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The One-Pager: A Literary Response Activity For Grades 3 – 8

by Model Teaching | January 29, 2019.

The dreaded book report. Students don’t enjoy writing them, and if we are honest with ourselves, we as teachers don’t enjoy reading them. Yet we still need an effective way to assess our student’s knowledge and depth of understanding when they have completed a novel study. This article will provide you with one simple activity you can use with your students that can be customized based on specific skills you need to assess.

Establishing Classroom Procedures

Most students in grades 3 through 8 are capable of reading an entire novel, and will do so several times over the course of a school year. The majority of those readings may be for pleasure, as opposed to required reading, and the content of many of those novels might not be the most enlightening or thought-provoking. However, there will come a time when you as a teacher assign a particular book to a student or group of students, or even an entire class. Most likely, you have specific goals in mind when choosing that book, and we have to ask ourselves a few questions. What do I want them to learn from, or think about, based on this book? How can I assess my student’s depth of understanding? How can I ensure that my students will take away what I want them to glean from this novel? In years past, students might have been assigned the dreaded book report, and then teachers had the challenge of fairly and objectively scoring those. Today, I offer you an alternative to the standard book report…a one-pager.

A one-pager is a literary response writing activity that can be customized for any grade level. There are a variety of elements you can require, and you simply choose the most appropriate ones based on your instruction and the novel itself. One-pagers also give students a chance to be creative with how they express what they have learned. Let’s take a look at the typical requirements of a one-pager.

The Basics
While one-pagers are highly customizable, there are a few things that should be required each time.

  • Fits on One Page: This can be a standard 8 ½ by 11 inch piece of unlined paper, or you may choose to allow students to use a larger piece of construction paper. Unlined is the most critical element here, because you don’t want student’s work to be limited to traditional lines.
  • Little to No White Space: The challenge is for students to fill up the space with their knowledge of the novel, so encourage them to have as little blank space as possible.
  • Use of Color: This is where creativity begins to come into play. Let your students know that while they may use pencil to sketch an outline of their critical elements, you want the final product to be colorful and eye-catching. These one-pagers should be worthy of classroom or hallway display!
  • Title and Author: One non-negotiable requirement on any one-pager is that students include the title of the book, and give credit to the author. For older grades, you may even want to require more bibliographical details, or even a full citation.

The Customizable Components

A one-pager is like a puzzle where you get to decide which pieces fit. Use the list below for some initial ideas for how you can make this work in your classroom. It is important to note that this list of elements is in no way comprehensive. If you use this activity in your classroom, you will surely come up with new components to include based on your instructional goals.

  • Summary of the Book – This could be as simple as a “somebody, wanted, but, so” one-sentence summary for a younger elementary student, or as complex and detailed as a one-paragraph summary for older readers. It is important that you have spent time teaching the skill of summarizing before requiring this!
  • Important Quotes – Students could include an important quote from the book and explain why it resonated with them. Be sure to require that students cite page numbers any time they directly quote from a book.
  • Visual Image – This is always a favorite element of artistic and creative students! They could draw a main character, an important setting from the story, or even an important symbol. Students should include a caption to explain what they drew as well as its significance within the book.
  • Vocabulary – Students can list new words they learned from the text, along with the meaning of the word. This could be based on what they inferred from context clues, or it may include actual dictionary definitions that they had to research.
  • Personal Response/Opinion – Students typically appreciate when this element is included because it gives them a chance to have their voice heard. Did they enjoy the book, and why or why not? Would they recommend it to others, and again, why or why not
  • Connections – If you have spent time in class teaching text-to-text, text-to-self, or text-to-world connections, you will probably want to require that students write about any connections they made during their reading. Encourage them to dig deep, and not write superficial connections such as, “The main character has a dog and I have a dog.”
  • Questions – Students can record questions they might have had at the beginning of, or throughout the story, as well as the eventual answers to those questions. This section might also include questions that still linger even after completing the book.
  • Predictions – Students can record predictions they made, citing text evidence for support, and then write about the accuracy of their predictions.
  • Theme – Theme is often hard for students to grasp, especially younger readers, so this element should only be required if you have spent extensive time on lessons to identify theme.
  • Story Elements – This simple element is probably best for elementary students. Students can describe various story elements such as plot, setting, and characters.
  • Character Development – How did the main character change throughout the course of the book? Students should give text evidence to back up their claims.
  • Point of View – Students can write about the point of view from which the story was written, and explain why they think the author made that choice.
  • Genre Classification – Which genre does this book belong to? What elements of the story make it fit into that genre?
  • Elements of Writer’s Craft – What makes this author’s writing unique and interesting? Students can give examples of craft such as vivid imagery, foreshadowing, irony, metaphors, to name just a few.
  • Author’s Purpose – Why did the author write this book? What is the overall message the author likely wanted readers to walk away with?

Use the editable resources included here to create your own custom requirements. Be sure to give each student their own copy of the requirements, so they are fully aware of what is expected of them.

Scoring of One-Pagers

At this point, you might be asking yourself, if this assignment is so unique each time I assign it, how can I fairly and consistently score them for my students? An analytic rubric is usually the best option for scoring any type of literary response as it allows you to consider each element independently in order to get a big picture of the depth of the student’s understanding. Our particular example, which you can download and edit as needed, has teachers rate each element as needs improvement, developing, sufficient, or exceeds expectations.

This scoring also allows you to see gaps in their understanding, as well as their strengths. It can also guide your future instruction as you may see trends across your class. For example, if you notice that the majority of your students scored in the “needs improvement” or “developing” range on summary, you know you will need to consider how you are teaching summarizing and target that skill before assessing it again. On the other hand, if you see many students scoring “exceeds expectations” on connections, you will know that your lessons on making connections are effective, and continue to use them with future classes.

A one-pager literary response is a highly customizable assessment tool. As the teacher developing the checklist of required elements, you are able to target specific skills you have taught in class and want to assess. Best of all, one-pagers allow for student creativity much more than with a standard book report.

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One-Pager Guidelines – Elementary School

Teachers can share this handout with their students to outline the parameters of their writing assignment.

One-Pager Guidelines – Middle School

Teachers can share this handout with their students to outline the parameters of their writing assignment.

One-Pager Assessment Rubric Template

This editable rubric consist of a list of one-pager components that can be deleted or added to as necessary. It has 4 scoring columns where teachers can score the level of quality of each element (needs improvement, developing, sufficient, exceeds expectations)


Now it’s time for you to give this a try! Begin by using the One-Pager Guidelines resource that is appropriate for your grade level, and adapt it to reflect the lessons you have been focusing your instruction on. If time allows, it is always a great idea to create an example for students to follow, particularly the first time you try this activity. Since this is such a visual activity, it is especially helpful for students to see an example. Once your students have submitted their work, use the One Pager Assessment Rubric Template to create an appropriate rubric for you to score their one-pagers. By the time you have completed the scoring process, you will have a solid idea of lessons you need to reteach, and areas where your students are excelling.

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