Common Core trustee Carol Jago is on a roll. Not only did she recently write (in the Washington Post) the smartest thing we’ve read about the literary vs. informational text “debate,” but now she’s published a New York Times piece that provides any educator with an excellent lesson in how to write the sort of “text-dependent questions” that are at the heart of Common Core State Standards implementation.
Carol is first and foremost a teacher, as well as past president of the National Council of Teachers of English and current chair of the College Board’s English Academic Advisory committee. In her NYT piece she took Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem, “One Today,” as her anchor text, providing educators with helpful background information on the history of the Inaugural poem, as well as on the genre of the “occasional poem.” But her most valuable guidance is the marquee illustration she provided of how to write a series of text-dependent questions (TDQs) that encourage students to mine a text at a level of rigor that meets the expectations of the new Common Core State Standards.
The value of Carol’s piece extends far beyond its utility as a single lesson plan. The ELA field is hungry for examples of how to create great TDQs, and Carol’s work here should be studied widely. Well-written TDQs are a first step toward driving students’ understanding of essential details in a text and in honing their ability to make logical inferences. These questions can help to ensure that students read a text closely and understand (especially in the case of a poem) how form contributes to meaning. TDQs are the spine of Common Core’s forthcoming “Curriculum Maps in United States and World History,” and of the next generation of our ELA maps.