The use of complex text and text-dependent questions in ELA instruction is a practice that I have been cultivating over the years with a variety of different student populations.  In my present teaching context at ArTES, a Pilot School in San Fernando, I instruct a large proportion of Long Term English Learners (LTELs) in virtually every class I teach.  As suggested by Boyer (2012), an important factor in the use of complex text with this particular group of students has been scaffolding of manageable chunks of text, or the use of shorter texts that reach an appropriate level of text complexity for the grade level in question (p. 8).  Particular approaches that have proven useful include multiple readings for different purposes, the use of bullet-pointed summaries to access main ideas, repeated modeling of text-dependent questions, and the use of Socratic Seminars with student-generated text-dependent questions that are composed prior to the discussion.  In my current context, the best approach to accessing main ideas in a text seems to be whole group discussion after a first reading, as a student sits at my desk and takes notes on the document reader based upon student comments.  A key feature that that makes this work is eliminating hand raising and formality, while at the same time moderating student input to help students take turns making comments.  The final result is a sequenced, neatly packaged set of bullet points that summarize the passage in question, which students quickly copy into their notebooks from the document reader.  What is critical to the success of this process is letting students become a little bit loud while maintaining some structure, allowing them to correct each other on the finer details of summary points, and sending students back to the text to find their own correct answers when there is a point of contention about the content.

After this process, and on a second reading of the text, I model a few text-dependent questions with students on the document reader.  One strategy I have utilized in order to steer students toward the right type of questioning is to discuss the difference between “how,” “why” and “what” questions and the different type of functions they serve (students can easily answer “who” and “when” questions independently).  As I was reading “Engaging the Adolescent Learner,” by Fisher and Frey (2012), it occurred to me that figure 1, titled “Progression of Text-Dependent Questions,” would be of great utility in explaining various purposes, as well as the continuum of text-dependent questions complexity (p. 3).  As I continue to hone my practice on this particular teaching point, I will project this chart on the wall to help students conceptualize the composition of various types of questions in different categories and for different analytical purposes.   I predict that this graphic will serve as an interesting jumping off point for student discussion about the process of developing text-dependent questions in preparation for a Socratic Seminar Discussion.


Boyer, T. (n.d.). Adolescent Literacy in Perspective. Retrieved March 23,

2013, from

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2012). Text-Dependent Questions. Adolescent Literacy in

           Perspective, 1, p. 3.