Use details to ask and answer questions about a text (Inclusive Big Idea #1)

What are students learning?

Reading Informational Text

Grade 1: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #1: Use details to ask and answer questions about a text

Standard: Ask and answer questions about key details in a text. RI.1.1

How could I teach this?

Think about how instructional strategies and activities can give students multiple ways to engage with learning. One way won’t work for all, so how can you remove and reduce barriers for all students?

  • Concept Sort: Have students sort key details associated with various stories. Choose two or more familiar stories (or have students choose the stories to use) as the categories and have the students sort/match word cards, digital cards, picture cards, or objects according to the story, placing the words/pictures/objects on or near the cover of the corresponding book. Then, students answer who, what, when, where, why, and how questions about each story verbally, in writing, or by pointing to the picture or object. Have model examples and use relevant examples students can relate to. Ask them to make connections to their own experiences.
  • Think Aloud: The purpose of asking students questions about key details from texts is to get them into the habit of self-questioning as they read by themselves. To model this, read aloud a book in front of the class. Then, periodically, stop and ask questions. Provide options for students to record their ideas. Then, as you continue to read, begin answering the questions yourself. Think-alouds can also be pre-recorded so that students can listen and watch them multiple times with captions. See this TIP Sheet for more information on how to model using a Think Aloud.
  • KWL Charts: Before, during, and after reading a text, create a KWL chart with the class to answer questions about key details in the text. See this TIP Sheet for more information on how to make graphic organizers engaging and accessible for all.
    • What we Know about a topic
    • What we Wonder about a topic
    • What we Learned about a topic
  • Instructional Conversations: Individually, in small groups, or with the whole class, engage a conversation about a content-area topic. First, ask students what they already know about the topic to determine their background knowledge. Next, provide direct information about the topic to build their knowledge. Then, ask different questions about the topic and allow the group to have an open conversation about the topic. Students should support their ideas by using information they learned from books or other multimedia sources. It can be helpful to have a graphic organizer for students to record their ideas as they listen to the verbal information. See this TIP Sheet for more information on Whole Group Discussions.
  • Picture Glossary: Provide a picture glossary for the terms who, what, where, when, why, and how. Invite students to contribute to the picture glossary as they make connections or find relevant examples.
  • 5W Questions: Before, during, and after reading the text, ask students 5W Questions to highlight the key details. Provide model examples so they know what success looks like. Give the students a graphic organizer or sentence stems with pictures for each W question
    • Who is this article about?
    • Where do these events take place?
    • When did these events take place?
    • What happened?
    • Why did this event happen?

Don’t stop here! Remember to reduce barriers for all students.

Make reducing barriers a process - take a few minutes to think about your process! Is there a barrier related to:

  • interest or engagement? Think about how to incorporate student’s lived experiences, culture, and interests… 
  • background knowledge? Think about how to highlight key ideas and define key vocabulary… 
  • showing what they know? Think about having options for how they use learning tools and technology to communicate…

For example, one possible barrier is the amount of information that a student needs to hold in mind.

Ideas to reduce this barrier could include:

  • be aware of how much sensory input occurs at once, perhaps offer the option to use headphones
  • show examples and provide answers to check along the way
  • provide templates or graphic organizers
  • allow use of spell checks and other tools 

Use these Inclusive Strategies to help reduce barriers.

Tell me more about this Inclusive Big Idea (I need a refresher)

Brush up on the content of this Inclusive Big Idea. It will help you and your colleagues to understand and teach this content better.

  • The Big Idea: Use details to ask and answer questions about a text
  • Tell me more about… Using Details
    • The supporting details of informational text are information that helps to clarify the reader’s understanding of the most important points that the author is trying to make about a specific subject. Identifying and categorizing the main ideas within informational text is critical to successful readers. You support your main idea by explaining it, describing it, defining it, or otherwise giving information about it.
  • Tell me more about… Asking Questions
    • To understand a text, it is important for readers to be able to evaluate their own metacognition and comprehension of a text. Readers need to be able to clarify their understanding by questioning themselves and the text to determine if what they read makes sense and if they need further information to comprehend the content.
  • Tell me more about… Answering Questions
    • In order to answer a question correctly, students have to know where they can find the key details necessary to learn the answers.
      • Right There questions: Answers to this type of question are explicitly mentioned in the text.
      • Think and Search questions: Answers to these questions require students to pull key details from multiple parts of a text to draw a conclusion.
      • Author and Me questions: Answers to these questions require students to make connections between key details from the story and their own experiences.
      • On my Own questions: While prompts such as these are aligned with the text, answers to this type of question require the students to pull key details exclusively from their own experiences and thoughts.


Looking for more suggestions? Target student common misconceptions, build on interdisciplinary links, and implement strategies and supports across multiple lessons or units.

Common Student Misconceptions

  • Main Idea: Students may have difficulty determining what essential information is. Students often misinterpret details as being the main idea and need to be guided to see the author’s overall point or the ‘big picture.’ It is also important to note that the main idea is not simply what the text is about (e.g., informational text covering the discovery of electricity; Benjamin Franklin was key in its first applications, but he is not the main idea).
  • Supporting Details: Not all information in the text is considered supporting details. Authors sometimes provide additional details that are not essential to understanding the main idea.

  • Reading informational text for key ideas is equally as important in language arts as it is in all other curricular areas. Once a student learns how to read, organize, understand, and collect valuable information from reading text, those skills can then be utilized in all subject areas. Students often need explicit instruction in how to transfer these skills to content area texts that have specialized text structures and vocabulary which can challenge comprehension. It is important that teachers in all of the content areas support the ideas and skills taught in this Big Idea.

Everyday Connections

  • In the Kitchen: Read directions to determine the important details for how to follow a recipe.
  • After School: Gather information to figure out the key details for how to play a game or join a club or team at school or in the community.
  • Let’s Play!: Read how-to guides to determine the key details for how to create something of interest to them, such as building a Lego kit.

Explore other Inclusive Big Ideas to think about the content you are teaching. How can you connect what you are teaching now to what has been taught before or what will be taught in the future?

Other TIES resources:

Inclusive Big Ideas: Standards-based resources for inclusive classrooms | TIES Center

The Inclusive Big Ideas were adapted from resources created by the NCSC Project , a federal grant from the US Department of Education (PR/Award #: H373X100002), However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education and no assumption of endorsement by the Federal government should be made.

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