Students as Questioners: What Do Writers Ask?

questionmarkA few weeks ago I wrote a series of posts about students as questioners, ending with posts on questions in particular disciplines: What do historians ask? How about scientists? Mathematicians? Then, I’ll admit, I got stuck. In each of the previous subject areas I considered the types of questions professionals asked when engaged in creative endeavors. But how do I do that in language arts? Who is a creative language arts professional? Anyone who writes, I think.

The problem, I think, is that Language Arts, as taught in most schools, is not so much a discipline, as set of skills used in multiple genres and venues. Each genre has its own set of questions—and each one can potentially make language arts richer. At the base of each question set is the creation of voice. While historians or scientists might ask “What happened? And why?” all writers ask, “What should I say? How?” But those questions are shaped and shaded by the particulars of the genre and purpose of writing.

The table below is an effort to imagine what those questions might look like. Consider what might happen if you and your students were to add to it. The task is to think, “What kinds of questions do writers in this area ask? What dilemmas, questions, or problems do those writers try to solve? What inspires them to write?”

You might consider studying what authors have written about their process and add their questions to the list. This might be a chart that is continued all year.

I’d love to hear how you add to the list.

Genre/Discipline Sample Questions/Problems
Journalism Which recent events are most important to the lives of my audience?

Which events will generate the most interest?

Creative Fiction What characters are most interesting to me?

What key themes of the human condition do I want to share?

What sites or events fascinate me? Is there a story there I could share?

Creative Nonfiction





What aspects of my life have taught me the most?

What historical events are important for others to deeply understand?

Poetry/Lyric Writing





What words fascinate me?

Is there a form that fits the ideas circling my head?






Movie/Television Writing





Literary Criticism or Reviews





Children’s Literature






What other disciplines should we add?






One thought on “Students as Questioners: What Do Writers Ask?

  1. Pingback: Students as Questioners 5: Questions in the Disciplines | creativiteach

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