CCSS Aligned L2 Reading Comprehension Questions

About two months ago, I wrote a post explaining how second language teachers can use the Common Core Anchor Standards for Reading to give depth to their reading assessments and challenge students to think critically in the target language. Read it here. Understandably, some readers were left wondering what an assessment composed of CCSS Aligned questions would look like. And so, I give you this: A 15 page packet full of explanations and examples (I’m posting the information from the packet on this page, but it will be much easier to read (and print) if you just download the packet!)

So that teachers could see specific examples of each question type, the questions are written based on a text that is commonly used in language courses. The novel Brandon Brown quiere un perro was written by Carol Gaab, and it is written with just 100 unique words, making it perfect for novice language learners. It is available in Spanish here and French here. The first two chapters of the novel are available on the TPRS Publishing, Inc. website as a free preview, and they were used with written permission from the publisher.

Considerations for the L2 teacher

  1. Write questions in English – When assessing reading comprehension of target language texts, we almost always ask the questions in English so that an incorrect answer can only be attributed to a misunderstanding of the text, as opposed to a misunderstanding of the question or an ability to ‘hunt and peck’ to find the answer. There are a few exceptions, and they are noted throughout this packet.
  2. Choose what you want to assess – When creating an assessment that includes critical thinking questions, the L2 teacher must consider whether s/he wants to assess reading comprehension in the TL, the ability to support conclusions with textual evidence in English, or both. A student may understand the language of a text very well, but still be unable to process the information in a way that would allow him or her to accurately respond to the question. Unless the question requires that the student explain his/her answer, the problem with assessing two things at once is that the teacher cannot know whether a student’s incorrect answer was due to a deficit in reading comprehension or critical thinking ability. For this reason, the teacher may choose to formally assess students using very basic comprehension questions (explicit recall, for example), and choose to save the critical thinking questions for class discussion.
  3. Visit Teach for June – If you are not familiar with Standards Based Assessment, I highly recommend visiting Scott Benedict’s website, http://teachforjune.com. He has articles, webinars, and additional materials to help all teachers, and L2 teachers in particular, learn why and how to use Standards Based Assessment in their courses.

STANDARD R.1: Recall explicit facts

These questions are the easiest to write because they are based solely on the information contained within the text. Students must be able to find the answer to the question within the text without adding in their own opinions or knowledge from other sources. With reference to QAR (Question Answer Relationships) the questions can be “Right There” questions (for which the answer is located in one specific place in the text) or “Think and Search” questions (for which students must combine information from several places in the text in order to answer the question).

Multiple Choice Who has a rat?

  1. Brandon
  2. Brandon’s sister
  3. Brandon’s friend
  4. A family on TV
What does Brandon want?

  1. a hamster
  2. a cat
  3. a rat
  4. a dog
True/False True or False? Brandon wants a dog like Beethoven.
Short Answer/Free Response Describe the kind of a pet that Brandon wants. Include at least three details.

Where is one place that Brandon sees a dog that he likes?

Fill in the blank: Brandon wants a ____. 

STANDARD R.1: Make logical inferences

A question to assess this standard should require that students recall information from the chapter and then use that knowledge to make an inference. When students are asked to make logical inferences in the target language, it is difficult to know whether an incorrect answer is due to a deficit in reading comprehension or a deficit in critical thinking skills. For this reason, an L2 teacher may wish to have students explain their answer even on a multiple choice or true/false assessment. See “Choose what you want to assess” (page 3) for more about the L2 reading comprehension vs. critical thinking dilemmma.

Multiple Choice Which activity would Brandon most like for his dog to do, based on the information provided in Chapter 1?

  1. sit comfortably in Brandon’s lap
  2. spend all day in a kennel
  3. obey commands
  4. not shed
If Brandon cannot have his first choice animal, what might be his second choice, and why? 

  1. a fish because fish are easy to take care of.
  2. a cat because cats are smart.
  3. an potbelly pig because potbelly pigs are unusual pets.
  4. a lizard because lizards are small.
True/False True or False? Brandon would like to watch the movie “Homeward Bound”, which stars two dogs and a cat.

True or False? After the conversation with his mom in Chapter 2, Brandon decides that he should just give up on his birthday wish.

Short Answer/Free Response What is a pet that Brandon’s mom would likely allow him to have? Please explain your answer using information from Chapter 2.

