In sixth grade writing class, we are working on literary analysis essays. Students read short fictional stories and work to understand characters on a deeper level. This analysis involves thinking critically about what certain details in the story reveal about characters, why the author chose to include such details, and what really motivates the characters. After closely reading and annotating a short story, students form a claim or thesis about the character and gather evidence from the text to support this claim. To guide students' independent analysis work, we analyze a short story together as a whole class, and we closely read "mentor" literary essays to discover the features and structure of this essay genre. The skills learned in this unit will be useful in and beyond secondary school and college classrooms. In our media-driven culture, it is important that students are able to read or watch something, analyze it, and put together an articulate interpretation of or response to it. Sixth grade is enjoying learning these valuable research and writing skills.