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  • ELA 2019 G8:M1:U2:L9

Write a Narrative: Plan Plot

In this lesson, daily learning targets, ongoing assessment.

  • Technology and Multimedia

Supporting English Language Learners

Materials from previous lessons, new materials, closing & assessments, you are here:.

  • ELA 2019 Grade 8
  • ELA 2019 G8:M1
  • ELA 2019 G8:M1:U2

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Focus Standards:  These are the standards the instruction addresses.

  • W.8.3a, W.8.3e, W.8.5

Supporting Standards:  These are the standards that are incidental—no direct instruction in this lesson, but practice of these standards occurs as a result of addressing the focus standards.

  • W.8.10, SL.8.1, L.8.6
  • I can plan the plot of my new scene for Summer of the Mariposas that results in the same outcome as the original scene. (W.8.3a, W.8.3e)
  • Opening A: Entrance Ticket (W.8.3a)
  • Work Time C: Storyboard graphic organizer (W.8.3a, W.8.3e)
  • Prepare the following:  
  • Entrance Ticket: Unit 2, Lesson 9
  • Storyboard graphic organizer model (for display)
  • Strategically pair students for partner work in Work Time B.
  • Ensure there is a copy of Entrance Ticket: Unit 2, Lesson 9 at each student's workspace.
  • Post the learning targets and applicable anchor charts (see Materials list).

Tech and Multimedia

  • Continue to use the technology tools recommended throughout previous modules to create anchor charts to share with families; to record students as they participate in discussions and protocols; to review with students later and to share with families; and for students to listen to and annotate text, record ideas on note-catchers, and word-process writing.

Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards 8.I.A.1, 8.I.A.4, 8.I.B.6, 8.I.8.7, 8.I.B.8, 8.II.A.1, and 8.II.B.

Important Points in the Lesson Itself

  • To support ELLs, this lesson provides a clear, guided process for mapping out plot in students’ narrative planning. The pair work built into the lesson is an opportunity for sharing and processing around narrative plot that will help ELLs, in particular, to receive essential input from peers as they work toward the narrative writing task on the end of unit assessment. This pair work will also provide an opportunity for ELLs to hear and see others’ narrative plot planning, and these models can inform the revisions and ongoing improvements that ELLs will make to their own Storyboard graphic organizer ▲ .
  • ELLs may find it challenging to organize their ideas into a clear timeline while planning out plot progression in their narrative. Encourage students to act out and sketch ideas while brainstorming independently and in pairs to gain clarity around their vision of how the story will unfold before trying to capture it in writing on their Storyboard graphic organizer .
  • climax, falling action, resolution, rising action (DS)

(A): Academic Vocabulary

(DS): Domain-Specific Vocabulary

  • Domain-specific word wall (one for display; Unit 1, Lesson 2, Work Time A)
  • Work to Become Ethical People anchor chart (example for teacher reference)
  • Work to Become Ethical People anchor chart (one for display; from Unit 1, Lesson 1, Work Time D)
  • Vocabulary logs (one per student; from Unit 1, Lesson 2, Opening A)
  • Summer of the Mariposas (text; one per student; from Unit 1, Lesson 1, Work Time C)
  • Character and Setting planner (one per student; from Unit 2, Lesson 8, Work Time C)
  • Model Narrative: "Peuchen" (one per student; from Unit 2, Lesson 6, Work Time A)
  • Storyboard graphic organizer (example for teacher reference)
  • Entrance Ticket: Unit 2, Lesson 9 (one per student)
  • Storyboard graphic organizer (one per student and one for display)
  • Storyboard graphic organizer ▲  
  • Homework: Text Dependent Questions: Plan a Plot (one per student; in Unit 2 Homework Resources)

Each unit in the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize students' understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

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3 Simple Tips for Writing Text–Dependent Questions

On the surface, a text-dependent question (TDQ) is simply a question whose answer can be derived directly from information in the supporting text. However, for text-dependent questions to be an effective teaching tool, teachers must create meaningful questions that enhance learning, rather than simply require students to repeat back information. So, how do we create good text-dependent questions?

1. Identify the purpose.

Before writing your questions, it is important to determine what you expect the students to achieve. To start, review the desired outcomes of the lesson. What do you want students to learn from the text? What standards are you addressing in the lesson? Use these key objectives to guide the development of your questions.

