By: Jaime LaForgia, Director, Professional Learning
The types of questions we ask dictates how our students read texts. In other words, if we rely on basic comprehension questions, most students will do a superficial pass through the text in order to find the answers and check the assigned task off their lists. If we focus on deeper questions that ask students to make inferences, analyze the structure of the text, or evaluate the author’s intent, we force learners to read and reread the text under discussion.
With the inception of college and career ready standards in 2010, there has been a nationwide push in our schools to design learning opportunities that consistently push students back into the text. No longer can we allow our learners to rely on their background knowledge and opinions; on the contrary, all of their thinking must be well grounded in the words and thoughts the author conveys. Such text-dependency levels the playing field for all students because regardless of race, experience, or geographic location, students use what is presented by the author to demonstrate mastery of grade level skills and knowledge.
We can take this one step further. The use of multimodal texts provides an even greater opportunity for students to grapple with the rigorous skills demanded of the standards. Students who come to us reading below grade level are a pervasive reality many teachers face daily. However, just because students can’t read on grade level doesn’t mean they can’t think on grade level. Teaching students to analyze how the structure of a text contributes to their overall understanding? Why not closely “read” a video, using robust text-dependent questions that allow them to read for a different purpose each time? As a result, all of your levels of readers will have the opportunity to practice the skills at their grade level.
Social Studies Techbook offers many resources to support the use of text-dependent questions. In addition to the Core Interactive Text, which features digital tools such as text highlighting and note-taking, there are reading passages that often contain text-dependent questions that can be used as a jumping-off point in developing your own questions. Video segments also provide a source of information that can be used to develop text-dependent questions. Document-based inquiry activities make use of primary sources, including images, excerpts and text documents, which also lend themselves to asking text-dependent questions. Depending on the era of history being studied, primary source video can also be utilized. By asking text-dependent questions that require students to become thoroughly familiar with the resources they use, students will cite those sources more often and with greater accuracy when sharing their understanding of the content in quick writes, social studies explanations, constructed responses, paper slide videos, or other authentic assessments.