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How do you come up with questions to prompt discussion/analysis?

socratic discussion discussion literary analysis history discussion questions

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#1 NowWeAreFour

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 07:49 PM

I am flat-out terrible at analysis, so I am having major trouble coming up with discussion questions that provoke the analysis/discussion that I want DD to engage in for literature and history. Something as simple as, "What are some of the internal causes of the fall of the Roman empire? What are some of the external causes?" just doesn't occur to me, let alone anything more complex. 

 

I recently bought some TOG units, and I love that TOG provides the questions for discussion and analysis. Unfortunately, I want to use different spines, and of course the info in those doesn't always match up with the questions TOG provides, so I feel like I'm  :willy_nilly:  trying to sub in the books I want to use yet still make sure they have the information I need so I can use the discussion questions, or reading everything carefully to make sure I'm not asking questions the assigned reading didn't answer, etc. 

 

Ideally, I'd use the spines I want, read them alongside DD, and we'd discuss, but the best I can seem to do is comprehension/retention-type questions. How can I go beyond that? How can I help her make connections between the history we read and the literature we read? Is wrestling with TOG every few months my only hope?

 

*sigh* I'd really hoped that by the time we reached this point, I'd have this figured out. 



#2 texasmama

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 07:57 PM

For literature, you might find Deconstructing Penguins helpful.

 

For history, I typically ask questions which cause my students to consider what they might do in those situations or what they think of a historical figure.  I like the simple "Should so and so have done such and such?"  Practically speaking, when we were reading about the many deaths from the plague, we read about how strangers took over the homes, animals and land of families when the entire family had been killed.   We had a moral discussion about this with no right or wrong answers. I just asked my kids if they thought that was the right thing to do and what they would have done or what could have been done if they didn't think that was the correct choice.  It causes them to think of the issues in a deeper way.  I have never used pre-written comprehension or other types of questions, even though I have had access to these using SL.  I ask why questions, as well, which allows my kids to examine people's motives.  We have a lot of fun with discussions, and no one complains.  :)



#3 texasmama

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 07:57 PM

dp



#4 Lori D.

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 09:20 PM

Even though it was more about Lit. than History, you might find some helpful specific ideas for prompting discussion/analysis in this recent thread: How do you encourage independent thinking and discussion?

 

Socratic questions can be a very general starting point for formulating a question; then you can add in whatever specific details of the people / events you're currently studying in History.

 

Open-ended questions is what you are shooting for, which allow for discussion. Here is a list of open-ended questions for American History that might also give you ideas for open-ended discussion questions for other history time periods, too.

 

And here's a list of discussion questions for middle school literature -- but just substitute your specific historical time/person/event for "story" or "character" in these questions, and you've got a good starting point for discussion questions!

 

Shoot for "how" and "why" questions, look for similarities/differences, and "cause and effect" of choices/events to help come up with questions. Ask what connections the students see -- between the past and present (people / events / choices / etc.). Do they see patterns, repetitions? Why might those exist? Is it because there is something unique about the geographic location (a resource, or easy land route, or sea/river port for trade...)? Does it have to do with human nature? Does it come out of a specific type of culture or religion? Was it unique?

 

Below are some starter ideas for you. Enjoy your discussion and analysis! Warmest regards, Lori D.

 

 

Ideas for History discussion questions:

(just fill in the blanks with specific details from what you're reading right then: key person; people group/culture; nation; event; philosophy or religion; trend or interest; etc.)

 

- What connections do you see between ( _________) and ( _________)?

- What consequences resulted from  ( _________)?

- How did ( _________) affect ( _________)? What effects of this do we still see today?

- Why do YOU think ( _________) happened?

- What kinds of choices and events led up to ( _________)? Do you think that made it inevitable, or could it have happened different? Explain why you think that.

- Summarize the reaction of ( _________) to ( _________)?

- What might have been some of the reasons or motivations that (leader / nation) chose to ( _________)?

- How did (___________) revolutionize / destroy / build up (__________)?

- Why was (___________) able to (__________)?

- What conditions encouraged / discouraged (___________)? Why?

