It is definitely a struggle to get high school students to read and write about literature. They find this task boring, and most teachers don't teach this skill because it is something reserved for college courses for literature majors. However, having students react to a text can increase their interest and make them look at literature in a whole new way.
When you ask them to write about a personal question they have in relation to the text they are reading, you are not only having them write about literature, but you are "tricking" them into analyzing literature and writing single-text analysis papers.
To begin this process, the students need a question. This will be their "quest." The question should be personal and about a moment when something didn't feel right and they've always wondered why. This should be a question that pertains only to them, and that they can't find the answer to with a simple Internet search.
You can ask them to create a question that has to do with a particular theme with which you will be dealing during the school year. After that, the students need to write an introduction that gives the story behind their question. This introduction should end with their question.
As they move forward, they should choose pieces of literature you read in class and write a section for each text that describes what it has to do with their question, and what answer it gives them. These sections will eventually become part of a larger paper that includes the introduction, textual analysis papers, and a conclusion.
You can have this done in any format you choose, but if the students answer the same question with each text you read in class, they will end up delving deeper into their texts and their reading. This will help improve reading comprehension, and will keep students interested throughout the course.
Each section can have a separate grade, or you can give completion grades for each section and give them an overall, final grade when the whole paper is put together and turned in. However, as each section is submitted, it is vital that you give each student individual feedback so they can revise each section and include it in their final paper.
Students need to be allowed to revise their papers and submit a final draft with all the sections included. These sections should also have transitions between each section to create a sense of flow throughout the entire paper.
When you ask for revisions, have the students focus on more than just fixing grammar mistakes. Ask them to delve deeper into their topic and come up with more than just the obvious answers.
This assignment can be tailored to fit many other classes and can take many other forms. In a history class, for example, students can ask a broad question about the course of history and follow that question throughout the events you study in class.
For a class with a focus on technology, students can follow a question through a series of webpages to create an entire website focused on their question. For specific literature courses, like American literature or world literature, you can have the questions focused on the specific place or time period you are studying.
Finally, in an art class, the question and answer can take the form of drawings or other artistic creations with the same theme throughout the course.