Crafting Evidence-Based Questions
The Common Core State Standards for the English Language Arts represent a significant shift for educators—not only in how we choose text but also in how we talk about it with students and assess their interactions with it. The Standards steer us away from questions and prompts that require only a cursory read or have more to do with prior knowledge and personal experience than they do with the text. Instead, the Standards challenge us to create questions and prompts that call for a deep reading—and often, a rereading or revisiting—of the text.
If you’re working to build Common Core-aligned lessons and assessments around literature or nonfiction text, keep in mind these general do’s and don’ts:
- Ask students to make inferences.
- Ask students to cite evidence from the text to support a response.
- Ask about the central idea and key details of a text.
- Ask students to use context clues to understand vocabulary that is specific to the topic (for example, the
word “emancipation” in a historical novel about the Civil War).
- Ask about craft in addition to content (For example: Why does the author include a particular passage or
piece of information? Why is the text organized in a given way? Why is a certain metaphor used?).
- Ask students to compare and contrast multiple works (including digital or multimedia sources) on the same
topic or theme.
- Focus excessively on how the text might relate to students’ own experiences.
- Ask students to recall obvious or unimportant details.
- Load students with so much information about a text topic that they hardly need to read the text (for
example, by describing the themes of a novel in detail before they read).