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Notice & Note - Text-dependent Questions?

We all know that making those connections when reading, whether they're text-to-text, text-to-world, or text-to-self is oh-so-important to meaningful comprehension. So what happens when those connections aren't fostered? Some say that Common Core Standards virtually eliminate text-to-self connections. If that's the case, how does that affect engagement and comprehension? When the questions don't ask for answers that require personal relationships (questions like "How do you think Sally Ann felt when she couldn't find her puppy?) and only require students to find the evidence in the is engagement affected? Do text-dependent questions foster engagement?

My initial reaction was YES. Of course it affects engagement. Who wants to read a story/book without making those personal connections? The truth is EVERY text has different meaning depending upon the reader & the 'baggage' he or she brings to it. Ever sit in a high school lit class & listen to the teacher explain what a book is all about..while you were thinking it meant something else entirely? That's because the 'meaning' is something unique to each reader...dependent on the experiences, history, & knowledge that each has.

Being an avid reader myself, the thought of moving away from thinking of reading as a personal experience makes me sad. Some actually suggest teachers "only use questions that can be answered from within the "four corners" of the page".  Sad face!
I'm glad that Beers & Probst disagree! In fact, listen to this...."....a focus on text-dependent questions may may create a nation of teacher-dependent kids. Text dependent questions usually suggest that a teacher has crafted the questions & the order of them to lead students to a predetermined meaning of a particular passage. With this understanding of text-dependent questions, students come to rely on the teacher to ask the questions." This IS NOT what we want, folks! (By the way--- do these 'text-dependent' questions remind anyone else of AR?).

Of course, we have these standards we have to address & help students master...I love these suggestions the authors give!

  • Let students create text dependent questions! Fabulous idea!
    • Use a short text that may be challenging for your students.
    • Read aloud as students follow along.
    • As they're reading, have students mark places where they have a question or wonder about something.
    • Have kiddos reread the piece, this time stopping at each place they've marked to jot down the question they had, or to write about the confusion they felt at that place.
    • Pull the whole class together & collect the questions they've generated on chart paper.
    • In pairs or trios, have kiddos look at the questions they think are most interesting, talk about them & take notes about their thinking. 
    • Pull the class back together again, this time talking about the ideas produced by the pairs or trios. 
Here's what I think is cool about this procedure....

  • You've just had kiddos reread the text at least 3 times.
  • Kiddos are generating their own questions.
  • They have to collaborate & talk about their thinking.
  • As part of the process, each student is doing a personal summary of the text.
  • Everyone is writing about the text!
I thought this question at the end of this section was very powerful......
Can we be an intellectual community if the students are depending on the teacher to ask the questions?

I'd love to hear your thoughts....please leave them in the comments below!

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