For his birthday, would Brandon like to receive a guitar? Please explain your answer using information from Chapter 2.

STANDARD R.1: Support conclusions with textual evidence

If the teacher wants to solely assess reading comprehension in the target language, then the teacher would need to provide three options with false information about the text and only one option that contains true information from the text, all of which are logically sound. If the teacher wants to solely assess critical thinking ability, then all four options must be factual based on the text, but only one can be logical. (Keep in mind that the student would be able to respond to the question based on logic even not having read the text.) If the teacher wants to assess both, consider including two false and two true statements about the text. Both of the false statements should be logical, but only one of the true statements from the text should be logical. The student can eliminate the false statements based on reading comprehension in the TL, and then s/he must use logic to choose between the two true statements that remain. In this way, the teacher can look at the incorrect answer that the student chose and know which skill is lacking. These questions do not make good true/false questions.

Multiple Choice What information from Chapter 1 best supports the conclusion that Brandon watches a lot of TV?

  1. Brandon is watching TV when he first decides that he wants a dog. (false, logical)
  2. Brandon watches several movies and TV programs about dogs. (true, logical)
  3. Brandon compares the park dogs to the TV dogs. (false, logical)
  4. Brandon doesn’t want a red dog. (true, illogical)
Short Answer/Free Response Does Brandon prefer large or small animals? Copy TWO quotes from Chapter 1 that support your answer. You may leave the quotes in Spanish.

STANDARD R.2: Determine central ideas or themes

These are among the few questions that can be asked about target language texts in the target language. Because the central idea or theme will contain similar language to the language of the text itself, the teacher can know that an incorrect answer is due to the fact that the student does not understand the language used in the chapter. When writing multiple choice questions in the target language that assess this skill, it is important that all four options contain language that appeared in the text itself, so that students cannot eliminate options by simply recognizing that the language contained in a potential answer did not appear anywhere in the text.

Multiple Choice Which of the following statements best expresses the main idea, or ‘theme’ of Chapter 1?

  1. Brandon wants a dog.
  2. Brandon doesn’t like his friends’ pets.
  3. Brandon watches a lot of TV.
  4. Brandon loves animals.
True/False True or False? An appropriate theme for Chapter 1 is “Brandon loves to go to the park!”

True or False? La idea principal del Capítulo 2 es que Brandon va a cumplir 9 años.

Short Answer/Free Response Read the following excerpt from Chapter 1, then summarize the main idea of the passage with a single statement: “Su amiga, Jamie, tiene un hámster, pero Brandon no quiere un hámster. Los háms- teres son horribles también1. Brandon no quiere un hámster horrible. ¡Brandon quiere un perro! Su amigo, Jake, tiene un perro. El perro de Jake es grande y es inteligente también. Brandon quiere un perro como el perro de Jake. Quiere un perro grande e inteligente.”

STANDARD R.2: Summarize details and ideas to support theme development

Students that are proficient in this skill area of standard R.2 are able to identify the information from a text that supports the theme. They can separate the ‘meat’ (the theme-based content) from the ‘potatoes’ (the filling that adds interest and depth to the text). They are able to summarize texts concisely because they have developed the ability to accurately assess the difference between essential and non-essential information as it relates to the purpose of the text. These questions can be asked in English or in the target language for the same reasons listed under “R.2 Determine central ideas or themes”.

Multiple Choice Which of these statements from Chapter 2 support the main idea of Chapter 2?

  1. “El teléfono interrumpe la conversación”
  2. “La mamá de Brandon está irritada”
  3. “No quiero un Xbox® y tampoco quiero un teléfono celular”
  4. “Brandon es muy inteligente”
True/False True or False? In Chapter 1, one of the most important things that we learn is that Brandon does not want a hamster.
Short Answer/Free Response Chapters 1 and 2 inform us that Brandon wnats a dog, and he thinks that his birthday is the perfect time to receive one. What are THREE things that we learn about Brandon in the first two chapters that support this idea?

STANDARD R.2: Summarize details and ideas to support theme development

Students that are proficient in this skill area of standard R.2 are able to identify the information from a text that supports the theme. They can separate the ‘meat’ (the theme-based content) from the ‘potatoes’ (the filling that adds interest and depth to the text). They are able to summarize texts concisely because they have developed the ability to accurately assess the difference between essential and non-essential information as it relates to the purpose of the text. These questions can be asked in English or in the target language for the same reasons listed under “R.2 Determine central ideas or themes”.