- What were the benefits of (___________) to (___________)? Why?

- What issues were most important to (___________at this time? Why?

- How was (___________resolved?

- How did (social structure / cultural viewsaffect  (___________)? Why?

- Explain why (___________took place / did not take place / was able to flourish / died out / etc.?

- Why was  (___________significant?

 

 



#5 Chrysalis Academy

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 09:15 AM

Well, this is related to the answer I just wrote on the Coursera thread.  Honestly, the way I come up with questions/discussion topics?  Study the topic myself.  In advance.  Read the text, or the literature book, and think about it.  Take some overview, world history courses myself, so that I can see the sweep of history and make connections between events myself.  If I can't see it, if I don't understand it, how can I teach it? How can I take part in a meaningful discussion with my kids?

 

The time spent on self-education isn't just as indulgence, though it feel that way sometimes.  For me, it's directly about becoming a better teacher by becoming very knowledgeable about the subjects I'm teaching my kids.  When I've absorbed something, and thought about it in advance, discussions are pretty easy.  If I'm sitting down with something I've not read or thought about, then the lists like Lori D linked above are really helpful (and necessary).



#6 Twigs

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 09:43 AM

ILiveInFlipFlops

 

Thanks for starting this topic. This is something I really need, also.

 

Would you mind adding some tags to this thread?

 

Socratic discussion

discussion

literary analysis

history discussion questions

 

To add tags after posting

The original poster goes to the 1st post

Then go to the lower right corner of the 1st post and click on "edit"

Then under the "Topic Title" is a field for "Topic Tags"

Add the tags there

 

Thanks!



#7 NowWeAreFour

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 09:45 AM

Well, this is related to the answer I just wrote on the Coursera thread.  Honestly, the way I come up with questions/discussion topics?  Study the topic myself.  In advance.  Read the text, or the literature book, and think about it.  Take some overview, world history courses myself, so that I can see the sweep of history and make connections between events myself.  If I can't see it, if I don't understand it, how can I teach it? How can I take part in a meaningful discussion with my kids?

 

The time spent on self-education isn't just as indulgence, though it feel that way sometimes.  For me, it's directly about becoming a better teacher by becoming very knowledgeable about the subjects I'm teaching my kids.  When I've absorbed something, and thought about it in advance, discussions are pretty easy.  If I'm sitting down with something I've not read or thought about, then the lists like Lori D linked above are really helpful (and necessary).

 

Unfortunately, the problem for me is that my brain just doesn't seem to work that way. It's an issue I've had as far back as I can remember. I'm great at taking in information, retaining, hanging onto dates and facts, etc., but I'm not great at making the deeper connections. I remember being completely bemused in high school and college English classes about the things people could see in the stuff we read that I just didn't see. I can answer those questions just fine, but it's very hard for me to actually think of them. The very literal way my brain works is a source of great amusement for my DH  <_<



#8 Candid

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 12:44 PM

Unfortunately, the problem for me is that my brain just doesn't seem to work that way. It's an issue I've had as far back as I can remember. I'm great at taking in information, retaining, hanging onto dates and facts, etc., but I'm not great at making the deeper connections. I remember being completely bemused in high school and college English classes about the things people could see in the stuff we read that I just didn't see. I can answer those questions just fine, but it's very hard for me to actually think of them. The very literal way my brain works is a source of great amusement for my DH  <_<

 

Often if you can just learn to ask "why?" and "how?" that will be enough to get a good discussion. An occasional, "What do you think about that?" If you have a religion, you can change that last one to, "How does that fit with our religion?"



#9 linguistmama

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 12:47 PM

I am eagerly reading the responses.  The discussions are what attract me to TOG, but I would rather not use it for various reasons.  Has anyone used anything from The Classical Historian http://www.classicalhistorian.com/ ?  There is a section of materials designed to be used with a spine of your choosing.  TCH provides discussion aids including questions and dvds.



#10 birchbark

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 12:58 PM

Ugh! OP, I am just the same. Love Socratic discussions but am terrible at leading them. DH has a natural bent for it, so I always appreciate when he initiates discussions with the kids.

