Website review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2021

eNotes

Lesson plans, answers, and in-depth analysis of literature

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Grades
6–12
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Well-organized and easy to navigate user interface means students can quickly find help and can view quite a lot of content without an account.

Cons: The site's featured, popular, and recently added selections focus on canonical texts and don't necessarily reflect the literature of diverse classrooms.

Bottom Line: Though a paid subscription gives students access to more in-depth analysis and a more personalized experience, there's plenty here to help students comprehend complex literary works.

English language arts teachers won't have a hard time finding eNotes content that their students can use in the classroom. Whether they're teaching canonical works, such as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, or more contemporary works, such as Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped from the Beginning, teachers will find a plethora of resources and information to support their curriculum. Even if teachers don't take advantage of the lesson plans offered, they can direct their students to this site in order to help them break down complexities, discover themes, and analyze the texts they are reading.

Humanities teachers may want to consider giving their students a choice of a famous speech or essay to read, analyze, and discuss or pair with relevant novels or nonfiction texts. For an interesting classroom discussion, ask students to compare speeches from different times and perspectives in history, such as comparing Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech to Patrick Henry's "Speech to the Virginia Convention." The site's resources will help students sharpen their critical thinking skills as well as understand the power of words to inspire and persuade the masses. All that said, teachers need to be aware that some students will lean too heavily on sites such as this one and, as a result, might not do the hard work of making sense of complex reading material. Be sure to stress that sites like eNotes are meant to support students in their learning, but they're not a replacement for the hard work that goes into comprehending the words and ideas that make for rich literature. 

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eNotes is a literary analysis website where students and teachers can access summaries, analyses, lesson plans, and homework help about classic and contemporary literary works. Novels, speeches, essays, plays, and biographies are among the content available, and there's a huge selection of titles from which to choose. While the site steers users toward subscribing through distracting video ads, calls to subscribe and download, and cutting off content, it does offer quite a lot for free. Students can view partial answers to questions, chapter and scene summaries, analyses, quotes, short quizzes, and writing lessons, all of which can be beneficial to getting them started with research and analysis. Teachers can take advantage of available lesson plans as well, although again, subscribers have access to much more content.

This site is well organized, but it's very text heavy. This might overwhelm some students who are looking for more interactive features or for text broken down into more manageable chunks. Students who struggle with reading might find the site's reliance on written text a challenge and would benefit from accessibility features like text-to-speech or video content, which might help explain some of the works they are reading in ways that better fit their learning preferences.

The fact that students can search for and find nearly any piece of literature makes eNotes an especially valuable resource. Though canonical texts outnumber others, eNotes contains a surprisingly large selection of texts, so students who are not reading canonical texts might find analysis and useful information on what they choose or what their teacher has assigned. There's not much to encourage collaboration, but students can use workarounds such as Kami or Google Drive if they want to study or annotate texts in pairs or groups. With guidance, students can learn to read, comprehend, analyze, and even write with advanced levels of complexity.

More accessibility features or even leveled resources would help make the site useful for more students. And giving a teacher more control over what information students can access -- and when -- would be useful to encourage kids to analyze text themselves before reading someone else's thoughts. In light of all of the free material that's available, however, eNotes is a super-solid resource to help struggling students, to find lesson plans, or to pick and choose elements to augment instruction.

Overall Rating

Engagement

The site's text-heavy interface may overwhelm some students, but with such a vast collection of literature, it's sure to be a go-to site for useful information and analysis.

Pedagogy

Helpful categories and summaries break down literary analysis into more manageable pieces, especially when dealing with challenging texts.

Support

The site offers students a way to dig in to texts, whether they're struggling with content or looking to deepen understanding. More accessibility features would improve the user experience.


Common Sense reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Instructional Technology Facilitator

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