Appreciating Hemingway: ELA 9-12 Afternoon Session

The Hemingway classic, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” was center stage during Tuesday’s 9-12 ELA afternoon session. The story illustrated to teachers, coaches and administrators the greater value involved in the process of close, analytic reading. During discussions, it was said that one or two well-chosen short stories that are read deeply would be sufficient to teach a variety of literary techniques. As a bonus, some joked, they have a newfound appreciation for Hemingway.

Further conversations centered around the creation of text-dependent questions (TDQs). Among the topics addressed were common mistakes made when developing TDQs, including:

  • background knowledge questions
  • hunt and peck
  • scavenger hunt
  • universal truth
  • “according to the text”
  • too many “one-offs”

Just as important was the guide to creating TDQs (soon to appear on This should be viewed as a “backwards design” process that would generate a core series of questions for close reading of any text. The process includes seven steps to create a set of effective TDQs that guide students in extracting the key meanings or ideas found in the text. They are:

  • Identify the core understandings and key ideas of the text
  • Start small to build confidence
  • Target vocabulary and text structure
  • Tackle tough sections head-on
  • Create coherent sequences of text-dependent questions
  • Identify the standards that are being addressed
  • Create the culminating assignment

Participants practiced this skill on the Hemingway story and came up with TDQs of their own. Teachers assessed each other’s TDQs and had productive conversations regarding the text and the TDQ-creating process. The development of TDQs will benefit those educators who will be creating their own units/lessons that are aligned with the CCLS.


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