A discussion question has FOUR structural parts at minimum:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Question
  4. Proper Citation.

REMEMBER, this is all (print or non-print) TEXT-BASED, so you must have a selection from the text you are basing the whole thing on or around. What I offer below is a suggestion, otherwise known as a subtle command, for how to STRUCTURE and DRAFT a discussion question on a TOPIC FOCUS grounded on all or a portion of a print or non-print text (painting, sculpture, novel, excerpt from a novel, short story or excerpt from a short story, musical selection, the list can go on and on). Check it!

(1) INTRODUCTION: Here we want to grab the reader’s attention and introduce the topic. So, HOOK the reader first, and then gradually lead the reader to your FOCUS for your TOPIC in the discussion. Here is what an introductory paragraph could look like.

  • Some things are completely out of this world and require a deeper look. This book I’m reading is exactly that. I’m currently reading ((INSERT BOOK TITLE HERE)) by ((INSERT AUTHOR NAME HERE)). While reading as a ((Insert Literature Circle Job(s) Here)), I found the following excerpt from the book particularly interesting. It brought some ideas to mind concerning (((INSERT TOPIC FOCUS HERE: Could be that you found certain LITERARY CONCEPTS being dealt with, some form(s) of FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE, some POETIC DEVICE(s), UNIVERSAL THEME(s))). Here is the excerpt from the story/book:

(2) BODY:  This is where you give the piece of text that inspired the idea for your discussion. If the text you want to use is less than 40 words words when inserted into your discussion question, it can be right in the paragraph you wrote above – kind of added to it as an additional sentence. If it is more than 40 words long when inserted, you will have to INDENT the entire block of text as you see below. The text MUST be written EXACTLY as it appears in the story/book you are taking it from. Every punctuation mark, upper/lower case letter, numeral must match. If the author used a numeral instead of the word for the numeral, then you MUST use the numeral as s/he did.

  • BLOCK QUOTE THE TEXT FROM THE BOOK HERE…BLOCK QUOTE THE TEXT FROM THE BOOK HERE…BLOCK QUOTE THE TEXT FROM THE BOOK HERE…BLOCK QUOTE THE TEXT FROM THE BOOK HERE…BLOCK QUOTE THE TEXT FROM THE BOOK HERE…BLOCK QUOTE THE TEXT FROM THE BOOK HERE (AUTHOR NAME ##).

(3) QUESTION: Almost finally, you can pose your question, or questions! This is where we DIFFERENTIATE our discussion questions to really bring the FOCUS on our TOPIC. That’s why I call it a TOPIC FOCUS above. The text that inspired you may point to multiple ideas for discussion. You could pose each of the questions you think of in a list or you could post multiple different questions separately; one post for each question.

  1. Connection Maker Discussion Question Topic
  2. Passage Pointer Discussion Question Topic
  3. Travel Tracker Discussion Topic
  4. Illustrator Discussion Topic
  5. Vocabulary Highlighter Discussion Topic
  6. Investigator Discussion Topic
  7. Summarizer Discussion Topic
  8. Figurative Language Discussion Topic
  9. Poetic Device Discussion Topic
  10. Universal Theme Discussion Topic
  11. Character-Centered Discussion Topic
  12. Conflict Discussion Topic
  13. Symbolism Discussion Topic
  14. This list can go on and on
  15. If you see what I mean

(4) PROPER CITATION: We are using MLA formatting to give the entire citation for the story/book we are quoting. MLA stands for Modern Language Association. That association has established a standard way to tell a reader where we take information from. This REFERENCE to the original is our way of showing respect for the original author. It also helps us avoid being called plagiarists. We don’t want to practice plagiarism. No. No. No. Below you can see what an MLA formatted entry looks like for text quoted from a copy of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

  • Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451: Fahrenheit 451 — the Temperature at Which Book Paper Catches Fire, and Burns New York: Ballentine, 1982. Print.

So what does a post look like if it follows the suggestions above? Below, I have drafted a sample.

Introduction: Any country’s flag means more than the thread and ink used to create it. While reading Fahrenheit 451  by Ray Bradbury, I found some excerpts from the book particularly interesting in terms of what they mean beyond what they are. I thought, What could this mean? How are things hold symbolic value beyond their physical appearance? Here are the excerpts from the book that I would like you to consider:

. . . He strode in a swarm of fireflies (3). . . while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and the lawn of the house (3) . . . A book lit . . . like a white pigeon, in his hands, wings fluttering (37). . . They [books] fell like slaughtered birds and the woman stood below, like a small girl, among the bodies (37) . . .

Discussion Topic:

Think about this – In the excerpts above, Bradbury uses similes and metaphors  in an extended metaphorical way to describe books as things that can fly. Why use things that can fly?

Explain the significance (importance, impact) of the way he used these references in terms of their symbolic values. What could this mean in terms of a Universal Theme carried in the book?

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