Creating Text-Dependent Questions

Creating Text-Dependent Questions for Close Analytic Reading of Texts

An effective set of text dependent questions delves systematically into a text to guide students toward extracting the key meanings or ideas found there.  Text-dependent questions typically begin by exploring specific words, details, and arguments, and then move on to examine the impact of those specifics on the text as a whole.  Along the way, they target academic vocabulary and specific sentence structures as critical focus points for gaining comprehension.

While there is no set process for generating a complete and coherent body of text-dependent questions for a text, the following process is a good guide that can serve to generate a core series of questions for close reading of any given text.

Step One:  Identify the Core Understandings and Key Ideas of the Text

As in any good reverse engineering or “backwards design” process, teachers should start by reading and annotating the text, identifying the key insights they want students to understand from the text.  Keeping one eye on the major points being made is crucial for fashioning an overarching stet of successful questions and critical for creating an appropriate culminating assignment.

Step Two:  Start Small to Build Confidence

The opening questions should be ones that help orient students to the text.  They should also be specific enough so that students gain confidence to tackle more difficult questions later on.

Step Three: Target Vocabulary and Text Structure

Locate key text structures and the most powerful words in the text that are connected to the key deans and understandings, and craft questions that draw students’ attention to these specifics so they can become aware of these connections.  Vocabulary selected for focus should be academic words (Tier Two) that are abstract and like to be encountered in future reading and studies.

Step Four: Tackle Tough Sections Head-on

Find the sections of the text that will present the greatest difficulty and craft questions that support students in mastering these sections (these could be sections with difficulty syntax, particularly dense information, and trick transitions or places that offer a variety of possible inferences).

Step Five: Create Coherent Sequences of Text-dependent Questions

Text-dependent questions should follow a coherent sequence to ensure that student stay focused on the text, so that they come to a gradual understanding of its meaning.

Step Six:  Identify the Standards That Are Being Assessed

Take stock of what standards are being addressed in the series of questions and decide if any other standards are suited to being a focus for this text (forming additional questions that exercise those standards).

Step Seven: Creating the Culminating Assessment

Develop a culminating activity around the key ideas or understandings identified earlier that (a) reflects mastery of one or more of the standards (b) involves writing, and (C) is structured to be completed by students independently.

William Locke
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