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The power of questions

by Sarah Tierney

When someone asks you a question, the ball’s in your court. Your brain engages in a deeper, more active way than if information were being fed to you. Teachers take advantage of this phenomenon when they ask thoughtful questions that push students to cite evidence and make inferences based on the text.

Reading Standard 1 explicitly calls for students to practice these skills:

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Teachers can help students learn to think and reason this way by using text-dependent questions to guide how students engage with texts.

Watch this video of 2nd grade teacher Lucy Makuro, from Alain Locke Charter School in Chicago, IL, to learn how she uses text-dependent questions to guide her lessons and give her insight into students' learning.

It’s important to remember that the goal is not to ask text-dependent questions for the sake of asking text-dependent questions but rather, to use scaffolded, sequenced questions to help students understand and make meaning of the text. Crafting your questions ahead of time, as well as follow-up questions you might ask if students struggle, ensures everyone stays on track, driving toward the questions that will help students unlock the meaning of the text.

Click below to learn how to craft a powerful series of questions that will support students as they delve into text-centered reading, writing, and discussion.

We’ve spent ten years learning from thousands of leaders and teachers across the country about the things that make a big difference for schools. Now, we want to give you the opportunity to do the same. We’ve organized these Lessons From the Field in a new section of our website by our main areas of focus—everything from harnessing the power of formative assessments to fostering a culture of adult learning.

Sarah is a director of new partnerships and former coach at ANet. She’s leading the Lessons From the Field project.

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