Plan & Ask Text-Dependent Questions

Posted on April 18, 2017

Plan & Ask Text-Dependent Questions

To teach the K-12 college and career-ready standards in reading comprehension, we have to make sure that we're asking the right questions about the texts we're assigning.

To be the right questions, they should be text-dependent. This means these questions:

  1. Can only be answered by having read or reread the text.
  2. Can be backed up and supported with details from the passage.

Sequence questions to deepen understanding

After reading a text or an excerpt of a text, the first set of questions should focus on the key ideas and textual details portion of the standards. Ask questions to determine if students are understanding the gist of the passage.

Text-Dependent Questions handout

Even though these questions must be text-based, they don't all have to be difficult questions. According to the reading standards, there are different tiers of questions. This level of meaning is not much more than a surface understanding of the passage.

However, the second set of questions should focus on the author's craft and structural elements of the passage. Questions in this tier could include specifics about an author's word choice, vocabulary, text structure, and perspective.

In order to achieve the expectations set forth in the college and career-ready standards, we can't stop there. Students need to experience additional challenge by participating in discussions and thinking from the third tier of questions. Students are now expected to do something with the information they glean from a text. They no longer just summarize the text; they have to make a meaningful inference. They have to make a claim, a prediction, draw a conclusion, give an opinion, etc. We need to require students to go beyond a simple summarization of what the text said.

Craft text-dependent questions

Create a set of text-dependent questions by gathering questions from the assessments you're giving and from reading resources you already have. As you collect these inferential questions, it's important to categorize them by the reading standards. After teaching a particular reading skill or standard, then you will know what questions to ask in order to assess for that type of thinking. (Use this Word template to organize your text-dependent questions by phase and standard.)

Smekens Education has put together a Close-Reading Questions set that includes both literature and informational text (also sold separately: Informational Text or Literature). TIP: If you laminate the list, then as you plan questions for your next reading passage, you can simply circle the relevant ones with a write-on/wipe-off marker. You don't ask all of the questions within a category--only those that are relevant for the text you've selected.

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.

When you ask questions from any of the three phases of close reading, don't be content when students respond with the right answer--as they may have simply guessed the answer. Rather, push and probe for evidence. 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?

The expectation of textual evidence is essential as it requires students prove their thinking. Not to mention, standardized assessments require students to make inferences and support them with details from the text. Consequently, asking these follow-up questions regularly in our classrooms will help students meet the expectations of the college and career-ready reading standards.

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.