anything new, the best strategy is to start small and study early. If students learn their lit terms in 7th grade, it'll be loads easier when we review them in 8th grade and students will be successful when we kick it up a notch. Also, they will be more aware of these rhetorical devices when they're watching a favorite television show or a movie. Who knows? You may find that you have the next Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert in your family!

Mrs. Stluka's Web Site
Shiner ISD
P.O. Drawer 804
510 CR 348
Shiner, TX 77984