Teaching Strategy

Text-Dependent Questions

Close and Critical Reading
Grade Level


Readers must refer back to the central text to answer text-dependent questions and provide evidence from the reading to support their answers. Students provide accurate, relevant and complete evidence. To do this well, students will often need to re-read the text several times. This approach privileges the text over prior knowledge, personal experience and pre-reading activities.


Before and after reading.


Asking and answering text-dependent questions is fundamental to close reading. The Common Core strongly focuses on gathering evidence, knowledge and insight from reading. Eighty to 90 percent of the standards in the Common Core reading strand (K-12) require text-dependent analysis.

Research shows that most teacher-generated questions and discussions do not require students to read or understand the main idea of the text. Text-dependent questions build students’ comprehension skills by requiring that they identify evidence while they read closely.


Text dependent questions can be used a number of ways and incorporated into other strategies. This approach always includes these steps:

  1. Choose the central text.
  2. Write several text-dependent questions, focusing on important and difficult portions of the text. Your questions should invite readers to uncover details and meaning they could miss in a cursory reading. These might include: specific sentences, phrases and individual words on the micro level; author style or purpose, theme and text structure on the macro.
  3. Sequence text-dependent questions. Plan how you will engage readers to think more deeply over time. Start with clarifying or “right there” questions. These will help situate all students, alert you to any basic misunderstandings and help students build confidence. Move on to asking more interpretive and analytical questions that require re-reading, discussion and substantive textual evidence to answer.

To see this questioning method in action, see this Teaching Channel video.

English language learners

English language learners need a language frame to translate thought into oral language. Think aloud and model each strategy before asking students to participate. 

  1. For content questions, offer a “launch” question such as: “What is the main idea of this text?” “What are some details that support it?” or “What are three important words in the text and what do they mean?” Next, model an example orally, so that ELLs can see and hear the thinking in a visible manner. “I think the main idea is ____ because ____. Some things that seem important and that support this are ____. I know three key words in this section are ____, ____and ____.”
  2. For meaning questions, reiterate how to paraphrase by taking one sample sentence and restating it orally. Next, to reach deeper levels of significance, offer sentence starters such as, “This makes me wonder about ____.”
  3. For connector questions, use meta-modeling by stating, “This reminds me of the time I ____,” to verbalize an experience that explicitly models a connection.
  4. For style questions, select one sample sentence and break it down grammatically. They should analyze it orally to explain the semantic features that give it “voice.”

Connection to anti-bias education

Anti-bias education challenges us to question authors, texts, our peers and ourselves. Effective text-dependent questions put all readers onan equal footing by focusing on the text rather than privileging prior knowledge. Culturally responsive instruction, however, engages students by building on their experiences; blend the approaches by weaving connector questions (text-to-self and text-to-world questions) into the sequence.