5 Strategies for Implementing Text-Dependent Questions with Young Students

by Susan Baxter


An important component to close reading success is the ability to use text-dependent questions to promote deeper learning and support student progress. Engaging your students with higher-order questions not only prepares them for standards-based testing, but it also gives them an opportunity to develop their critical thinking and analysis skills.

But teaching text-dependent analysis, as well as learning how to create text-dependent questions, is not easy. To help, we’ve compiled a short list of effective teaching strategies to enhance these vital skills. But first:

How to Create Text-Dependent Questions

When creating text-dependent questions for your students, follow these three guidelines:

  1. Structure questions in a way that students must delve into the text to find evidence for their answers.
  2. Be sure that questions are not designed to elicit responses based solely on recall.
  3. Focus on using both explicit and implicit information from the text so they learn how to do a close reading analysis.

Strategies for using text-dependent questions to engage younger learners

1. Select Easy Texts

You can teach young students the basics of text-dependent analysis by choosing short texts that can be explored and analyzed quickly. Use different genres to maintain student engagement:

  • Picture books can spur imaginative questions and discussions
  • Fiction can spark natural questions about characters and outcomes
  • Nonfiction can generate questions about the wonders of nature, science, and history

2. Use Repeating Questions

A great way to help young students develop text-dependent analysis skills is to pick a number of set questions that you’ll use throughout the year, such as:

  • What new things did I learn?
  • What similarities are there between the text and my own life?
  • How does this change how I interact with the world around me?

Repeated use can build the cognitive skills necessary for more rigorous analysis as students already have these questions in their head every time they read.

3. Model Questioning as an Active Reading Strategy

Questioning while reading is a valuable skill to teach your students. While reading out loud, pause to wonder about a character, examine new information or concepts, or predict an outcome. Record your questions on sticky notes and attach them to a note wall that students can refer to as they build their own questioning skills.

4. Hold Mini Socratic Seminars

A fun variation of the Socratic seminar is to have pairs of students write a few critical analysis questions about a text the class has just read. One pair shares their questions with a nearby pair, and the group of four then chooses their favorite question to ask in a whole-class discussion.

5. Use Explicit and Implicit Information

Here’s an engaging activity that teaches students how to use explicit and implicit information to make inferences.

  1. Show an age-appropriate movie trailer for a film and have students note explicit information they see.
  2. Watch it again, this time looking for implicit information.
  3. Break the class up into small groups of three or four and have the students brainstorm inferences based on their notes.
  4. Let each group share their analyses with the whole class.

When students acquire text-dependent analysis skills, they develop the ability to think critically, which in turn leads to closer reading of texts and improved student learning and growth.


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