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January 30 , 2011

Text-Dependent Questions, Grades 6-12

Pathways to Close and Critical Reading


Fisher & Frey’s answer to close and critical reading

No doubt since the cave paintings of prehistoric times, humans have asked questions to make sense of the message. So what could possibly be new about posing questions about text?

Plenty . . . and with TDQ, Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey reveal it all. After one quick read, you will have learned all the very best ways to use text-dependent questions as scaffolds during close reading . . . and the big understandings they can yield, especially when executed the Fisher and Frey way. But that’s just for starters. Fisher and Frey also include illustrative video, actual texts and questions, examples from across content areas, and an online professional learning guide, making the two volumes of TDQ a potent professional development tool across all of K-12.

The genius of TDQ is the way Fisher and Frey break down the process into four cognitive pathways that help teachers “organize the journey through a text” and frame an extended discussion around it. Step by step, this approach ensures that in every close reading lesson, students are guided to consider explicit and implied meanings, and deeply analyze and appreciate various aspects of a text, especially those that may be challenging or confusing. 

Here’s how the four inter-related processes play out, with every why and every how answered:

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  • What does the text say? (general understandings and key details)
  • How does the text work? (vocabulary, structure, and author’s craft)
  • What does the text mean? (logical inferences and intertextual connections)
  • What does the text inspire you to do? (write, investigate, present, debate)

The cool thing? These questions ignite students’ engagement and discussion because they strategically lead students to a place of understanding where explicit and implied meanings and interpretations can be debated. Far from being overly literal or teacher-led, the questioning framework Fisher and Frey advance enhances the quality of student talk and idea-generation. All in all, there’s no better resource to cultivate students’ capacity for independent reading and incisive thinking.

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