How to Use Text Dependent Questions

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( words) minutes to read 

Tired of rote recall and surface-level comprehension? Text-dependent questions are here to spark critical thinking and engage students in meaningful dialogue with the text!

What are Text-Dependent Questions?

Forget “yes/no” or “summarize the main points.” Text-dependent questions require students to dig deeper, providing evidence from the text itself to support their answers. This active process fosters critical thinking, close reading skills, and a deeper understanding of the author’s message.

Text-dependent questions are often open-ended, much like this list of 32 open-ended questions. They prompt deeper thinking and require students to reference the text. Text-dependent questions are a core component of close reading.

About the Strategy

Text-dependent questions are questions that can only be answered by referring back to the text. They help students develop their reading comprehension and analytical skills, as well as their ability to cite evidence and support their claims. In this way, text-dependent questions are a questioning strategy that sparks critical thinking.

Asking text-dependent questions that require a single response or a paragraph response also prepares students for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which measures students’ proficiency in English language arts and literacy.

By using text-dependent questions, teachers can align their instruction with the Common Core State Standards and foster students’ readiness for college and career.

How to Craft Powerful Text-Dependent Questions

  1. Know the Territory: Before posing questions, read the text yourself. This allows you to craft inquiries that target specific aspects and challenge students to think critically.
  2. Explore Diverse Angles: Consider these categories when formulating questions:
  • General Understanding: Assess overall grasp of the text’s main ideas and themes.
  • Key Details: Probe for specific information that supports the main points.
  • Vocabulary & Structure: Test comprehension of key terms and literary devices.
  • Author’s Purpose: Uncover the writer’s motivations and underlying message.
  • Inferences & Conclusions: Encourage students to go beyond the text and draw their own conclusions.
  • Opinions, Arguments, & Connections: Foster critical analysis of the author’s perspective and connections to other texts or experiences.
  1. Empower Student Inquiry: Don’t limit yourself! Encourage students to formulate their own text-dependent questions, fostering ownership and deeper engagement with the text.

When to Ask Text-Dependent Questions

Text-dependent questions can be woven into your lesson plan throughout the reading process.

  • Before reading: Activate prior knowledge and set the stage for key concepts.
  • During reading: Guide students’ focus, encourage analysis, and clarify understanding.
  • After reading: Assess comprehension, promote discussion, and encourage critical reflection.

Remember, text-dependent questions are not just an assessment tool; they are a powerful instructional strategy that empowers students to become active participants in their reading journey. Embrace their potential and watch your classroom transform into a space of curiosity, critical thinking, and genuine engagement with the written word!

Text-dependent questions become active participants in their learning journey, thinking deeper about text and relying less on background knowledge.

Research Base for Text Dependent Questions

Close readings serve as a pedagogical tool that fosters in-depth comprehension by encouraging students to reread and scrutinize a text (Fisher & Frey, 2012). However, rereading is not a natural habit for most students. Therefore, teachers need to design and implement text-dependent questions that guide students back to the text to find evidence and support for their responses (Fisher, Frey, & Lapp, 2012; McLaughlin & Overturf, 2012). Teachers should plan text-dependent questions beforehand, using various questioning techniques such as question-answer relationships, questioning the author, and Bloom’s taxonomy to elicit deep thinking from students (Fisher, Frey, & Lapp, 2012; Harvey & Goudvis, 2007). While the first round of questions in a close reading may target the literal level of understanding, the subsequent rounds of questions should demand more sophisticated thinking from students. Throughout the readings, questions should cover different aspects of the text, such as general understanding, key details, vocabulary/text structure, author’s purpose, inferring, and forming arguments (Fisher & Frey, 2012; Fisher, Frey, & Lapp, 2012).

The Common Core asks students to read stories and literature, as well as more complex texts that provide facts and background knowledge in areas such as science and social studies. Students will be challenged and asked questions that push them to refer back to what they’ve read. This stresses critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that are required for success in college, career, and life.

Leveling the Playing Field: How Text-Dependent Questions Benefit Diverse Learners

Text-dependent questions, as their name suggests, require students to find the answer directly within the text itself. This seemingly simple approach holds a powerful key to creating a more equitable learning environment for diverse student populations. Here’s how:

  1. Focus on the Text, Not Prior Knowledge: Unlike traditional questions that might rely on external knowledge or experiences, text-dependent questions shift the focus entirely to the text itself. This levels the playing field for students who may come from different backgrounds or have varying amounts of prior knowledge on the topic. Everyone has equal access to the same information source: the text itself.
  2. Promotes Close Reading and Critical Thinking: Engaging with text-dependent questions encourages students to actively read, analyze, and synthesize information. This process benefits all learners, regardless of their learning style or pace. It develops critical thinking skills that are essential for academic success and real-world problem-solving.
  3. Reduces Reliance on Personal Biases: When questions rely on personal experiences or interpretations, they can introduce unconscious biases that disadvantage certain groups. Text-dependent questions, grounded in the text itself, minimize the influence of these biases and create a fairer assessment environment.
  4. Empowers All Learners: By emphasizing close reading and evidence-based answers, text-dependent questions empower all students to participate actively in discussions and demonstrate their understanding. This can boost confidence, engagement, and a sense of belonging for learners who may have previously felt disadvantaged by traditional methods.
  5. Builds a Foundation for Deeper Learning: The skills honed through text-dependent questions – close reading, analysis, and evidence-based reasoning – form the foundation for deeper learning across all subjects. This prepares all students for success in future academic endeavors, regardless of their background or learning style.

In conclusion, text-dependent questions are not just an assessment tool; they are a powerful strategy for creating an equitable and inclusive learning environment. By focusing on the text itself, promoting critical thinking, and minimizing biases, they empower all students to become active participants in their learning journey and unlock their full potential.

About the Author

TeamTom Education is dedicated to creating engaging teaching resources and strategies that make learning awesome!

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