Use details to ask and answer questions about a text; Demonstrate literal and inferential understanding of a text (Inclusive Big Idea #1)

What are students learning?

Reading Informational Text

Grade 3: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #1: Use details to ask and answer questions about a text; Demonstrate literal and inferential understanding of a text

Standard: Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers. RI.3.1

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?

  • KWL Charts: Before, during, and after reading a text, model how to create a Know, Wonder, Learn (KWL) chart with the class to answer questions about key details in the text. See this TIP Sheet for more information on graphic organizers.
    • 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 in a conversation about a content-area topic. Activate background knowledge about what students already know about the topic. Provide background information about the topic to build their knowledge. Information can be in the form of text, illustrations, pictures, objects, or multimedia. Present different questions about the topic verbally and on handouts to allow the group an opportunity for an open conversation about the topic. Students can support their ideas by using information they learned from books or other multimedia sources and share that in multiple ways.
  • Socratic Seminars: To encourage students to think more deeply about texts, facilitate Socratic seminars. Generate a list of questions to ask about a specific topic that goes beyond literal (who, what, when, where) questions and begin to delve deeper into the topic (how and why). Throughout the seminar, model how to be a question-asker. Students should have a free-flowing conversation with minimal interruptions. Providing an option to use graphic organizers with sentence starters may help students to record their ideas as they listen to the verbal conversation. See this TIP Sheet for more information on Whole Group Discussions.
  • 5W Questions: Before, during, and after reading the text, ask students or have students discuss 5W Questions to help them focus on key details. Include sentence stems with these prompts or have them available on worksheets students can refer to as they read or listen to a text:
    • Who is this text about?
    • Where does the event in this text take place?
    • When does the event in this text take place?
    • What happened?
    • Why do you think this event happened?
  • Think Aloud: The purpose of asking students questions about texts is to get them into the habit of self-questioning as they read by themselves. To model this, read aloud or listen to an informational text. Periodically, stop and model how to ask questions. As you continue to read, begin answering the questions yourself. Pre-record think-alouds so that students have the option to listen and watch them multiple times with captions. See this TIP Sheet for more information on how to model using a Think Aloud.
  • Three Level Comprehension Guide: This graphic organizer asks students to be active readers as they record their understanding of a text. Level 1: Literal Comprehension asks students to record what is explicitly stated in the text. Level 2: Interpretive asks students to interpret information from the text and read between the lines. Level 3: Applied asks students to make connections between the information in the text and their own experience/knowledge.

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; Demonstrate literal and inferential understanding of 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 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.
  • Tell me more about… Literal Understanding
    • Literal understanding is the comprehension of what is explicitly stated in the text. Answers to this type of question can be found in the text.
  • Tell me more about… Inferential Understanding
    • Inferential thinking is a complex skill that requires readers to merge their prior knowledge with clues from the text to draw conclusions, predict an outcome, and find emerging themes. Learn more about making inferences with this TIP Sheet.
    • Teaching Inferencing: Provide explicit instruction and encourage students to…
      • find clues in the text to get answers
      • add those clues to prior knowledge
      • realize there may be more than one correct answer
      • support inferences with evidence from the text


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

  • Answering Questions: Not all answers can be found in the text; some answers rely on the reader to incorporate personal experience and perspective. There can be more than one acceptable answer.
  • Inferences: Inferring requires higher-order thinking skills, which makes it a difficult skill for many students. Often, being taught how to make inferences is overlooked and thought to be implicitly learned. Also, teachers often assume that all students have the same or similar prior knowledge. Teachers must be diligent to provide examples, explicit instruction, and background understanding. Helping students understand when information is implied, or not directly stated, will improve their skills in drawing conclusions and making inferences.
  • Complete the three-level comprehension guide for a text in any content area.

Everyday Connections

  • In the Kitchen: Read directions to determine the important details for how to complete an assignment or 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.
  • In the Playroom: Ask questions about a toy or product to use, such as to decide whether to buy it or how to build it.; Read directions to determine how to assemble a model or toy.

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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