Teaching Literary Analysis: 15 Questions to Ask Your Students

Teaching Literary Analysis: 15 Questions to Ask Your Students

Teaching literary analysis in the secondary English classroom is an essential cornerstone of high school English and middle school English curriculum.

When teaching fiction in the middle school ELA or high school English classroom, whether it be a short story or a novel, it is so important to focus on more than just comprehension. While it is important to ask students about what they read, we must also ask them to analyze what they read.

When I first teach literature to my students, I use direct instruction strategies. I provide my students with literary analysis terms and examples. Then we begin short stories and excerpts together. Usually, we will analyze a couple of short stories together as a class before moving on to more substantial pieces, like novels. One blog post that might be helpful is this one about how to write a literary analysis response.

When I’m teaching a piece of fiction, I like to have set questions I can use throughout the year to ask my students. As students answer the same question about various texts throughout the year, they improve their analytical skills and begin to form a better understanding of how literature analysis works.

Teaching Literary Analysis: 15 Questions to Ask Your Students

If you are teaching response to analysis and literary analysis, here are ten questions you should ask your students about the piece they are reading. These questions are some of the questions included in my Response to Literature Task Cards that work with any piece of fiction.

Literary Analysis Questions About Theme

  • How do the characters in the story develop or enhance the theme?
  • How does the conflict of the story develop or enhance the theme?
  • How do the symbols within the story develop or enhance the theme?
  • How does the author’s tone of the story develop or enhance the theme?
  • How is the story's theme reflect the context in which it was written?

Literary Analysis Questions About Setting

  • How does the setting affect the plot?
  • How does the setting affect the conflict?
  • How does the setting affect the tone of the story?

Literary Analysis Questions About Characters

  • What is one of the protagonist’s flaws or weaknesses?
  • What is one of the antagonist’s flaws or weaknesses?
  • What motivates the protagonist to act?
  • What motivates the antagonist to act?
  • What character is most believable and why?

Literary Analysis Questions About Conflict

  • How does the conflict reflect the context of the time in which the story was written?
  • How does the author create a believable conflict?

Here are some rhetorical analysis teaching resources you may like: 

My Sticky Note Literary Analysis is an entire literary analysis teaching unit! It contains an instructional slide to teach students all about literary analysis, sticky note organizers, and literary analysis writing assignments. I use this resource for my entire short story teach unit. 
Sticky Note Literary Analysis

My Literary Analysis Mini Flip Book combines the fun and excitement of sticky notes with the format of a mini flipbook. It is the perfect culminating activity for students to analyze a final short story in your short story teaching unit. 
Literary Analysis Mini Flip Book

These Response to Literature Task Cards are an ideal way to get students talking about complex literary themes and ideas within any piece of fiction. There are two sets of tasks cards in this set, and you can use them again and again with any short story or novel.