5 Steps for Surviving Literature Class
 From an Irvine English Tutor

Whether a student is in the 8th grade or AP English, keeping up with literature homework is especially challenging because of the amount of time required. Although many students have learned how to effectively speed read or skim through textbooks to find needed information, novels require a close reading, especially if they are written in an older form of the English language – get help from an Orange County English tutor. Students who fall behind in their reading will find themselves in a difficult spot when it comes to class discussions and exams. However, there are a few ways that students can finish their reading and have a valid comprehension of character analysis and growth, plot twists, climax, moral dilemma etc…


1. Use supplemental reading sources

Students can use SparkNotes or CliffsNotes as a supplement, but never a replacement, to help them with their literature assignments. Students are encouraged to read the summary of the chapter prior to reading the full chapter so they know the key elements. For instance, if the summary states that a main character learns a huge moral lesson, the reader should watch out for this transition during their close reading and make note of it.

2. Highlights and underlines

If possible, the student should get their own copy of the book so that they can mark it up with a pencil and highlighter. If they can’t obtain their own copy, many off-copyright books can be found for free online. The more a student highlights, underlines, and color codes the novel, the more likely they will be able to keep character development, and other information, clear and easy to understand. For example, if a student of Shakespeare is getting confused by the language they can designate a different color highlighter for each character. As the student reads, they can keep track of who said what and who is doing what, which will help them participate in class and create a study guide for their next test (READ: “Five Tips for Success in English Class”).

3. Ask questions

Many literature students get confused by the choices of certain characters or elements of the plot. However, most do not write down their questions. Many teachers and tutors will hear that a student has a question but they don’t remember exactly what it is. Students are encouraged to write down any and all questions they have about the chapter as they go. Specifically, students should write down their queries in the margins of the page the event took place or take notes on a separate sheet of paper. Readers should remember to make note of the page number and paragraph where the question came from.

4. Keep chapters separate

It’s very common for students to forget what chapter an event occurred in, which can be very frustrating when it comes time to study for the test. Students are advised to take five minutes after completing each chapter and write down important elements. Examples include a character obtaining a new job, moving away from their home town, experiencing conflict with another character etc…

5. Write a summary

One of the most important things that literature students fail to do is write a brief summary at the end of each chapter. It’s understandable that students are rushing to get the reading done so that they can move on to their other homework, however, taking just a couple minutes to write a summary can save a lot of time later on. Writing a three to five sentence summary for each chapter will help students remember not only what happened but will also provide a record of themes, motifs, and symbolism that took place in each chapter. These summaries will serve as an excellent study guide for the end of term exam and can easily jog a student’s memory when it comes time to participate in class discussions (READ: “Ask a Nerd! “Mastering AP English Language”).

In short

Although annotating several chapters after a long day at school can become rather cumbersome, spending 15 or 20 minutes on note-taking and organization can save a student multiple hours when it comes time to prep for the exam. In addition to saving time, students who follow these steps will generally receive a higher class participation grade.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at [email protected] for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us post about.

Call Us at (949) 510-9361 To Get Started Immediately

…or fill out the form and we will get back to you.

    100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    You’ll love your tutor, or you don’t pay.

    Great Job!
    We applied to St. Margaret’s, Sage Hills, Santa Margret’s, and JSerra/ Engineer magnet program. We were pleased to get acceptance from all of them.