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Sentence Starters for Reader Response Essays and Journals

Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

Here are some ideas to help you write reader response essays and journals.

Here are some ideas to help you write reader response essays and journals.

What Can You Write About?

Responses can be done about any kind of writing, including:

  • novels, short stories, or plays
  • poetry
  • articles in magazines, journals, newspapers or blogs
  • political speeches
  • scientific papers
  • advertisements
College Girl Reading

College Girl Reading

Types of Responses

A reader response can be a personal reaction to the text, or it can be a more impersonal analysis of the ideas and writing in the text. In a reader response essay, you can talk about one or more of the following:

  1. Your feelings about the topic.
  2. Your thoughts about what the author said.
  3. What this reminds you about in your own life.
  4. What you like about the way it is written.
  5. Your analysis of the effectiveness of examples, evidence, and arguments.
  6. Whether you think this is true or not.
  7. Whether you agree or disagree.
  8. How this relates to other things you've read.
  9. What you think is most important about this reading.
  10. What questions you have, or what this makes you want to know more about.

How to Use Chart

To write your reading response, look at the sentence starters below. Use the sentence starters to get you going and to help you think about how you could respond. Finish the sentence and give as many reasons as you can using evidence from the text to explain your answer. Some of the sentence starters may give you enough of an idea so that you can write a whole journal entry, or you can use several sentence starters to help you out.

For a reading response journal, you might be able to just use one sentence starter if your response doesn't have to be too long. If you are writing a reader response essay, you will probably need to use a sentence starter from several, if not all, of the categories. I've tried to arrange them in an order that would make the essay easy to write.

Sentence Starters for Reading Responses

Type of ResponseSentence Starters  


The main idea is...

The most important part...

The conclusion was...

Personal Reaction

I really liked/disliked...becase

When I read about....I felt (angry, sad, joyful, surprised, upset, satisfied) because...

I agreed/disagreed with.....becaus

Connecting to Own Experience

What I already know is...

This story reminds me of something that happened to me...

This was similar to a situation in my own life when...

Connecting to Other Texts

When I read....I was reminded of the (book, quote, story, or article) by.....because

This relates to another (book, article, short story) I've read because.....

I'd compare this to....because...


I would expect that...

What will probably happen next is...

If...., then what should happen is...

Analyzing Arguments

The argument here is similar to....

I believe/don't believe this argument is true because...

What was strong (weak) about the evidence supporting the argument was...


What this (story or argument) means to me is

One question that is answered by this text is...

The significance


What was realistic/unrealistic was....because

A similar text to this one is....... Compared to that text, this one is......because

The part which stood out for me was....because

Analyzing Writing

What was particularly effective in the writing is the....

The author catches the readers attention by.....

What was less effective was when the author.... because


What this teaches is...

What I learned from this story is...

What I wish the author had included is...

Child reading: reader response is the thoughts in your head as you read.

Child reading: reader response is the thoughts in your head as you read.

Student Sample Response

The following sample essay is written as a response to the children's fairytale "Little Red Riding Hood." See how the writer has taken the simple idea of the story and applied it to her own situation as a college student:

Summary: The main idea of "Little Red Riding Hood" is that you shouldn't believe that you can take shortcuts to get to where you need to go. The most important part of the story is when "Little Red Riding Hood" decides to disobey her mother and talk to the wolf. The conclusion was satisfying because the wolf gets his just rewards and everyone lives happily ever after (does Little Red marry the woodsman who rescues her grandma? I hope so!).

Personal Reaction: I really like this story because it reminds me of when my grandmother read it aloud to me and acted out all the parts. When I read about how Little Red gets fooled by the wolf I get upset because I think about how she shouldn't be so stupid. I mean really, "What big teeth you have?" How silly is she? Yet I think this story has a deeper meaning for young girls because I think that many of us are rather innocent and unsuspecting, just like Little Red. I think that this story was probably originally written to teach girls to be cautious around men who might want to hurt them.

Connecting to Own Experience: Re-reading this story, I was reminded of the many stories recently about sexual abuse on college campuses. I wonder if today's women need to have a modern "Little Red Riding Hood" story for their situation. For example, they need a story that tells them how to watch out for the signs they could be headed for trouble. They need a story that warns them not to stop and spend time with men that might be out to harm them. Today's young women can be eaten alive by the wolves if they don't watch out and I'm afraid that even if there is a woodsman to rescue them, they won't jump out of the belly of the wolf whole and sound. "Little Red Riding Hood" may be a children's story from long ago, but I think we need an update to teach us that same lesson today.

Analysis of Writing

Along with responding to what you think about the text and what you think about the characters of a story or the ideas of an argument, it is important to respond to the way the text is written. You want to answer questions like:

  1. What was the author's purpose in writing this piece?
  2. Who was the author's intended audience? What did the author want the audience to think, do or believe after reading?
  3. How effectively did the author write to achieve that purpose?
  4. What about the tone of the writing helped to create meaning?
  5. How did the word choices make you understand what the author was trying to convey?
  6. Which literary device (see chart) did the author use? Were they effective?
  7. Which point of view did the author use?
  8. Was it first person "I," second person "you," or the third person "he, she, it?"
  9. Why did they choose to use that stance as a narrator? Was that effective? What would happen if they wrote from a different point of view?
  10. If there were characters and dialogue in the story, were the characters like real people? Could you relate to the characters? What did the author do to make those characters seem real?
  11. If the author was trying to persuade you about something, did they make the issue seem important?
  12. Were you convinced this was a problem that needed to be discussed? Did they make you interested in it? How did they do this effectively or ineffectively?
  13. Did some parts of the text seem too repetitive or boring? Did the author fail to interest you? What could they have done better?

Why is Reader Response Important?

Learning to write down your responses to what you read helps you to think about that text much more carefully. You learn to understand and analyze the text when you write about it, and you will also remember it better. Reader responses also help you connect the new things you are learning with what you already know from your own life and other things you've read.

Many jobs require employees to respond and write up their experiences and thoughts about what they read. For example:

  1. Nurses need to write up a patient report about their observations.
  2. Psychologists need to write up case studies of their patients.
  3. Managers need to explain why an employee is effective or ineffective on the job.
  4. Teachers need to be able to read and respond to students' writing.
  5. Many jobs require you to carefully read and respond to emails or other information you are given to instruct you on your job.


Unkown on October 22, 2015:

Thanks for helping me with my homework! I needed a sentince starter for my essay.

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 27, 2015:

What an interesting comment, Ellen. You are very right to observe that creating sentences is closer to mathematics than most people realize. There are a set of ways that sentences are constructed and you can craft a sentence according to those patterns. Writing is not just magic and I do try to teach students those forms and formulas so that they have a pattern to use in constructing their essays.

Ellen Backer on August 26, 2015:

I really enjoyed this article because the sentence starters offer a wonderful jumping off point for a full sentence and from there, an essay. This article helps mathematically minded people start and craft well thought out and clear reader responses.

Mitch Lawson on August 27, 2014:

This article was very interesting for me to read since we are currently reading about reader response essays in class. Although I'm not all that excited about reader response essays, this definitely provides students like me some great tips in writing a good reader response essay.

Dianna Mendez on January 10, 2014:

Your students must be the most intelligent people after going through your course. Excellent sentence starter ideas.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 30, 2013:

Voted Up! Another great, educational help. Thank you.