 

The Teaching the Classics syllabus has a long list of great questions for literature. I'm sure some of them could be used for history. I also appreciate Andrew Kern's simple approach: "Should  _____ have done that?" You can really branch out from that one simple question.



#11 54879525

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 01:04 PM

How old is your daughter?  (or if more appropriate, what approximate grade level does she work at)

 

 



#12 stoverdavid30

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 04:25 PM

If you can get 1 or 2 good ones to get the ball rolling and then go "Socratic" on them.  I was good at that route.



#13 Alte Veste Academy

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Posted 19 July 2013 - 12:05 PM

Social Studies That Sticks is chock full of amazing questions.



#14 Free

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 12:55 AM

I am currently reading through the free history curriculum World History for Us All. It provides a framework of three essential questions and seven key themes which can be applied to any period or event in history to find connections and come up with interesting questions.

 

The director of this project Ross Dunn also has a book Bring History Alive: A Sourcebook for Teaching World History which you might find useful.

 



#15 NowWeAreFour

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 06:55 AM

I forgot to come back and say thank you to everyone who posted. I need to think more about this, and I'll take some time to look at the resources you all linked. We aren't starting back to history until September, so I have some time to pull my thoughts together (I hope!). 

 

Thank you!



#16 ladydusk

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 07:13 AM

This is a good chart to help come up wuth questions: http://www.amazon.co...p_am_us?ie=UTF8

Sorry bout the crazy link. Mobile is harder ...

#17 ladydusk

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 07:14 AM

dp

#18 boscopup

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 07:17 AM

Unfortunately, the problem for me is that my brain just doesn't seem to work that way. It's an issue I've had as far back as I can remember. I'm great at taking in information, retaining, hanging onto dates and facts, etc., but I'm not great at making the deeper connections. I remember being completely bemused in high school and college English classes about the things people could see in the stuff we read that I just didn't see. I can answer those questions just fine, but it's very hard for me to actually think of them. The very literal way my brain works is a source of great amusement for my DH  <_<

 

Just wanted to say that I'm exactly the same way. I'm a math girl, and while I did ok in Honors/AP English in high school and managed to somehow get a 4 on the AP English exam, I had a hard time understanding literary analysis. I never saw stuff myself. I could just remember what the teacher said or other students said during discussions and parrot that back on a test or in an essay. I remember reading a Steinbeck (I think) novel in English class (can't remember which one), and the teacher asked what was the symbolism of the ants on the table. I was like, "Um... they were hungry?" :lol: Apparently, they symbolized the characters in the story. I totally didn't see that at all when I read it and never would have thought of it. The teacher was not impressed with my answer. :tongue_smilie:

 

As an adult, I've *started* to see some things on my own, especially through Bible study. I think my brain is finally ready now! :D I just finished watching the Teaching the Classics DVDs, and I was able to do the practicum there. I still feel like I may need help on some things, but I have a better idea of how to do this with my kids. We'll start with some basics using children's books, and move on from there. I'm sure I'll need some kind of notes to help me through discussion of novels in high school (I'd read the book myself and stew on it, but then I'll need a guide to help me get the parts I didn't notice). But at least I think I can handle some of the basics now, thinking about plot/conflict, setting, characters, and theme.

 

And part of my issue with literary analysis may be the fact that there isn't just one clear answer sometimes. In math, you can find x=3, or x >= 3, etc. There are exact answers. In literature, it's not so. The climax can be different based on which conflict you're looking at. And the conflicts going on, you could discuss all day sometimes whether it's this or that or both. It's not formulaic, and my brain wants formulaic! :D

 

So yeah, you're not alone. :)



#19 Twigs

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 09:11 AM

Here are some resources that might help

 

Bloom’s Taxonomy Book Review Questions

 

Activities at Various Cognitive Levels of Learning

 

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Critical Thinking and Writing Effective Learning Objectives/Outcomes

 

The Socratic Method: What it is and How to Use it in the Classroom

 

