Connecting to Deeper Meaning with Text-Based Response

One of the ways that we can help our students connect to the deeper meaning of the texts they are reading is by requiring text-based responses rather than simply asking questions that have clear, literal answers.

State ELA standards require is asking students to have rich and rigorous conversations that are based on a common text that they have been reading. To do this, they need to connect to the deeper meaning of a text – not just read it superficially.

What does it mean to ask students to give a text-based answer? Let’s explore that concept and what it looks like when students to give a text-based answer to what they have been reading.

Levels of Questioning Used in Text-Based Response

According to the research of Pearson and Johnson (1978) the answer to some questions is textually explicit meaning that that answer is found directly in the text. The answer can be pointed out by the responder. 

Questions of this type are: What color was the wagon in the story?”  “How many people lived in the Smith family? What was Cassie’s brother’s name?

Teachers have been asking these types of “right there” questions for generations.

Textually Implicit Questions for Text-Based Response

The next level of questioning is textually implicit or questions where the answer is not directly stated but must be implied from the text. 

These types of responses have been referred to as “making the connection” or “putting it together” questions. 

To respond to this type of question, the reader has to think about what the author has said and perhaps consider information that has been presented in multiple places in the text.

An example of a question that fits this category might be:  Why was the stroke of midnight a problem for Cinderella?  Why was Peter’s father upset when Peter brought home a stranger?

In these examples, the student must put information together from several places to determine a response.

Adolescent girl sitting quietly thinking about something.
When Creating Text-Based Responses, Students Must Think More Deeply About the Meaning of a Text

Using Implicit Questioning in the Classroom

The teacher then asks the student to cite specific bits of information from the text to support their response. For example, you might say to the student, “What it the text helps you understand this?  Read to us the specific areas of the text (page and paragraph) that helped you come to your conclusion.”  

Just and Carpenter (1987) state, “questions that require higher level abstraction (such as the application of a principle) product more learning than factual questions. High-level questions probably encourage deeper processing and more thorough organization” (pp. 421-422).

Text-based questions are useful not only for Literature but also for content-based reading.

Using Text-based Questions in the Classroom

So, the next time you are creating questions for your students based on their reading, try using questions that require students to dig deeper into the content and meaning of the text they have been reading.

Require your students to “put the pieces together” and then justify their analysis.  Get students in the habit of providing support for their analysis and allow others to challenge faulty connections and/or assumptions when they are made. 

Your class will engage in more exciting discussions about their insights and understandings. Thinking will be less superficial and will help students connect what they are reading on a more long term basis.

Learn more about using text-based response in my book, Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12: Reinforcing the Threads of Reading.

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