2. Determine the sequence.

When analyzing a text, start with more straightforward text-dependent questions that help with comprehension. Begin by identifying unfamiliar words and challenging segments of text that might hinder students’ understanding. Focus your initial questions on tackling these obstacles, and then introduce additional questions that address more complex topics, such as themes or points of view.

3. Write the questions.

To avoid writing questions that rely on simple text recall, focus on designing questions that help students make inferences using evidence from the text. For example, the question, “Why did the author choose to use the word claimed and not the word said in the first sentence?” guides the students to make inferences about the author’s intentions, while also focusing on word choice. In addition, include prompts that direct students back to the text such as, “Use evidence from the text to support your answer.” Finally, review your questions to ensure the answers can be determined by referring directly back to the text. Text-dependent questions should not rely on students’ prior knowledge or personal experiences.

Here are a few test-dependent question stems to get you started:

  • What is the meaning of the word _____ as it is used in the _____ paragraph? What are other words the author could have used instead of _____? (language)
  • The word _____ has multiple meanings. Which words in the text helped you figure out the meaning of the word _____? (language)
  • How does the _____ sentence on page _____ contribute to the development of plot in the story? (plot)
  • How does the author use _____’s dialogue to express his/her point of view? (point of view)
  • What evidence does the author provide to support the point that _____? (argument and claim)
  • In the sentence, “_____” what does the word “_____” refer to? Why is it important to know this in order to understand the sentence? (inference)
  • What is the main idea on page _____? What specific details from the text support your answer? (main idea)
  • What did you learn about _____ in the text? What words did the author use to tell you this? (character analysis)
  • What conflicting evidence about ________ is presented in the texts? (comparing texts)
  • What is the purpose of ________? How does this text feature help the reader? (Text structure/features)

Once your questions are done, let the text analysis begin!

Click here to download FREE sample lessons using TDQs!

  • Instructional Strategies
  • Questioning
  • Critical Thinking
  • Close Reading
  • Common Core
  • Text-Dependent Questions

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Jessica hathaway.

Jessica Hathaway, M.S.Ed., earned her B.A. in Psychology from Pomona College and her M.S. in Education from Northwestern University, with a concentration in literacy. She has conducted classroom-based research on the integration of different learning modalities into literacy instruction and spent several years working in the Los Angeles Unified School District teaching early elementary, instructing art enrichment classes, and mentoring novice teachers. Currently, Jessica authors educational resources for teachers and students.

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Text Dependent Questions

Text dependent questions for elementary grades.

If there is a literacy topic I feel passionate about, it’s text dependency.  I became a teacher in the era of “text to self” connections. In my early teaching years, I was a pro at teaching kids to make personal connections to read-alouds and other texts.  I didn’t realize until years later how important it was to require students to dive into the text to ensure they truly comprehend it.

What are Text Dependent Questions?

Simply said, text dependent questions are those which can only be answered using evidence from the text.  These types of questions are critical in a close reading lesson because they require students to read and reread the text in order to answer the question successfully.   

In addition, text dependent questions are also a great way to provide opportunities for students to discuss their thinking with others and work on their speaking and listening skills to meet the core standards .

Why Do I Ask Text Dependent Questions?

Text depending questions help teachers identify that students have a common, deep understanding of the story or content. To do so, the teacher will  asks students questions that are specific to the text (instead of  personal connection). The goal for the teacher is to identify that  a common understanding of the text. 

In addition, text dependent questions are a great way to provide opportunities for students to discuss their thinking with others and work on their speaking and listening skills to meet the core standards.

 Text Dependent Questions and Elementary Students

In primary grades, it is common for students to want to share personal connections to the text.  Every primary teacher has experienced a read-aloud where one child waves their hand furiously to tell a story about his dog- only to have five more children raise their hands to tell about their dogs.  While this is par for the course in primary grades, and quite adorable, the more time we spend with students talking about personal experiences, the less time we spend helping students see how to make meaning of the text.  

