Text dependent questions are everything!

I remember the days when a consultant came to my school and she told us to have kids “cite their answers to everything.”  In true education professional development (ha!) we overdid it…and basically lost the kids in the process!  One of the more embarrassing things I’ll humble myself to mention (!) is that we had the kids cite where they found their answers in their unit and end-of-week assessments – and sometimes the process of taking the test would take 4+ hours…even for the benchmark kids!  I know, I should be banned from the profession!  Seriously!

I know that what we were trying to do is get kids to read what’s on the doggone page!  I remember saying (and I KNOW you can relate to this!), “The answer is RIGHT THERE!  All you have to do is read the text!”  It WAS true, all they had to do was read the text.  But I hadn’t quite taught them to read the text properly.  And even if I had taught them to read the text properly, I wouldn’t have been even asking the right questions!

The deal was, I was just trying to follow directions and get kids to higher levels of comprehension.  I can’t imagine that the consultant that came to help us meant for us to spend 4+ hours having kids cite the text but, hey, we were rule followers!

Needless to say, I know better now! 

(AND, all of that work didn’t lead to higher levels of comprehension.  I know – big SHOCK!)

What we know now is that by asking the right questions, we will require kids to closely read the text.  And closely reading the text leads to comprehension independence! 

So you might be wondering how on earth you determine that a question is text dependent or not?  Well, here’s a simple checklist for you…Hint: I use this as my “checklist” for text-dependency…to make sure that my questions measure up.

  • Are questions that can only be answered correctly by close reading of the text and demand careful attention to the text
  • Require an understanding that extends beyond recalling facts
  • Often require students to infer
  • Do not depend on information from outside sources
  • Provide access to increasing levels of complex text
  • Call for careful and thoughtful teacher preparation
  • Require time for students to process

I want to encourage you to try something – it’s a little something that will have huge impact on your alignment from current instruction into the Common Core.  Take 10 questions that you might ask during text reading this week and analyze them for their “text dependent quality.”

In fact, here are a few Text Dependent stems…and then examples of actual questions for you to use.

Look at _______ in the photographs on pages _____.  Now look at _______ in the photographs on page ____. Write one way ______ on these pages are alike and one way they are different.  Explain how the author lets you know this. Look at the animals in the photographs on pages 27 – 32.  Now look at the animals in the photographs on page 47. Write one way the animals on these pages are alike and one way they are different.  Explain how the author lets you know this.
Based on the photographs and text on page ____, in your own words define the word __________. Based on the photographs and text on page 89, in your own words define the word teacher.
Reread the heading and text on page _____.  ____________________?  Explain your answer. Reread the heading and text on page 197.  How did slavery end?  Explain your answer.
On page _____, the author writes, “__________.”  What does the author mean by the phrase, “_______”?  Use evidence from the text to support your answer. On page 33, the author writes, “The little boy was working as busy as a bee.”  What does the author mean by the phrase, “busy as a bee”?  Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
Look at the illustrations on page 422. Describe how the illustrations help the reader better understand the text.  
Why does the author tell us ___________________? (Pg. ____) Why does the author tell us time is a thief? (Pg. 70)
Reread page __.  What is the important information on this page?  
Use the information on page ____ to define ______.  Why is ______ important? Use the information on page ____ to define pollen.  Why is pollen important?

Here’s my big take-away with text-dependent questioning…if I expect my students to speak, write and read at a high level, then I have to make sure that my questions are at a high level!  It’s only taken me 18 years in the field to figure this out.  😉