Questioning a Text: Deepening Discussions and Understandings

Posted on September 22, 2008


This summer I promised participants in my literature circle workshops that I would update my literature circle wiki throughout the year, sharing lessons and resources I use with my own students. As promised, I’ve added a PowerPoint I’ve created on questioning. The PowerPoint, embedded below, is nothing earth shattering, but it might save teachers some time.

The slideshow illustrates the concept of three “layers” of questions, an allusion to Shrek’s famous line, “Ogres are like onions.” To encourage students to “peel” the layers of a text, to dig deeper into a text, we’ve been practicing generating questions that will deepen their discussions in literature circles and that will lead them to enlightening topics for writing. The first day I read aloud the first chapter of The Kite Runner.  Students then penned three questions, one for each “layer,” on sticky notes and used the questions to discuss the text in small groups. I harvested some of the best layer three questions to use in the slideshow. Today, after reviewing the concept of three layers of questions and seeing model questions generated by the students, we practiced again–this time in response to a read aloud of the first chapter of Sold by Patricia McCormack. Students started a question page in their writing journals, splitting the page into two columns, one for layer two questions, the other for layer three questions. Then, they wrote four questions in response to Sold.

They are now reading a text independently (with a literature circle–small group of students reading the same text), generating questions in their reading journals. They’ll bring these questions to their literature circles, hopefully helping them to have deeper, more meaningful discussions.

I’ll continue to model strong questions, continue to read aloud and give students opportunities to practice using this strategy. Soon, they’ll write and publish to their blog a post on a topic harvested from their question page in their writing journal. Of course, they’ll also reflect on using this strategy.

Posted in: Projects/Lessons