The importance of students answering questions specific to text 

Text-to-self connections are valuable, however, in the initial steps of a close reading lesson, it is critical to ask questions that focus solely on the text.  After students have answered questions about the text, they have a common, deeper understanding of the story or content.  At this point, the discussion involving students ‘ personal connections becomes much more meaningful for all members of the class. You may consider using the following days, morning meeting to allow for students to share their personal experiences related to the previous days’ closed reading session

Text Dependent Question Cheatsheet

Examples of Text Dependent Questions

For example, if the class was reading about community helpers, and several students wanted to discuss their experiences with the vet, the teacher would ask students to wait until later in the lesson to share their personal connections.  The teacher would first ask several questions about the text so that all students had equal access to information about veterinarians. Once all students have this common understanding, students are invited to share their personal experiences.  At this point student’s insights are an added value to the learning. 

Once all students have this common understanding, students are invited to share their personal experiences.  At this point student’s insights are an added value to the learning.

Help Students Find Evidence from the Text 

Many schools and districts require teachers to use scripted reading programs that contain comprehension questions. Unfortunately, some of these questions do not require students to have read the text in order to be answered.   Don’t throw your teacher manual away!  Many of these questions can be tweaked into text dependent questions with little effort.

How do I write text dependent questions?

I refer to the Common Core ELA Literature and Informational Text standards and use question stems that target standards from each section (Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas). For helpful text dependent question stems that can be used for any text, I have created a resource that will help you ask questions and facilitate discussions that encourage higher order thinking while covering ALL of the informational and literature standards.

How Text Dependent Questions Transformed my Teaching 

When I used to read-aloud to my students I would read the entire story one time and ask all the comprehension questions in one sitting.  I didn’t prepare questions ahead of time so I asked basic story element questions i.e.: who are the characters, what is the setting, problem, etc..  When I came to tricky vocabulary words, we would discuss the meaning.  When I felt my kids were confused, I threw in some inference questions.  I want my kids to enjoy the story without many disruptions or stopping points.

What I’ve learned about Text Dependent Questions

I didn’t realize, until years later, when I studied close reading, that there was a better plan of attack.  Based on some research by Timothy Shanahan, Doug Fisher, and Nancy Frey, I started planning my read-aloud lessons around 3-4 sessions, which I now call “Close Looks.”  The first day, I read the story or text aloud simply for pleasure.  I want my kids to enjoy the story without many disruptions or stopping points.  The second lesson is our first “Close Look.” We read the story again, in entirety,  and I stop to ask basic “Key Ideas and Details” questions.  I write these questions based on the KEY IDEAS AND DETAILS Reading Literature or Informational Text Common Core Standards.

Key Ideas and Details Examples for Second Grade:

The Third lesson, or “Close Look,” I revisit portions of the text with the students.  I ask questions about the craft and structure of the text.  I derive these questions from the CRAFT AND STRUCTURE Common Core Standards. We revisit pages to discuss vocabulary words, text features, and text structure.  This day is probably my kids’ favorite. They love to analyze why the author made certain word choices and the reasons the words are written in fun ways.

Craft and Structure Examples for Second Grade:

During the final lesson or “Close Look,” we dive deeper into the text.  I base these text dependent questions on the INTEGRATION OF KNOWLEDGE AND IDEAS standards. This day is built-in to spend time studying illustrations or text features.  We also revisit parts of the story to discuss tricky parts that require inference.   If we have read another related text, we make text-to-text connections.

Knowledge and ideas Examples for Second Grade:

As mentioned, text dependent questions are also a great way to provide opportunities for students to discuss their thinking with others and work on speaking and listening skills to meet the core standards . Learn how I explicitly teach my students speaking and listening responsibilities in my Discussion Strategies and Accountable Talk in the Classroom post. 

By spending three to five days closely reading a book, my kids become experts. By the time I ask text dependent questions over the span of lessons, I have covered all Common Core Literature or Informational Standards.  But, the best part is my kids fall in love with every book we close read.  They talk about the plot and characters at home and on the playground.  This just wasn’t the case when I only read the book with them once.  During independent reading, they fight over Stick and Stone , Turkey Trouble , Creepy Carrots  just to name a few.  For Valentines Day, the kids choose their favorite read-aloud and decorate their boxes to represent it.  I promise, once you try a read-aloud this way, you will NEVER go back to your old ways. We have done all the work for you if you want an entire read-aloud curriculum. 

