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English Language Arts | Phonics | Teaching Strategies | January 22, 2024

3 Simple Tips for Writing Text-Dependent Questions

A text-dependent question (TDQ) is a question whose answer can be derived directly from the information in the supporting text. Good TDQs require students to go beyond repeating information and instead make inferences using evidence, supporting claims, and connecting ideas from texts. In this article, you’ll learn three simple tips for writing good TDQs, you’ll review some sample text-dependent question stems, and you’ll access Text-Dependent Question Prompts relating to individuals and characters in a text.

What is a Text-Dependent Question?

The simple answer is that a text-dependent question (TDQ) is a question whose answer can be derived directly from the information in the supporting text. However, TDQs are a bit more complex than that. Rather than quoting directly from the text, the answers to text-dependent questions require that students create a connection or an interpretation between the text and its implicit meaning. These text-dependent questions should encourage inference and be designed to help students to increase their analytical skills. For text-dependent questions to be an effective teaching tool, teachers must create meaningful questions that enhance learning, rather than simply requiring students to repeat information. While students must refer to the texts, the TDQs should require them to make determinations about the information they are analyzing. Using effective TDQs across all grade levels will improve students’ comprehension.

How to Create Strong Text-Dependent Questions

So, how do we create good text-dependent questions? The text holds information that can be used to teach higher-order thinking skills. Here are three simple tips for writing meaningful text-dependent questions to enhance learning. Use these tips to craft text-dependent questions as you create lessons and assessments.

Identify the purpose

Before writing your questions, it is important to determine what goals you expect the students to achieve. You should be familiar with the text in order to understand the ideas and themes included. To begin crafting text-dependent questions, review the desired outcomes of the lesson. Determine which standards will be addressed in the lesson. Determine what you want students to learn from the text. What standards are you addressing in the lesson? Use these key objectives to guide the development of your questions. Craft questions that will require students to refer to the text for supporting answers and inference, not for facts and summarization.

Determine the sequence

When analyzing a text, start with more straightforward text-dependent questions that help with comprehension. Begin by identifying unfamiliar words and challenging segments of text that might hinder students’ understanding. Help students to build context through language, illustrations, and elements of the literature or of the specific subject matter. Focus your initial questions on tackling these obstacles. Once the key elements of the text are established, introduce additional questions that address more complex topics, such as themes or points of view, author intent, and larger ideas found inside the text. Find text elements that can bridge the gap between concrete items and abstract analysis. Students can begin to examine the text and draw inferences from the information they have read. The initial questions will create a general knowledge of the text and then allow the student to move on to more complex questions where they draw deeper connections, build advanced inferences, and understand more nuanced ideas from the text.


Write the questions

To avoid writing questions that rely on simple text recall, focus on designing questions that help students make inferences using evidence from the text. For example, the question, “Why did the author choose to use the word claimed and not the word said in the first sentence?” guides the students to make inferences about the author’s intentions while also focusing on word choice. It is important to include prompts that direct the students back to the text, such as, “Use evidence from the text to support your answer.” Craft questions that will direct students to make sense of what they are reading. Review your questions to ensure the answers can be determined only by referring directly back to the text. Text-dependent questions should not rely on students’ prior knowledge or personal experiences. As you write these questions, focus on helping students move from the general knowledge and key details toward inference that guides students to understand opinions and arguments that the authors may be using within the text.

Question Stems

As you follow the tips for text-dependent questions in this article, use the following TDQ stems to begin writing questions.

  • What is the meaning of the word _____ as it is used in the _____ paragraph? What are other words the author could have used instead of _____? (language)
  • The word _____ has multiple meanings. Which words in the text helped you determine the meaning of the word _____? (language)
  • How does the _____ sentence on page _____ contribute to the development of plot in the story? (plot)
  • How does the author use _____’s dialogue to express his/her point of view? (point of view)
  • What evidence does the author provide to support the point that _____? (argument and claim)
  • In the sentence, “_____” what does the word “_____” refer to? Why is it important to know this in order to understand the sentence? (inference)
  • What is the main idea on page _____? What specific details from the text support your answer? (main idea)
  • What did you learn about _____ in the text? What words did the author use to tell you this? (character analysis)
  • What conflicting evidence about ________ is presented in the texts? (comparing texts)
  • What is the purpose of ________? How does this text feature help the reader? (Text structure/features)

Once your questions are done, let the text analysis begin!

Use effective text-dependent questions across all grade levels to improve comprehension and critical thinking skills. Strong TDQs will help students practice using evidence from the text to support and verify their responses. Students will be equipped to develop deeper comprehension and enhance their critical thinking skills as called for in today's standards.



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Jessica Hathaway, M.S.Ed.

Jessica Hathaway, M.S.Ed., earned her B.A. in Psychology from Pomona College and her M.S. in Education from Northwestern University, with a concentration in literacy. She has conducted classroom-based research on integrating different learning modalities into literacy instruction and spent several years working in the Los Angeles Unified School District teaching early elementary, instructing art enrichment classes, and mentoring novice teachers. Currently, Jessica authors educational resources...

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