Using Socratic Questioning



#20 texasmama

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 09:36 AM

As an adult, I've *started* to see some things on my own, especially through Bible study. I think my brain is finally ready now! :D I just finished watching the Teaching the Classics DVDs, and I was able to do the practicum there. I still feel like I may need help on some things, but I have a better idea of how to do this with my kids. We'll start with some basics using children's books, and move on from there. I'm sure I'll need some kind of notes to help me through discussion of novels in high school (I'd read the book myself and stew on it, but then I'll need a guide to help me get the parts I didn't notice). But at least I think I can handle some of the basics now, thinking about plot/conflict, setting, characters, and theme.

 

And part of my issue with literary analysis may be the fact that there isn't just one clear answer sometimes. In math, you can find x=3, or x >= 3, etc. There are exact answers. In literature, it's not so. The climax can be different based on which conflict you're looking at. And the conflicts going on, you could discuss all day sometimes whether it's this or that or both. It's not formulaic, and my brain wants formulaic! :D

 

 

I am beginning the Teaching the Classics DVDs today.  How long did all four take to get through?  Just curious.  :)

 

Also, you are my polar opposite.  I live in the gray areas.  I am teaching a co-op class for 4th-7th grade this year focused on literary analysis.  I couldn't love it more that it is not formulaic. :D



#21 ~Phoenix

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 09:48 AM

Also, you are my polar opposite.  I live in the gray areas.  I am teaching a co-op class for 4th-7th grade this year focused on literary analysis.  I couldn't love it more that it is not formulaic. :D

***Jealous!!!*** ;)

 

My literary analysis is awful. Thanks for all the links shared in this thread.



#22 texasmama

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 09:58 AM

***Jealous!!!*** ;)

 

My literary analysis is awful. Thanks for all the links shared in this thread.

You can come to my class if you want.  It's going to be fun!  :D



#23 Lori D.

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 10:10 AM

You can come to my class if you want.  It's going to be fun!  :D

 

Hey, Texasmama, can you give us a "sneak peek" of how a typical class will look? That would be another great help for people to see ways of prompting discussion and analysis! :)



#24 texasmama

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 11:15 AM

Hey, Texasmama, can you give us a "sneak peek" of how a typical class will look? That would be another great help for people to see ways of prompting discussion and analysis! :)

This would probably be more helpful if I had it planned out more thoroughly. ;) Keep in mind I have not actually ever done this.

However, because I am a liberal arts, loosy-goosy kind of gal, it will not ever be all planned out. That is the purpose of a discussion type class, right? :D

I will have about 10 students, ranging from a precocious 4th grader to a couple of introverted 7th graders, one of whom is mine. My 5th grader will also be in this class. I am teaching it primarily for him. I will get a large, flip chart thingie to write on and will bring it to every class. The kids will be in a semi circle around the flip chart. They will bring their 3 ring binders with dividers: "literary terms", "vocabulary", and "books". ("Books" is for their own thoughts/notes as they read during the week.) I will be teaching two literary terms per week using Figuratively Speaking and will give them a definition at the beginning of class which they will write in their notebooks under "literary terms". I will also pass out a list of vocabulary words broken down by chapter of each book prior to the start of each book because I don't want unfamiliar words to hold them back from understanding the story. ETA: I will have written the definitions out. They only need to go over them. We may do some of this in class prior to the reading of the chapters.

During the first semester, we will be reading and discussing From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler, The Whipping Boy, and A Christmas Carol, in that order. This will encompass a wide variety of styles, reading levels and content, obviously. I will ask parents to read aloud A Christmas Carol with their kids because of the heavy unfamiliar vocabulary. I hope parents will comply. :) (I'm a parent, too, so I will be reading aloud to my own boys.) ETA: I will present author bios, also, particularly with Charles Dickens. His life influenced his writings so heavily that the kids will miss much of the meaning without the personal history and context of the author and the time in which he lived. Each week, the students will be assigned reading (i.e. Chapters 1-2 of From the Mixed Up Files for the second week of class). The first week will be an introduction of the concepts of lit analysis and the class expectations, getting to know each other, etc.