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Implementing the Text Structure Strategy in Your Classroom


Implementing the Text Structure Strategy in Your Classroom

Learn how to implement a research-based text structure strategy that infuses text structures at every step of reading comprehension instruction, beginning with the introduction of the lesson, previewing of text, selecting important ideas, writing a main idea, generating inferences, and monitoring comprehension.

On this page:

How is the text structure strategy different than what we already teach in the classroom, integrating the text structure strategy throughout instruction, when and where should i use the text structure strategy, how should i resolve conflicting information from the textbook, which text structures should i teach first, should i teach one text structure at a time or combine them, should i use graphic organizers, should i use text structures for all genres of text, text structure strategy: sample lesson, introduction.

The Text Structure Strategy (TSS) stems from research showing that the content of most texts is organized using a hierarchical structure. The information presented higher in the content structure of a text is connected to better recall than information presented lower in the content structure (Meyer, 1975). Meyer and colleagues found that the hierarchical structure of texts fit into one or a combination of two or more of five specific text structures :

  • Cause and effect
  • Problem and solution
  • Description

These text structures are used to organize every text regardless of genre (e.g., expository, narrative) or content (e.g., science, social studies, current events, sports).

In expository texts such as history, events can be studied using a cause and effect structure nested within a sequence of events.

When reading a narrative text students are often asked about the moral of the story or the actions of the main characters. These ideas can be studied using a problem and solution and/or a cause and effect lens. Most novels, textbook passages, and short reading pieces may contain descriptions of events and sequences nested within the causes and effects of the event.

The Text Structure Strategy was designed, developed, and refined through many years of research. After the initial identification of the five text structures, Meyer and colleagues conducted additional research about what and how good readers remembered information (Meyer, Brandt, & Bluth, 1980). They found that good readers were able to take advantage of signals within the text to select important ideas and generate a gist. This gist helped them recollect more important information after reading.

Once this pattern was established, new interventions were developed to study whether children in elementary grades would benefit from being taught the strategy to identify signaling words, write a main idea scaffolded by the text structure, and remember more information (Meyer & Poon, 2001; Meyer et al., 2002; Meyer et al.., 2010; Williams et al., 2005).

A series of large scale studies have been conducted by Wijekumar and colleagues to study the efficacy of the TSS instruction delivered via a web-based tutor to students in grades 4, 5, 7, and 8 (Wijekumar, Meyer, & Lei, 2012; Wijekumar et al., 2014; Wijekumar, Meyer & Lei, 2017). The studies also included newer adaptations for Spanish speaking English learners (Wijekumar, Meyer, Lei, Hernandez, & August, 2018).

All these studies have shown that it is possible to teach children in grades 4 through 8 about using text structures to improve their comprehension of expository and narrative texts. A complete chronology of the refinements to the TSS through research evidence is presented in Wijekumar et al., (2014).

In this article, you’ll find important elements of the evidence-based text structure strategy that are relevant for classroom teachers. We organize the information around questions that frequently arise during teacher professional development sessions conducted by our team.

Text structures are integrated in all state standards (e.g., Common Core State Standards — CCSS, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills-TEKS) for language arts. They are frequently listed directly in standards about teaching comprehension of expository texts.

They are indirectly tied into standards on narrative texts where children are required to think deeply about a text and engage in higher-order thinking — for example, why did the character behave that way? (implying a cause and effect relationship). Students are asked to compare the problems and solutions between texts.

Based on the inclusion of the text structures in state standards, almost all textbooks include instruction about text structures. A complete list of English Language Arts (ELA) approaches designed to promote comprehension in four textbook series shows that cause and effect is taught as a separate skill to be learned (Beerwinkle, Wijekumar, Walpole, & Aguis, 2018). Compare/contrast is also taught using T-Charts or Venn Diagrams. Sequence and description are frequently used to organize passages and children are asked to engage in activities such as numbering the water cycle. Problem and solution was rarely used within the textbooks reviewed.

