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

What are students learning?

Reading Literature

Grade 8: English Language Arts

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

Standard: Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. RL.8.1

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?

  • Anchor Text: Use an anchor text such as A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. As students read, encourage them to record relevant details and make inferences based on prior life experiences. Learn more about accessing grade-level text in this TIP Sheet.
  • Story Elements Chart: During and after reading or listening to a text, create a story elements chart using objects, sentence strips, or images with the class to answer questions about and make relationships between key details in the text.
  • Sequencing: Use an event sequencing graphic organizer to match or sequence pictures and/or sentences representing the key events in a story. Then, have students answer questions about the story (e.g., What happened first? What happened last?), either verbally or by pointing to the correct picture in the graphic organizer.
  • Freytag’s Pyramid, Plot Outline, or Problem/Solution: Use a story map to match or sequence pictures and/or sentences representing the key events, problem, and solution in a story. Then, students answer questions about the story either in writing, verbally or by pointing to the correct picture in the graphic organizer. Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.
  • Think, Pair, Share: Ask students to think individually about a question then meet with a peer to discuss their answers. Then, after they have had time to discuss with a peer they can share their thoughts with the rest of the class. Learn more about Think, Pair, Share in this TIP Sheet.
  • Discussion Webs: Write a question about the story in the middle of a web. Draw lines extending from the web and ask students to provide responses for the question. 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. During the discussion, ask students to draw relationships between the various elements. Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.
  • Sketch-to-Stretch: Sketch-to-stretch is a way for students to capture author’s inferences through drawing. After the students have completed reading a story, they can draw a visual representation about what the story was really They can use examples and details from the text to inform their drawings
  • Graphic Organizers:
    • Create a graphic organizer or find one on the internet that includes these prompts to help students make inferences:
      • The text says…
      • and I know…
      • so I can infer…
    • Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.
  • Making Inferences:
    • As students are reading particular sections of the text, ask a series of questions that encourage students to refer to details and examples in the text to draw basic inferences. Help facilitate this by asking questions such as:
      • In the story, we infer that ______________.
      • Can you find a place in the story that helps support the inference that ___________?
    • Learn more about making inferences in this TIP Sheet
  • It Says--I Say--And So: A visual scaffold that helps students organize their thinking about the text.
    • It Says: Information from the text
    • I Say: What you already know
    • And So: Combine what the text says with what you know to make an inference
  • Story Coding: Provide the students with a copy of the text for the students to mark. Next, ask them questions about the text. Students should search the text to find details and examples about what the text says explicitly. Provide students with a highlighter or highlighting tape. Students can pour through the text to find details and examples to support the questions you pose.
  • Think Aloud: To model how to refer to details and examples in a text to explain what the text says explicitly, read aloud a book in front of the class. Then, periodically, stop and show how to refer to details and examples in a text to explain what the text says explicitly.
  • Grand Conversations: To delve deeper into analyzing characters’ interactions throughout a story as they relate to conflict and resolution, conduct a grand conversation with the class. Sitting in a circle, or sitting within a small group, pose questions about the character. Questions may include:
    • What did the characters do throughout the story?
    • How did the character react to a certain event?
    • How did the character feel at the end?
  • Evidence Sort: Make a set of sorting cards with various sentences/paragraphs from the story. Provide students with the conclusion. Then, individually, in small groups, or with the whole class, sort the evidence into two categories: evidence that supports the conclusion and evidence that does not support the conclusion.

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 if the design of the lesson does not support students to understand the key background information.

Ideas to reduce this barrier could include:

  • bridge concepts with relevant analogies and metaphors
  • share a short story or video with the concept or skill as a way to build background knowledge
  • use sentence stems and word banks to help make connections between text and needed background knowledge

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.

  • 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
  • What is Inferencing?
    • 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.
  • Why Teach Inferencing?
    • Helping students understand when information is implied, or not directly stated, will improve their skills in drawing conclusions and making inferences.
    • Inference is a complex skill that can be taught through explicit instruction.
    • Inferring requires higher order thinking skills, which makes it a difficult skill for many students.
  • How do I teach 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
    • Use a concept map:

Concept Map: Clues from the text + My background knowledge = Inference


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. There can be more than one acceptable answer.
  • 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 and background understanding.
  • Many teachers assume students already know about a topic based on their age or what they should have learned in a previous grade or class. When background knowledge is not built or activated, students will lack the schema to understand new material and may not effectively learn and understand the topic or concept.

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 peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a more complex 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.

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?

Seventh Grade: Cite details from the text to ask and answer literal and inferential questions (RL 1)

Eighth Grade: Cite details from the text to ask and answer literal and inferential questions (RI 1)

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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