When students come to class the second week, I will present two literary terms from Figuratively Speaking, which they will write in their notebooks. Then we will begin discussion ala Deconstructing Penguins of protagonist, antagonist, setting, and conflict. I expect a lot of silence and blank stares at first. :) An initial goal of these first few weeks will be to create a culture of "safety" in which everyone's opinions/input is valued. I will write on the flip chart as we discuss. I will have read the assigned chapters and will ask Socratic questions to prime the pump, as needed. BTW, no student is required to participate in the discussion. I believe that everyone will participate at some point, but I will respect that not every person is comfortable contributing their thoughts for discussion with others, so they will do so as they are comfortable. I imagine myself asking "I wonder why..." and "I wonder what the purpose was for..." with a thoughtful look on my face. I expect some crowd control issues with kids who monopolize the discussion. I will gently deal with this. I also imagine asking the kids where they would want to run away to, as the main character in the book did.

Every week, I will bring my flip chart and we will review our thoughts from the previous week and add to them, noting the changes as the plot unfolds. I also have one week scheduled for poetry study. The students will have to do no preparation for this. It will be my chance to have fun with poetry and their chance to have no homework. :)

I think this will be interesting and fun. It will likely be a different experience for most of the kids in the class, though not mine. They are very used to mom saying, "I wonder...". :)

Hope that helps anyone. It helps me to write it all out. :)

#25 Hunter

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 11:27 AM

Boscopup is right that previous Bible study makes lit analysis easier.

OP, what are you passionate about? I personally am passionate about human rights, so we will always talk about human rights when we read together. Many of my students have religious opinions, so we will discuss literature from a variety of worldviews.

There is no "right" way to do lit analysis. Different curriculums will have a whole different set of goals and methods based on the passions and worldview of the author. I don't believe that the scholarly and hard curriculum are better than the conservative Christian ones that focus on the character traits of the main people involved, and the hand of God involved.

Find YOUR passions. start there.

Group discussion is fun because each individual arrives with their own passions and worldview. You are NOT supposed to have thought up what they thought up!

I can be very literal too. I can set a group laughing when I am completely confident in sharing my literal and minimalist views of the topic. Even when I am being a bit condescending towards their need to be all scholarly about something. "Oh, puuuuulease! So what?" has come out of my mouth.

#26 JennW in SoCal

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 11:43 AM

How is it that here we are on the WTM boards yet no one has yet plugged the Well Educated Mind?  The title doesn't do it any service, but it is a one stop reference for everything you are going to read and share with your kids.  This is the book that made the literary analysis light bulb finally light up for me.  

 

The WEM, written by our hostess Susan Wise Bauer, has sections on all the different genres of literature your will want to tackle, whether fiction, drama, poetry or non-fiction.  There is a nice introduction to the history of the genre followed by a section on how to read and think about works within the genre with really useful questions from the simple to the complex.  There is also an annotated list of books, in chronological order of course, but you do not have to only read those listed works to benefit from the WEM.  I used the background information and the lists of questions for all kinds of works, from fluffy sci-fi to Great Books and poetry.  

 

Also, I think we all are handicapped by thinking we have to be having deeply profound discussions of literature with our kids when really we should be simply be talking in order to share our love of books.  If you treat every book as needing dissertation-level analysis, you are going to suck the joy out of reading good literature.  Instead why not start the discussions by talking about what you like, about which character you loved or about the language the author used.  Say things like "the one thing that annoyed me to no end about this book was the long detailed sections describing people's clothing"  and see if your child agrees or not.  If you are listening together to an audio book, hit pause and talk about a section that moves you or that might not make sense to a child of the 21st century.

 

Same thing with history and science.  Talk about what you think is cool, make comments about the connections you notice.  Of course there is a difference between casual conversation and formal academic writing, but talk about that too, talk about the kinds of formal arguments that could be made to support one viewpoint or another.  It is through conversation, through a love of the material, that a young person develops the ability for deeper analysis.   





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: socratic discussion, discussion, literary analysis, history discussion questions

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