In every instance, instruction about text structure was done as an independent skill to be learned separate and distinct from writing main ideas, summarizing , generating inferences, and comprehension monitoring . Our observations of teachers using these textbooks to guide instructional practices in classrooms show that teachers use the following sequence of activities to teach reading within the ELA classroom (Beerwinkle, Wijekumar, Walpole, & Aguis, 2018):

  • Activate background knowledge and discuss some interesting features of the text.
  • Pre-teach or teach vocabulary in context. Provide definitions and examples for children who are unfamiliar with the words.
  • Preview the text — skim the text, read headings, and/or read segments of the text. These activities may be done as a large group, small group, sustained silent reading, or some combination of classroom organization.
  • Focus on the “skill” of the week or a combination of skills. Typically, the textbooks focus on some aspect of the text. Some observed foci include: genre, main ideas, summaries, inferences, comprehension monitoring, writing, and author’s purpose.
  • Teachers have also been observed to ask students to select important ideas from the text and provide a main idea . The observations reported by Beerwinkle et al., showed that over 90% of teachers used strategies such as “Beginning-Middle-End”, “First sentence and last sentence”, read the passage again, and look for what is important.
  • Depending on the focus of the week, teachers may ask students to complete a graphic organizer on cause and effect and a T-Chart, or Venn Diagram for a comparison.

An important distinction between the Text Structure Strategy and these applications of text structures listed above is where and how the text structure is introduced during the instruction. In the observed list of teacher activities, the text structure is presented in step 6 after all other instruction has been completed.

In contrast to the textbook approaches and observed classroom practices, the TSS is integrated into every text in every ELA, science, and social studies lesson. The TSS-infused approach is presented next with highlights showing important contrasts to current practice:

  • Plan how to incorporate higher order text structures to guide instruction (see sample planning page below)
  • Activate background knowledge and discuss some interesting features of the text including mentioning that there may be a comparison, cause and effect, and/or a problem and solution within the passage.
  • Preview the text — skim the text, read headings, and/or read segments of the text. These activities may be done as a large group, small group, sustained silent reading, or some combination of classroom organization. Include looking for signaling words and reminding children that there may be some comparisons, causes and effects, and problems and solutions.
  • Include regular and spiraling instruction about selecting important ideas while reading, writing a main idea , generating inferences, and monitoring comprehension . Most importantly, utilize main idea sentence starters to scaffold the students. Each step is described in more detail below.

Select important ideas while reading

Ask students to focus on causes and effects, problems and solutions, and comparisons. Because sequence and description are so prevalent there is little reason to ask students to focus on those. For example, during reading ask students to annotate text with cause and effects, comparisons, and problem and solution. In the TSS instruction, we ask students to write a C next to the cause and E next to the effect.

Write a main idea using the text structure

Main ideas can be generated at the paragraph level (pick some important paragraphs) and/or passage level. Regardless of which level the main idea is generated on, children are scaffolded with specific patterns based on each text structure. They are:

Comparison: _______ and _____ were compared on _____, _____, and ______

Cause and Effect: The cause is _______ and the effect is _______

Problem and Solution: The problem is ________ and the solution is ________

Sequence: First, ____, Second _____, Third _____

Description: The topic ______has the _____, ______, _____ features.

Generate inferences using the text structures

If the passage contains information about a problem that was solved, then students can be asked to infer what the cause was based on the solution proposed. E.g., The problem was that whales were dying in the arctic ocean and the solution proposed was to stop the hunting of whales. Can you infer the cause for the problem (i.e., whales becoming extinct) based on the solution proposed? Clearly, the cause for demise of whales was the hunting and not any other factors such as pollution.

Monitor comprehension using the text structures

Again, students can be guided to connect their memory and utilize text structures to check for comprehension. For example: Do I know what the problem was? Do I know the cause for the problem? How was the problem solved?

A complete cycle of the ELA instructional cycle is presented in the Appendix. Additional information on how the higher order text structures (i.e., comparison, cause and effect, problem and solution) can be used to improve comprehension is presented in kid-friendly videos below:

Comparison (in Spanish)

Problem and Solution

The TSS instruction focuses on guiding many of the comprehension promoting activities using one of the more complex and higher order text structures (comparison, cause and effect, problem and solution). Therefore, TSS applications use the text structures to guide selecting important ideas, writing a main idea , generating inferences, monitoring comprehension, and writing. That means the text structure can be introduced early in every lesson as the reading materials are initially previewed and throughout the lesson at every turn. This promotes students to connect their memory structures and comprehend using the logical connections presented by the text structures (e.g., What is the cause for the problem? Does the solution address the cause?).

