skip to main content skip to footer

Building and Justifying Interpretations of Texts: A Key Practice in the English Language Arts ELA CCSS

Deane, Paul
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Key Practice, English Language Arts, Literature, Analysis and Interpretation of Literature, Reading, Writing, Discussion, Assessment, Literary Analysis, Inductive Deductive Reasoning, Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Elementary Secondary Education


A key instructional goal of English language arts instruction is teaching students to read and interpret complex literary texts. This report reviews the literature on the development and pedagogy of literary analysis skills. It analyzes literary analysis skills as a key practice, a bundle of disciplinary skills and strategies that form a key target for instruction. This practice focuses on applying a variety of strategies for building textual interpretations, including strategies for deepening comprehension, inferring the author’s purpose, considering multiple perspectives, connecting text to context, generalizing and applying themes, and participating in cultural conversations about texts. It also identifies a sequence of activities that define literary interpretation as a social practice and identifies key goals and subgoals for those activities. If literary analysis is viewed as a key practice, it requires participants to habitually engage in the following practices: (a) read and reread texts to find cues that suggest new possibilities for interpretation, (b) participate in interpretive discussions of literary texts, (c) use writing both as a tool to support interpretive work and as a means to communicate interpretive arguments, and (d) maintain an openness to new interpretations and a willingness to revisit previous interpretive conclusions in the light of new evidence. The evidence indicates that this is a late-developing practice, typically acquired during high school and never fully mastered by a large proportion of the population, though it can be encouraged and fostered in the upper elementary and middle school years with effective instruction.

Read More