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Critical Thinking Questions About Literature

50 Questions To Help Students Think About What They Think

contributed by Lisa Chesser

Using the right questions creates powerful, sometimes multiple answers and discussions. Aristotle said that he asked questions in response to other people’s views, while Socrates focused on disciplined questioning to get to the truth of the matter.

Ultimately questions spark imagination, conjure emotions, and create more questions. The questions asked by a teacher or professor are sometimes more glaringly valuable than the information transferred to the students. Those questions spark a thought, which leads to a fiercely independent search for information.

If students are the ones gathering that information then they’re the ones learning it and student-driven learning cements lessons into the students’ minds making any lesson more powerful with this strategy. Even though the following list of questions are broken into Mathematics, Literature and Science and Social Science, it’s really just a set of philosophically challenging questions that should be applied to any learning environment.

The questions are unrestricted and open the mind up to unfettered thought, perfect for innovation and understanding. The sections begin with Mathematical Questions because for the purpose of this list they’re the most general and therefore the most useful.

See also our 28 Critical Thinking Question Stems For Classroom Use ($4.50)

Logical Questions

Within the realm of mathematics, there are certain types of questions that build up to those aha moments or topple barriers.  Those are the questions that change a learner forever. They change a person because finally, the answers can only be found within.

The addition of philosophical questioning to mathematics enhances critical thinking in every learner. Basic principles of understanding help create solid ground, but questions build powerful architecture with which structures tower over one another.

Reflection & Collaboration

1. What do you think about what was said?

2. How would you agree or disagree with this?

3. Are there any other similar answers you can think of with alternative routes?

4. Does anyone in this class want to add something to the solution?

5. How might you convince us that your way is the best way?

Self-Reflection

6. How did you determine this to be true?

7. Why didn’t you consider a different route to the problem?

8. Why does that answer make sense to you?

9. (in response to an answer):…what if I said that’s not true?

10. Is there any way to show exactly what you mean by that?

Reasoning

11. Why do you think this works? Does it always? why?

12. How do you think this is true?

13. Show how you might prove that?

14. Why assume this?

15. How might you argue against this?

Analysis

16. How might you show the differences and similarities?

17. What patterns might lead you to an alternative answer?

18. How many possibilities can you think of and why?

19. Predict any number of results?

Connections

20. How does this relate daily occurrences?

21. Which ideas make the most sense and why?

22. Which problems feel familiar? Why?

23. How does this relate to current events?

24. What kinds of examples make this problem workable?

25. What other problems fit this style or example?

Literary Questions

Buried in every story lives a student’s own life. Anyone can relate to at least one character or dive into at least one plot twist. But, the more foreign a story, the more important the questions should be.

Students may resist the idea that they can relate to certain characters depending on their ethnicity or economic background, but deep, concentrated questions show students the story really isn’t that foreign at all and also guide students to deeper meanings.

The following questions could be applied to any story, no matter how long or short, difficult or easy. Vary them and add to them depending on how the discussion flows.

26. How did any of the characters or events remind you of yourself? Why?

27. How did the character’s actions affect you? Explain.

28. If you were this character, how would the story change?

29. What surprised or confused you about the characters or events? Explain.

30. Why do you think the author wrote from this character’s view?

31. What do you think the author is trying to accomplish?

32. How is the author thinking about the world?

33. How would the story change from another character’s view?

34. Why do you think this story could actually happen, or not?

35. How can this story teach us something about our lives?

36. How do you think the characters resolved the major conflict in the story?

37. How would you have resolved it?

38. How would you change the end of the story and why?

Science and Social Questions

Within the idea of the Scientific Method, the hypothesis stands as the ultimate question. But, there are so many more questions a scientist must ask in order to answer that one question.

The challenging questions, however, make this a universal process streaming into other subject matter and delving into deeper waters. Here are some questions to sink into and use across curriculum as well as within science itself.

39. What’s the purpose for this experiment or argument?

40. Would you elaborate on the purpose of this?

41. What issues or problems do you see here?

42. What evidence or data are given that help make this worthwhile?

43. What are some of the complexities we should consider?

44. What concepts help organize this data, these experiences?

45. How can you justify this information?

46. How can we verify or test that data?

47. What details can you add to make this information feel more complete?

48. Which set of data or information is most relevant or important?

49. How is all of this consistent or inconsistent?

50. How am I seeing or viewing this information? Objectively or subjectively? Should I then change my view?

A former Publications Specialist at Florida International University where she also received a bachelor’s degree in English, Lisa Chesser left the publishing field to pursue a career in education. In her first three years of teaching Language Arts, she won an Excellence in Teaching Award for helping students achieve 50 percent learning gains. Because she’s also a writer, an editor, and an artist by trade, students often take more interest in their learning environment because she teaches them the value of it in the workplace; metacognition

This post was first published on openncolleges.edu.au; image attribution flickr user nationalassemblyforwales; 50 Questions To Help Students Think About What They Think

One way to develop higher-order thinking skills is to have students evaluate a text. This involves judging the merit of a text; that is, saying whether one liked/disliked the storyline and why, or what, in the reader’s opinion, are the special merits/demerits of the text. This activity benefits students in many ways: they learn to be self-confident and value their own opinions, they are forced to think and present their views in a more logical and creative manner, and they become motivated to read more.

This activity is divided into three stages; the students work individually at first, then in pairs with a partner and finally in groups. For this activity, give the students a selected extract from a literary text. If you used a prose text for Activity 1, you could use a play or a poem this time. The students should read the text, and answer evaluative questions like the ones given in Resource 2a.

The students, working in pairs now, should then share their opinions with their partners and decide on the reasons behind their opinion (whether they liked it, for example). Then each pair should present their point of view to the class. In the third step, pairs who share the same point of view (like/dislike, happy/sad ending, etc.) should be put in groups of six. In their groups, the students should pool their arguments and prepare a paragraph on their views, giving reasons for their decisions. At the end of the activity, group leaders should read out the reviews for the class to comment. The best two viewpoints, arguing two opposite positions, can then be selected and, if possible, included in the school magazine.

Students should also keep a record of what they read, with evaluative comments, by making a journal entry, as shown in Resource 2b.