Regardless of what topic is being taught and how the textbooks are organized, ideally, teachers would infuse important TSS ideas into instruction every time the students read and guide their activities and thinking around higher-order questions that are outgrowths of causes and effects, problems and solutions, and objective comparisons between ideas in the text. Text structures can be nested and students can compare the causes for the problems. If the textbooks (or teacher practices) present conflicting instructions on writing a main idea (e.g., first sentence and last sentence, Beginning-Middle-End) then refrain from using those and instead substitute the TSS main idea patterns that are logical, simple, and easy for students to use.

Many teachers and publications recommend the teaching of sequence and description text structures prior to teaching other text structures. As noted earlier, problem and solution is rarely taught and some text structure interventions suggest that cause and effect and problem and solution are similar and therefore can be reduced to just cause and effect.

Five recent research studies that have received the stamp of approval from the What Works Clearinghouse and been reviewed carefully show that upper elementary grade students can learn the comparison and problem and solution and cause and effect text structures (Wijekumar, et al., 2014; Wijekumar, Meyer, & Lei, 2017). Williams et al., (2005) and Williams, Stafford, Lauer, Hall, & Pollini, (2009). have taught comparison text structure to children as young as second grade. Additionally, the TSS used in the recent research studies begin with the comparison text structure and is followed by problem and solution, and cause and effect. Sequence and description are left to the end because children are quite familiar with them and do not appear to need further assistance with those.

An important consideration for teaching text structures can be linked to what high stakes assessments at the state and national levels in upper elementary grades measure. In many instances the types of questions on these tests are classified as measuring higher order thinking skills. These questions focus on causes for the problem, effects of the solutions, and even comparing alternative solutions. The ability for students to draw parallels from the passages on these tests to their own lives through lessons learned from a story, the moral of the story, and other take away messages requires students to see how the problem was solved. Students must also be able to compare the events of the test passage to similar experiences they have faced and be able to evaluate the solution presented in the text. Thus the research and foci of high stakes assessments lead us to advocate for the teaching of cause and effect and comparison text structures early in the academic year.

The TSS approach has been to present students with focused instruction on comparison, followed by problem and solution. When two text structures have been learned, children are shown how to combine the text structures. When cause and effect is learned, children are shown how to combine problem and solution with cause and effect.

We do acknowledge that most texts used in textbooks, novels, and many resources used in classrooms do use multiple text structures. Ideally, teachers would always acknowledge these text structures. Then whenever they are teaching, utilize the text structures to promote comprehension at every stage of instruction. 

As students are completing main ideas, you may consider using a paired graphic organizer. Please note the following are the graphic organizers used in the TSS instruction reported in the research studies reported above: Additionally, note that the graphic organizers are used during the selection of important ideas prior to writing the main idea . This promotes logical connections and a strong main idea reporting the most important information in the text.

Comparison: Main Idea T-Chart

Main idea using the pattern Desert, Tundra, and Grassland Biomes were compared on Plants, Animals, and Temperature.

Comparison: Venn Diagram

homework text dependent questions plan a plot

Cause and Effect: Main Idea Paired with Graphic Organizer

Main idea : Because of high temperatures in the desert, plants develop adaptations to heat.

It has been the practice in all TSS implementation to acknowledge that text structures can be used for all genres of text. As stated in the introduction, expository texts are all about causes and effects, problems and solutions, and comparisons with sequence and descriptions nested within. The National Reading Panel mentioned the story structures in the context of teaching narrative texts (NRP, 2000). In most instances, students are reading stories for enjoyment but the underlying goal is to get them to understand the moral of the story and also to apply that in their own lives. A popular novel titled, “Because of Winn-Dixie” is about a child who learns how to adapt to a new setting with the help of a friend. The story revolves around a character and can be remembered using a cause and effect lens. Thus, we advocate the use of the TSS is all readings based on the findings from the research studies.

Here’s an example lesson commonly used in upper elementary classrooms about biomes.

