Using Text Dependent Questions for Deeper Comprehension Blog Feature
Carman Le

By: Carman Le on April 26th, 2018

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Using Text Dependent Questions for Deeper Comprehension

Lessons/Activities/Templates | Academic Subject: English Language Arts | Grade Level: Secondary (7-12) | Featured Topics: Lessons and Activities

MrsLe Teacher_StudentsFor many years, comprehension strategies centered on students making connections to their texts. These may have included: Text-to-Self, Text-to-Text, and Text-to-World. However, this continued strategy seemed to only produce readers who wanted to talk about themselves. Very few times were they connecting with other texts or with world situations. Hence, a deeper understanding of the text became elusive.

Having the experience of desperately pulling deeper understanding of a text from my students, I was introduced to the strategy of "close reading." Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey wrote a fantastic article in The Reading Teacher titled Close Reading in Elementary Schools, where they outline how to incorporate this "text dependent question" approach into your literacy time. The basics are:

  • Finding a text that matches your students’ readability level
  • Making sure your questions build upon each other
  • Setting a goal with your class; beginning with the end in mind

Suggested Lesson Outline

Day 1: Brainstorm questions that focus on basic understanding of a specific text. Consider things like key details: who is the main character, what’s the main idea - and what in the text helps you understand this is the main idea?

Day 2: Start looking at vocabulary, text structure, and author’s purpose. The author’s purpose is no longer simply to entertain, inform, or explain. Have students dig deeper to determine the author's purpose in terms of how the author felt about what they wrote and how their word choice influences the text. Also think about changes over the text from beginning to end; whether it’s in plot or in a character. 

Day 3: This is when you have students start inferring things from the text. Opinions and arguments can be formed but must be supported by the text.

All in all, it’s about making the students go back to the reading to support any answer they have. You are efficiently breaking the cycle of answers being centered on their own background knowledge. Having had the experience of using this model, I can tell you it is tremendously successful for student growth. I highly recommend reading the Fisher and Frey article, which is great for a Professional Learning Community (PLC) study. Another great resource is the the "Read Write Think" site for explicit lessons on this including book ideas and plans that you can print up for free.


How are you incorporating a text dependent question strategy in your classroom? Tell us on Twitter @variquest and we may feature you in an upcoming post!


IMG_0037.jpg Carman Le, Education Development Specialist for VariQuest, is an elementary school educator with experience teaching in multiple school settings, ranging from Title I to STEM magnet to National Blue Ribbon schools. Carman has a master’s degree in teaching (MAT) from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She was recognized as a MeckEd Teacher of Excellence in 2015. Carman is passionate about collaborating with teachers and engaging students through hands-on learning and the integration of technology.