Though developing close reading skills can be achieved through a wide range of study techniques, one necessary learning strategy is asking text-dependent questions that promote evidence of learning. Text-dependent questions challenge students to return to their reading material and use textual examples to support their thoughts and ideas, as well as answer questions that stem directly from the content. In theory, this sounds pretty basic. Traditional practices suggest students can answer questions regarding a text as evidence of their understanding. When properly practiced, however, this reading strategy requires a much more advanced approach.

Why Text-Dependent Questions are an Important Learning Strategy

Students are often faced with questions regarding reading material that are vague and don’t encourage them to properly demonstrate comprehension. Unfortunately, this sometimes puts students in a position to answer questions based on material they have not even read. Popular summary tools such as CliffNotes make it possible for students to feign completion of reading assignments. Text-dependent questions not only ensure that students have read the text, but also require them to interact with it on a deeper level to consider important elements such as diction, sentence structure, tone, and theme. Text-dependent questions provide a more precise means of measuring close reading ability than general inquiries. General questions can give students too much room to express opinion instead of comprehension.

Asking Text-Dependent Questions

When implementing this reading strategy, don’t ask students questions they can answer without directly using their reading material as a resource. Keep questions aimed at addressing specific wording in the text. Identify important vocabulary words. Hone in on what the text is conveying on a deeper level. This can be done by asking students to examine key words and phrases. Use minute details to help identify why the author chose to express his or her thoughts in a particular way. Focus on sentences and paragraphs individually to break down the meaning of each segment.

Use a wide range of questions that tackle every aspect of the text from microcosmic vocabulary decisions to broad​-spectrum motifs. This will allow students to consider the most intricate facets of a piece of writing while also encouraging them to analyze the piece as a whole. Students can then identify patterns in the text and consider what the text left unsaid or unanswered. Moreover, students will be pushed to consider the text’s meaning without oversimplifying authorial intent.

Effective text-dependent questions systematically challenge students to assess the impact of specific writing, address confusing academic vocabulary, and to demonstrate their full understanding of the text. When students are answering questions, encourage them to locate passages that support their claims.

How to Choose the Text

When selecting a piece of reading material on which to base text-dependent questions, find one that is generally challenging and complex. Students should be faced with a piece of writing that requires them to read quantitatively and qualitatively. A good piece of writing will challenge students to do several close readings. To get students comfortable with a selected passage, ask them broad-spectrum questions they’ll feel comfortable answering. Then have students reread the text. Ask them increasingly difficult and specific questions. Have them cite the text for evidence to back up their claims.

Finding a text that presents an argument will create questions that students have to support with cited information. Students can be asked about the argument’s persuasiveness and key phrases can be altered to change the overall meaning. Begin by assessing the basic argument and ask questions that will build students’ confidence. From there, as students slowly build a more complex understanding of the text, push them to identify miniscule details.