  • Passage about biomes
  • Text structure lesson planning template (opens in a new window)
  • Comparison poster (opens in a new window)
  • Comparison poster (Spanish) (opens in a new window)
  • Cause/Effect poster (opens in a new window)
  • Problem/Solution poster (opens in a new window)
  • Sequence poster (opens in a new window)
  • Description poster (opens in a new window)

The TSS has been developed, tested, and refined over 40+ years and has consistently shown improvements in reading comprehension with children as young as second grade. The TSS approach presented here infuses text structures at every step of the reading comprehension instruction beginning with the introduction of the lesson, previewing of text, selecting important ideas, writing a main idea , generating inferences, and monitoring comprehension. An important difference between the TSS and other implementations of text structures is that text structures are integrated into each step and not an independent and separate step in the instructional process. The success reported in many research studies show that there is merit to this approach for classroom instruction.

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Meyer, B. J. F. (1975). The organization of prose and its effects on memory. Amsterdam: North -Holland.

Meyer, B. J. F., Brandt, D. M. & Bluth, G. J. (1980).  Use of the top-level structure in text: Key for reading comprehension of ninth-grade students. Reading Research Quarterly, 16, 72-103.

Meyer, B. J. F., Middlemiss, W., Theodorou, E., S., Brezinski, K. L., McDougall, J., & Bartlett, B. J. (2002). Older adults tutoring fifth-grade children in the structure strategy via the Internet. Journal of Educational Psychology , 94 (3), 486-519 .

Meyer, B. J. F., & Poon, L. W. (2001). Effects of the structure strategy and signaling on recall of text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93 , 141-159.

Meyer, B. J. F., Wijekumar, K., Middlemiss, W., Higley, K., Lei, P., Meier, C., & Spielvogel, J. (2010). Web-based tutoring of the structure strategy with or without elaborated feedback or choice for fifth- and seventh-grade readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 45, 62-92.

Wijekumar, K. K., Meyer, B. J. F., & Lei, P. (2013). High-fidelity implementation of web-basedIntelligent tutoring system improves fourth and fifth graders content area reading comprehension. Computers & Education, 68 , 366-379.

Wijekumar, K., Meyer, B.J.F., Lei, P. (2012). Large-scale randomized controlled trial with 4 th graders using intelligent tutoring of the structure strategy to improve nonfiction reading comprehension. Journal of Educational Technology Research and Development. 60, 987-1013.

Wijekumar, K., Meyer, B.J.F., Lei, P.-W, Lin, Y., Johnson, L.A., Shurmatz, K., Spielvogel, J., Ray,M, & Cook, M. (2014).  Improving reading comprehension for 5 th grade readers in rural and suburban schools using web-based intelligent tutoring systems . Journal of Research in Educational Effectiveness, 7:4, 331-357, DOI: 10.1080/19345747.2013.853333 (opens in a new window)

Wijekumar, K., Meyer, B.J.F., Lei, P-W, Hernandez, A., August, D. (in press). Effects of web-based text structure instruction for 4-6 th grade Spanish Els reading comprehension. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal .

Williams, J. P., Hall, K. M., Lauer, K. D., Stafford, K. B., DeSisto, L. A., & deCani, J. S. (2005). Expository text comprehension in the primary grade classroom. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97 , 538-550.

Williams, J. P., Stafford, K. B., Lauer, K. D., Hall, K. M., & Pollini, S. (2009). Embedding reading comprehension training in content-area instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101 , 1-20.

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Many states have adopted a TDA (Text Dependent Analysis) style assessment for the writing component of their state test.  This type of writing style requires students to read a text or passage and use actual text to support their answers, citing specific evidence directly from the text.  Text-dependent analysis writing instructs students to provide specific evidence from the passages they read, while demonstrating the ability to interpret the meaning behind the evidence they provide.  How do you teach this kind of complex process to students?

TDA Questions List:

It’s important for you, as the teacher, to first generate a personal list of text-dependent questions/prompts prior to taking this process into the classroom.  You know your class and your standards.  What types of questions are most effective for your expectations and outcomes?  Write down as many text-dependent analysis, or TDA question/prompts as you can think of on a scratch piece of paper.  Then compare and/or combine your list of questions/prompts to this comprehensive list available for FREE in my VIP FREEBIE ALBUM . 

homework text dependent questions plan a plot

Begin by working as a whole group to come up with an acronym that encompasses the classroom TDA writing process.  Developing an acronym together will not only help students take ownership, but also give them a guide to remember HOW TO answer the questions.  Would you rather have an acronym prepared for your class?  No problem.  Work with ACE-  This is an acronym I use in my Text Evidence resource.  A-Answer the Question  C-Cite the Evidence  E-Explain your answer.  If time is a factor, you not have to reinvent the wheel!  You can find other examples of acronyms from teachers like RACE, WHIP, and QUAN on Pinterest.  These examples can be used with your class to use for HOW TO answer the questions or for brainstorming key ideas needed in your own acronym.  Here are some ideas to guide your students.:

  • Read the questions thoroughly to understand the important words.  Underline the keywords.
  • Answer the questions using prior knowledge and inferences/predictions.  Show understanding of the question by restating it in your answer.
  • Find evidence in the text to support your thoughts and opinions.  Note evidence to show proof of your answer.  Find facts, quotes, and data.
  • Explain in great detail by paraphrasing and directly quoting areas of the text. Extend your question.  How does your evidence support your answer?  What is your connection between your answer and the evidence? Be simple and to the point.  You don’t want to create an acronym with more than 4 letters, especially with elementary level students, but you want to have a comprehensive classroom guide for the process.

Student TDA Questions List:

Do the same activity from above with your students.  Ask them to write down as many TDA questions/prompts as they can think of in 5-10 minutes.  Allow them to work in pairs or groups, then work as a class to create a student-generated class list of questions/prompts.  Combine their list with your list.  Try to break the questions into sections (fictions, non-fiction, author’s purpose, etc) to make it easier in the future to find the appropriate questions/prompts based on the type of reading.  This activity will help students remember the questions they can ask themselves while reading a passage, which in turn will provide them with a deeper meaning of the text.

Brainstorm Sentence Starters:

Braintorm together sentence starters for providing text evidence in their writing.  For example:_____ quoted, “…”On page ____, it states…In paragraph ____, the text says…

The author wrote, “…”

The graphic/illustrations/map/chart indicate…

According to the text…

_____provides proof that…

From what I read in the text, I understand…

Based on _____ in the text, I think…

I think the author mean _____ because he/she says _____.

_____is an example of _____.

Post Acronym:

Be sure to post the class-generated acronym, prompts/questions, and useful resources in a plae where each student can see them clearly.  Create simple lists of questions/prompts and post them on your classroom walls.  Review them daily and before a TDA essay.  Repetition is an effective method for long-term memory!

Take notes:

Depending on what is best for your class, either have your students take notes on the resources or provide them with a small acronym anchor chart, a list of questions, and sentence starters for their reading notebook.  This TDA resource will be valuable for independent work and homework.

The first TDA should be done together as a class.  Read a text and write the essay together a whole group.  Students will be able to see a strong example of building an effective TDA essay writing piece.

Give students a text and allow them to use the TDA wall or student resources to guide them through the process.  You may want to begin with partner work and ease into independent work.

Fairy tales are quick reads, but they have  tons of elements  that make them  great for TDAs . Student experience with the structure and topics included in fairy tales will  give them  the  confidence  they need to  branch out  and  take risks  in their responses. Some ideas for daily TDAs with popular fairy tales might include the following:

One theme of “Cinderella” is to hold onto your dreams. Write an essay explaining how key details in the story support this theme. Use evidence from the story to support your answer.

How does the original wish of the King and Queen in “Sleeping Beauty” drive the plot of the story? Use specific evidence from the text to support your answer.

Try this TDA question stem for any fairy tale or multicultural version of a fairy tale students have not previously read: Can you tell if __________ describes a particular culture? How do you know? Would the story be different if set in a different culture/setting? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.


Provide students with a TDA assessment.  Have them work independently without guidance.

Track your students’ progress.  This will be helpful when forming small groups and reteaching. I hope you learned some strategies to bring into your classroom!

homework text dependent questions plan a plot


homework text dependent questions plan a plot


homework text dependent questions plan a plot

3rd Grade Text Dependent Analysis (TDA) Text Evidence Writing

homework text dependent questions plan a plot

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homework text dependent questions plan a plot

5th Grade Text Dependent Analysis (TDA) Text Evidence Writing

homework text dependent questions plan a plot

Informative Writing Prompt Passages Bundle

homework text dependent questions plan a plot

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homework text dependent questions plan a plot

Step-by-Step Text Evidence Unit for Grades 4-6

homework text dependent questions plan a plot

Step-by-Step Text Evidence Unit Grades 2-4

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May writing prompts.

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