WHAT ARE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS? After you have finished reading a text, whether it is an article, a chapter, or an entire book, you can pose open-ended questions based on what you have read. Open-ended means that the questions do not have only one answer and are not factual questions, but instead they invite discussion and multiple opinions. WHY USE THEM? Discussion questions are useful in helping readers explore different levels of meaning and interpretation in a text. Because there isn’t one answer, discussion questions trigger many different angles and perspectives, promoting critical thinking and enhancing your engagement with the subject matter. Also, answering good, complex questions can lead to strong and interesting thesis statements.
HOW DO I CREATE THEM? Start by reviewing the text you have just read, using your annotation and marginal notes as well as any notes you may have from classroom activities or from your own reading. Next, focusing on the main ideas and events in the text, think about what you don’t know but would like to understand better and/or what you have an idea or a hunch about, but would like to explore further. Then, start writing a series of questions that do not have one answer and are open-ended. Make sure you are not asking factual questions; make sure they are questions that inspire more than one perspective or opinion to answer. Use these words to begin your questions: Why, How, What, If. You can begin a question with Who if there can be more than one answer. You can use these questions to deepen your own understanding by thinking about the way you would answer them. You can share them with other students in the class in pairs or in groups. EXAMPLE Here are some examples of open-ended discussion questions based on Chapter VII in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Why didn’t Fredrick Douglass accept his role as a slave and stop trying to learn to read and write? How did Frederick Douglass create changes in his life? If Fredrick Douglass hadn’t read Sheridan, would he have been a different person? What makes a person decide to break out of a system that is oppressing him/her? Who do you think was the most influential person in Douglass’ life?
When discussing a text/topic or when preparing to write an essay, beginning with a question has several advantages: WHAT ARE QUESTIONING CIRCLES? Questioning circles are used to create complex, open-ended questions that involve different levels of critical thinking. WHY USE QUESTIONING CIRCLES? 1. Good questions lead to rich discussions that can strengthen understanding of a text/topic. 2. Questions require answers. Answering questions with opinion form thesis statements and lead you to look for evidence which is necessary to prove a thesis. 3. A clear open-ended question calls for real investigation and thinking. Asking a question with no direct answer makes research and writing more meaningful to both you and your audience.
HOW DO YOU CREATE THEM? There are 3 areas to include when forming questions. Each of these areas is represented by a circle: 1) Subject-Text: represents the subject and/or text(s) under discussion or questioning 2) Personal reality: represents the individual’s experiences, values and ideas 3) External reality: represents the “world”: the experience, history, and concepts of larger society and of other peoples and cultures While each circle represents a different domain of cognition, the circles overlap—as does knowledge—and are not ordered. Further, in one area where all three circles intersect lies the union of the subject being explored, the individual’s response and experience, and the experience of others. The intersection of the three circles, the area we term “Dense,” contains the most significant (higher-order) questions.
QUESTIONING CIRCLES EXAMPLES: Using The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Single Questions Subject-Text:What does Huck say when he decides not to turn Jim into the authorities? Personal reality:When would you support a friend when everyone else thought s/he was wrong? External reality: What was the responsibility of people who found runaway slaves? Double Questions Subject-Text/ Personal reality: Would you, like Huck, break the law for a friend? Personal reality/External reality: Given the social and political circumstances, to what extent would you have done what Huck did? Subject-Text /External reality: What were the issues during that time which caused both Huck’s and Jim’s action to be viewed as wrong? Dense Question Subject-Text/Personal reality/External reality: When is it right to go against the social and/or political structures of the time as Huck did when he refused to turn Jim in to the authorities? EXAMPLE
QUESTIONING CIRCLES EXAMPLES: Using Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Single Questions Subject-Text:What strategies did Douglass use after he was forbidden to read? Personal reality: Do you think that educating someone can make them dangerous? External reality: When else has denial of education been used to control people? Double Questions Subject-Text/ Personal reality: Would you, like Douglass, use the same methods to get your freedom? Personal reality/External reality: Do you think that education in all circumstances is a positive thing or can it in some cases lead to a less stable society? Subject-Text /External reality: Why did Douglass risk so much to learn to read and why did slave owners forbid slaves to read? Dense Question Subject-Text/Personal reality/External reality: Why was Douglass so determined to learn to read and how do you think reading and education connect to self-realization and breaking free from societal control? EXAMPLE
CREATING QUESTIONS USING THE QUESTIONING CIRCLES I. IN-CLASS EXERCISE: In groups, on a separate sheet of paper, create ONE question type for each category but only write the question down and do not state what question type it is. (1) Single question: (subject-text or personal reality or external reality) (2) Double question: (subject-text / personal reality or personal reality / external reality or subject-text / external reality) (3) Dense question: (subject-text / personal reality / external reality) II. When you are finished, pass your questions to another group for them to: (1) Guess the category type (i.e. if it’s a single question which area does it address? Subject-text? Personal? External? Or if it’s double, which two areas does it blend?) (2) The group will then answer your questions and your group will answer the questions from another group. (3) Take notes of good questions and answers as you can use these to create your own thesis on the topic. PRACTICE (Pause)
that concludes 1 1 CRITICAL READING Creating Questions