Plan & Ask Text-Dependent Questions

Posted on March 01, 2019

Plan & Ask Text-Dependent Questions

To teach the K-12 college and career-ready standards in reading comprehension, teachers must be asking text-dependent questions. The characteristics of such a question include:

  1. The answer is implied within the text but not explicitly stated. This requires students to infer the answer.
  2. The inferred answer can be supported with multiple details from the passage (i.e., text evidence).

Sequence questions to deepen understanding

Even though questions must be text-dependent, they should be presented in three tiers of complexity. More than simply collecting a list of inferential comprehension questions, the teacher should be thoughtful about the sequence in which they are asked. They should follow the same order they are grouped within the standards.

  1. The first round of questions targets the Key Ideas standards. Students' answers will demonstrate their surface understanding of the passage.

  2. The second set of questions focuses on the standards that fall under Craft and Structural elements. These include questioning the author's choices regarding vocabulary, text structure, and perspective.

Text-Dependent Questions handout

3. The third set of questions requires students to integrate this new information with prior knowledge. This creates a new understanding or synthesis. Summarizing the text is no longer enough; students have to make a claim, a prediction, draw a conclusion, give an opinion, etc.

Use this Word template to organize your text-dependent questions by standard and sequence them in the order they should be asked during the close-reading experience.

Craft text-dependent questions

Standardized reading assessments are complex--not just in the texts students read but in the questions they face. Consequently, Smekens Education has put together a Close-Reading Questions set for both literature and informational text (also sold separately: Informational Text or Literature). When identifying appropriate questions, select only those that are relevant for the text you've selected; you don't ask all of the questions within a category.

Smekens Education Close-Reading Question Set

Cite Evidence

Remember the second component of strong text-dependent questions requires that students cite proof for their inferences. Don't be content when students respond with the right answer--as they may have simply guessed. Rather, push and probe for evidence. Ask follow-up questions regularly during text-based conversations: How do you know? What words led you to that inference? What did the author state in the text to help you draw that conclusion?

Teacher Feedback:

From Elizabeth Ring, Hobart High School (Hobart, IN):
Good information on how to formulate questions that cause the student to look to the text for answers.

Article originally posted January 23, 2015 and updated in April 2017 and again in March 2019.