CAL APPROACH (K. Buchanan, CAL)
Where did the story take place?
When did the story take place?
Who is the main character?
What is ___________________ like?
What is _______________ 's problem?
What did _______________ need?
Why is _______________ in trouble?
What does _______________ decide to do?
What does _______________ have to attempt to do?
What did _______________ do about _______________ ?
What happened to _______________ ?
What will _______________ do now?
How did _______________ solve the problem?
How did _______________ achieve the goal?
What would you do to solve _______________ 's problem?
How did _______________ feel about the problem?
Why did _______________ do _______________?
How did you feel at the end?
What is the moral of the story?
What did you learn from the story?
What is the major point of the story?
What does this say about _______________ ?
Questions about characters focus the reader's attention. When considering characterization in a piece of literature, consider the following questions. For additional strategies related to character, see the Character Analysis, Checklist of Elements of Literature, and Story Star and Story Map sections of this page.
Authors focus on setting either more or less depending on the importance of setting to character and plot. Sometimes setting is very specific, sometimes it is left vague. These questions help to determine the influence of setting in understanding a work of fiction. Important questions related to setting are listed below. Setting is also considered in the Checklist of Elements of Literature and the Story Star and Story Map sections of this page.
For plot, questions focus on the sequence of events and the issue of conflict. Such questions identify points in the sequence of events that help to organize the presentation. Plot questions are given below, and plot is also considered in the Checklist of Elements of Literature and the Story Star and Story Map sections of this page.
Questions related to theme are given below. The Checklist of Elements of Literature, described elsewhere in this page, is another strategy that deals with theme.
POETRY QUESTIONS AND THE UNPACKING STRATEGY
"Poetry has certain conventional and obvious surface features - rhyme, rhythm, stanzas, etc. - that distinguish it from prose. Yet not all poetry has all these features, and some (Whitman's, for example) seems to consciously disregard such poetic conventions. Underlying these superficial elements is a characteristic more essential to poetry - what has been called compression of meaning. It is powerful compression of thought and emotion that is essentially poetic, and the other features are there to help achieve that poetic concentration of force" (Reference, Year, Page).
"This means that part of a reader's response to poetry is to unpack the compressed poem to really see what the poem is. Sometimes people talk about the 'hidden' meanings in poems (ones that only English teachers can find). Indeed, there do seem to be some poets who obscure their meanings more than necessary. But most of the time that suspicion of obscurity is caused by the poetic compression of language - language that becomes clearer and fuller as we begin to unpack the compressed meaning" (Reference, Year, Page).
"A major way poets compress meaning is suggestive language, words which convey not merely their literal meanings but also call to mind associations, historical allusions, emotional responses, etc. As Robert Frost has said, 'Poetry is the one acceptable way of saying one thing and meaning something else.' He didn't mean that the poet lies or tries to mislead, but that the nature of poetry is to call up a richness of suggestion that involves the reader in the creation of the poem each time it is read. The word 'Rose,' for example, has long held associations of love, passion, purity, natural beauty, pain (thorns), and many other attitudes, emotions, and myths that the poet can call upon by using that word" (Reference, Year, Page).
"Here are some analytical questions that might help in that unpacking process: