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

What are students learning?

Reading Literature

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. RL.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?

  • Story Elements Chart: During and after reading or listening to a text, or watching a story or video that a student chooses, create a story elements chart with the class to answer questions about and make relationships between key details in the text. The chart can be completed with words, phrases, symbols, photos, objects, or student drawings. Preview the type of information to look for prior to reading a story. Practice with a set of short paragraphs or very short stories. Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.
  • 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 are the characters in the story?
    • Where does the story take place?
    • When does this story take place?
    • What happened in the story?
    • Why do you think this happened?
  • Think, Pair, Share: Ask students to think individually about the key details they need to include in a description or in directions. Then meet with a peer to see how well their description of the key details included the important information needed to get the task done. After they have had time to discuss with a peer they can share their thoughts with the rest of the class. Provide sentence stems and graphic organizers to help the discussion focus on the key ideas. Learn more about Think, Pair, Share in this TIP Sheet.
  • Discussion Webs: Write or dictate a question about a key detail from the story, song lyrics, or video in the middle of a web. Draw lines extending from the web and ask students to provide responses for the question that connect to identifying the key details from the story. For example, you may write “Who are the characters?” in the middle of the web. Then, on extended lines students can offer responses to the question. This can be done as a whole class, small groups, pairs, or individually. Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.
  • 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, picture cards, or objects according to story, placing the words/pictures/objects on or near the cover of the corresponding book. Then, students answer who, what, when, where, why, how questions about each story verbally 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 for 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 out loud. Then, as you continue to read, begin answering the questions yourself.

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.

  • Why is Asking and Answering Questions About the Text Important?
    • Reading literary 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.
  • What Are Question-Answer Relationships?
    • 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.
  • What Vocabulary Should I Teach and Know?
    • summary- containing the key points or big idea
    • main idea- the most important idea in the text
    • details- specific smaller elements that are part of a larger work
    • key word- essential or significant words related to the text
    • relevant- has significant importance
    • irrelevant- not important or related
    • characters- person/persons in a story
    • setting- place where the story happens
    • plot- sequence of events involving characters in conflict situations
    • point of view- perspective from which the story is told
    • theme- moral or big idea of the story
    • inference- a conclusion or opinion that is formed based on facts or evidence
    • context clues- words and sentences within a text that provides additional information
  • What is Summarizing?
    • When summarizing, readers reduce larger selections of text to their bare essentials: the gist, the key ideas, the main points that are worth noting and remembering. 
  • Why Summarize?
    • Important skill for readers of all levels and abilities
    • Goes beyond retelling to demonstrate strong understanding of the text
    • Requires readers to comprehend, analyze, and synthesize ideas
    • Requires a higher level of thinking
    • Whether reading a story, a content area textbook, a comic, or poem, the ability to summarize a text and infer to read between the lines is a lifelong skill readers use to foster higher level thinking and deeper comprehension.
  • How Do Readers Summarize Key Ideas?
    • Good readers…
      • reduce the extraneous verbiage and examples
      • focus on the most relevant facts
      • find key words/phrases that capture the main idea of what was read
      • find the main ideas and the essential details that support the main idea


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

Go beyond the specific standard! These examples can spark ideas to generalize related skills from the content to real-world experiences for all students.

Common Student Misconceptions

  • Not all answers can be found in the text; some answers rely on the reader to incorporate personal experience and perspective. Additionally, there can be more than one acceptable answer. 

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 to 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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