Text-Dependent Questions

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From: Boele, Amy L. “Text-Dependent Questions: Reflecting & Transcending the Text.” Reading Teacher. September/October 2016. Page 218

According to the NJSLS’s students must be able to answer “a range of text-dependent questions whose answers require inferences on careful attention to the text.” Although this is an integral part of the Fountas & Pinnell Continuum, we must look deeper as we develop questions to support purposeful talk & reading response journals. In other words, predictions & pictures-walks (while necessary) are not enough!

Often, we make the mistake of labeling “within the text” questioning as “low-level” thinking, but this is not true! Rather, according to Boele, we should view questioning through two different lenses: questions that reflect the text (within & beyond the text thinking) and questions that transcend the text (beyond & about the text thinking).

Questions that reflect the text are designed to assist students as they demonstrate an understanding of the author’s meaning, while questions that transcend the text require students to “question, challenge & evaluate” the author. Both lenses provide opportunities for deep thinking, and must focus on text evidence; however, questioning that promotes transcending the text ensures that the text is a tool to support learning, rather than becoming the sole object of learning.

Text-Dependent Questions that REFLECT the Text: Questions that reflect the text fall into 4 main categories: literal understandings, main ideas, inferences/predictions & author’s message/theme. As you read the question samples outlined below, take note of how broad they are & how you might scaffold each question to support your students. These questions can also play and integral part of our reading response journals. They can provide a forum for students to focus on text evidence in their writing, help to ground students as the write, and will help streamline assessment routines.

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As noted above, literal understandings & predictions should be a part of questioning that reflects the text (within/beyond the text questioning); however, literal questions should be used “sparingly and with the intended purpose of creating a consensus about what the author is saying.” We must also remember that inferencing/making predictions should never be done in a vacuum. Students must provide text evidence to support their thoughts.

In order to promote deeper within/beyond the text thinking, our focus must be on main idea & author’s message once our students have demonstrated literal understandings. Rather than focusing on a student’s “favorite” part of a particular text, for example, ask: What is the most “important” part & why? This will support determining importance as a focus for comprehension, and can reinforce close reading strategies. Boele also recommends, encouraging student to “reduce lists, cross out repeated information, select a topic sentence and/or cross out unimportant details” to help them think deeply…and always remember to follow-up with some “why” questions!

Text-Dependent Questions that TRANSCEND the Text: Boele groups text-dependent questions that transcend the text into 4 main categories as well: situating concepts within other texts/learning, evaluating, questioning the author & acting.  This type of questioning provides students the opportunity to “make judgments about the characters, people, events, ideas or information” found in various texts.

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Much like the previous question examples, this set starts out broad and can be scaffolded as necessary. Also take note that, while these questions require deeper inferential thinking, they still support a focus on text evidence. Therefore, we must keep text selection and our essential questions at the forefront of planning. If we are going to require students to engage in multiple perspectives on a given subject or determine an author’s bias, for example, we must design instruction that promotes text-text & text-world discourse. After all, “connections” & opinions that our students share should be based on text evidence from multiple sources.

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Filed under Danielson Model, Literacy

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