An End-of-the-Year Essay Unit Plan that Brings Students + Literature Together

When Allison and I wrote Beyond Literary Analysis, we read thousands of pieces of writing in the quest to figure out what kind of analysis professional, published writer truly write outside academia. In other words, beyond what English teachers have culturally and historically deemed to be our analytical territory, what kind of analytical writing will our students actually do out in the world?

Our findings became my favorite page of my favorite book:

Can you guess which one still makes people nervous, though?

Did you guess “personal connection” analysis? You’re right.

Probably because of our own education and training, English teachers tend to be skittish when it comes to encouraging students to blend the personal with the analytical.

But isn’t that HOW we analyze? By running something through the filters of our own perception? Or own experience?

And when it comes to textual analysis, what could possibly be more important than what a text causes a reader or viewer to learn about themselves?

Really it’s the thing we’re trying to accomplish in this job. It’s what we hope happens every time our students read a text. It’s what we hope sticks with them when they graduate.

I’ve been thinking that the end of the year is the perfect time to try this kind of analysis with students as a way to process what they have read during the school year, either in whole-class, book club, or independent reading situations. This is how I will end the year with my kiddos this year.

Here’s a unit for you to pick up + try:

The Goal

Write an essay analyzing the impact one text you have read this school year has had on your life or your way of seeing the world.

The Mentor Texts

I wouldn’t use all of these mentor texts. It’s too many. But I wanted to give you a bunch of options so that you can find the 3ish mentor texts that will be engage and meet the writerly needs of your students!

Little House and the Art of Hiding Your Feelings

“In Turning Red, I Finally Saw Myself Reflected in a Main Character”

“Why Everything Everywhere All at Once Feels More Like Reality than Movie Magic”

“How Reading The Secret Garden With My Daughter Reframed What it Means to Live Forever”

Better Things Taught Me How to Build a Home and Why it Matters”

“A Novel is Like a Camp: What Fiction Can Teach Us About Surviving a Slow Apocalypse”

The Lessons

I’m going to share the lessons I’ll be teaching my students, but your students might not need these particular lessons.

On the Moving Writers Community, I’ve shared a basics-of-analysis unit (Analysis 101) and an analysis unit for students who are ready for more (Analysis 201) if you’re looking for ways to scaffold and scale this work.

But here’s what we know: we are always going to have lessons that

  • find writers’ passions within the given unit
  • address ideas in the essay
  • boost students’ authority
  • and help students find a meaningful structure

The lessons below represent the way my students need me to meet their skill needs right now at the end of the year.

You can grab a copy of this PDF here!

I’m excited about this writing unit, and I’d love to hear how it goes with your students, too!

Moving Writers Community

Did you know that members of the Moving Writers Community receive a complete reading or writing unit from me each month, complete with slides and detailed explanations? If today’s resources were helpful to you, consider joining as a paid member!


  1. I feel like reading students’ essays can also help in planning future instruction as we consider their experiences with certain texts. Love the metacognitive skills this unit incorporates and how easily it can align with state standards.

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