Children’s Literature

Response to LiteratureResponse to LiteratureQuestioning Circles
Using the Questioning Circles framework develop questions a teacher might ask students, or that students might ask, about a text. You should create a minimum of two questions for each labelled section of the Venn diagram. That is, you should have at least two text, reader, world, text/reader, text/world, reader/world, and dense questions.
Reader 1.
Text 1.
World 1.
Text/Reader 1.
Text/World 1.
Reader/World 1.
Dense 1.

Questioning CirclesSource:
Questioning Circles is a teaching strategy (Christenbury 1994) that provides a structured framework for developing questions about a text.  The strategy helps teachers to devise questions that are interesting and engaging to students; it helps students to think more critically about a text and to see how the text connects personally to their own lives.
The questioning circle consists of three overlapping areas of knowledge that expert readers bring to bear when reading:
Knowledge of the text being read TextPersonal response to the text ReaderKnowledge of the world and other texts World
As the following diagram shows, the three areas overlap and create a central dense area.  The dense centre represents the highest-order thinking about a text.  Students need to inquire into and reflect upon these complex questions.


Although teachers may frame the questions, a more powerful strategy is to encourage students to work collaboratively ( to devise questions using the framework.  Introduce students to the idea that the question is the answer i.e. in thinking carefully about framing a question, the answer to the question is explored.
Example: The following questions are based on the poem ‘Domestic Quarrel’
Domestic QuarrelThe walls of the house are paper thin.Lying awake in the pit of the nightHe hears his parents arguing,And lights a candle stealthily.The world’s two halves are closing inA sounding shell; the voices flicker,Knives that violate the night.He lies imprisoned inside a whale,His blind eyes trace its arching ribs.The dark beats down.Somewhere, offstage, ripples of distant thunder.The windows frames momentary bleached photographsCold as a moon landscape.He blows the candle out and waitsFor sleep or the consummation of rainOn the tin roof, the tides of drowning sound.
S McInerney

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Why can the boy hear everything that his parents say?
Why are the window frames “momentary bleached photographs”?
Have you ever felt imprisoned like the boy in the poem?
Do you sympathise with the boy in the poem?
How do you feel when members of your family quarrel?
How are your views about parents influenced by the experiences of your friends?
What are some of the causes of family disputes?
Do you think that quarrels occur in all families from time to time?
Do you think that the boy’s experience of lying awake at night listening to his parents quarrel is a common one in Australian society?
What is the poet’s attitude to domestic quarrels?
Dense Questions:
How do people generally react to the type of situation that this boy is in?  With sympathy or disinterest?
What might the poet say about the power of poetry to comment on important issues in society?


For more information about Questioning Circles see:
Wilhelm, J. D. (2001) Strategic Reading, Boyton-Cook/Heinemann, Portsmouth.
Christenbury, L. (1994) Making the Journey: Being and Becoming a Teacher of English Language Arts, Boynton-Cook/Heinemann, Portsmouth