Cite details from the text to ask and answer literal and inferential questions (Inclusive Big Idea #1)

What are students learning?

Reading Informational Text

Grade 6: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #1: Cite details from the text to ask and answer literal and inferential questions

Standard: Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. RI.6.1

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?

  • Word Splash: Read through the text and decide on key words, phrases, and concepts in the text that will give students ideas of what the text is about or words that may need further clarification. Share the words with individual students or small groups. Once distributed, allow students a few minutes to read through the text and discuss listed words and phrases with others. Allow students to make predictions about the central idea of the text in their group. Bring students back together and ask them for their predictions, encouraging all students to contribute. Students can write or present their information to the class or in small groups.
  • 1 Sentence Paragraph (1SP): Select a section of the text that includes several paragraphs. Display the text on the board or screen to allow the class to work as a group. Read the first paragraph with the class. Cover the paragraph. Ask students to create a sentence that reflects their understanding of the paragraph. Share several sentences, looking for similarities and differences. Read the next paragraph and continue the process.
  • Model to Understand: Model the following summarizing steps:
    1. Go through the passage and delete trivial or unnecessary material.
    2. Delete redundant or repeated material.
    3. Model how to substitute terms for lists (e.g., substitute “flowers” for daisies, tulips, and roses).
    4. Model how to create a one-sentence summary based on steps 1-3.
  • Text Annotations: Teach students to make notes in the margins (e.g., questions for discussion or future thinking; notes to identify important information; comments about content). Notes can be on sticky notes if writing in the book is not appropriate. Notes can also be added through the comment feature for online texts.
  • It Says, I Say, And So: Teach students to make inferences using an “It Says, I Say, And So” graphic organizer. First, the students have to find out what the reading says. Next, they find information from the text that will help answer the question. Then, they add, in their own words, their thoughts about what the reading says. Finally, the students combine what the reading says and their thoughts to answer the question and thus create new meaning (i.e., inference). Use a graphic organizer to record evidence or make connections among pieces of information. See this TIP Sheet for more information on graphic organizers.
  • Discuss to Understand: Break students into small groups to discuss connections between texts, summaries, or conclusions. Questions might include:
    • What is this book really about?
    • In one or two sentences, can you summarize the book?
    • What is the author trying to teach you?
    • What have you learned?
  • Think, Pair, Share: Provide students with an inference, opinion, or conclusion. Ask students to individually find the strongest piece of evidence from the text to support the inference, summary, or conclusion. Then, the student meets with a peer to share their findings. After the pairs share, teams can share with the rest of the class. See this TIP Sheet for more information on Think, Pair, Share.
  • 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: Cite details from the text to ask and answer literal and inferential questions
  • Tell me more about… Citing 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 and 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 Questions
    • 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 Questions
    • 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.

Everyday Connections

  • In the Kitchen: Find real-world examples to engage students in how important details are to help describe something. For example, you could highlight how important details are for explaining to someone how to make a turkey sandwich.
  • 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.

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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