Multiple Choice Which of these statements from Chapter 2 support the main idea of Chapter 2?

  1. “El teléfono interrumpe la conversación”
  2. “La mamá de Brandon está irritada”
  3. “No quiero un Xbox® y tampoco quiero un teléfono celular”
  4. “Brandon es muy inteligente”
True/False True or False? In Chapter 1, one of the most important things that we learn is that Brandon does not want a hamster.
Short Answer/Free Response Chapters 1 and 2 inform us that Brandon wnats a dog, and he thinks that his birthday is the perfect time to receive one. What are THREE things that we learn about Brandon in the first two chapters that support this idea?

STANDARD R.2: Analyze theme development

These questions are best asked after students have read a significant portion of a long text. For this reason, it is difficult to write theme development questions based on just the first two chapters of a simple text. To write them, the teacher should think about how the theme of each segment of the text fits into the theme(s) of the text as a whole. How does the main idea of the text as a whole manifest itself in each chapter? How does the key point from one chapter influence the key point of the next?

Multiple Choice Which of the following events from Chapter 2 happens as a result of Brandon’s strong desire to have a dog?

  1. Brandon tells his mom what he wants for his birthday.
  2. Brandon’s conversation with his mom is interrupted by a phone call.
  3. Brandon’s mom talks about rats.
  4. Brandon’s mom says that Brandon is 8 years old.
True/False True or False? The most significant similarity between Chapters 1 and 2 is that Brandon’s sister has a rat.

True or False? Brandon’s concept of an ideal birthday gift is influenced by the many great dogs that he sees in real life and on TV.

Short Answer/Free Response How does Brandon’s desire for a specific pet influence his actions in Chapter 2?

STANDARD R.3: Analyze development of characters, events, or ideas

Like theme development questions, these questions are best asked toward the end of a text; however, the beginning of a text is a great time to lay the foundation for later analysis by asking questions that establish a ‘baseline’: What is a character like at the beginning of a text? What are his/her priorities? What is happening at the beginning of a text that you, the teacher, know will have an impact on the later events of the text? What idea presented at the beginning of a text will reappear or change as the reader continues on in the text? Later on, you can ask students to compare those characters, events, or idea that were highlighted at the beginning of a text to themselves later on.

Multiple Choice Which of the followings adjective best describes Brandon, based on his thoughts, words, and actions in the first two chapters?

  1. responsible
  2. determined
  3. jealous
  4. easily frustrated
True/False True or False? Brandon’s concept of what it’s like to have a dog is based solely on his observations of dogs at the park.
Short Answer/Free Response How does Brandon’s desire for a dog influence his actions in Chapter 2?

How would you describe Brandon? Provide at least three adjectives.

STANDARD R.4: Analyze word choice

Questions that analyze word choice help students to think critically about why the author chose to use the words that s/he did. They are excellent to use in an L2 classroom because they help students consider all of the options that they have to say the same thing. With regular use, students will produce more fluent language as they incorporate a wider range of vocabulary into their speech and writing. Since Brandon Brown quiere un perro is written with extremely basic vocabulary, it is more difficult to write word choice analysis questions for this text than for more advanced texts, which employ a broader, deeper, less repetitive vocabulary.

Multiple Choice Why might the author have used the word “exclama” instead of “dice” in the following excerpt from Chapter 1?

“En el parque, hay muchos perros. Brandon ve los perros y exclama: «Yo quiero un perro!».”

  1. To express Brandon’s inability to keep his voice down
  2. To express Brandon’s sense of humor
  3. To express Brandon’s enthusiasm
  4. To express Brandon’s anger
True/False True or false? In this passage, the author used the phrase “con entusiasmo” to show that Brandon was frustrated: “Brandon exclama con entusiasmo: «¡Quiero un perro como Beethoven!».
Short Answer/Free Response Which words and/or phrases in the following passage does Brandon’s mother use to exaggerate the situation in order to support her argument? Explain your answer.

“Brandon, tú sólo tienes 8 años. Un perro es una responsabilidad enorme para un niño de 8 años.”

Which word does the author use to communicate the fact that Brandon is not a fan of rats? “Las ratas son horribles. Brandon no quiere una rata horrible.”

STANDARD R.4: Interpret meaning of words or phrases

These questions are an excellent alternative to traditional grammar quizzes. Because they require students to interpret the meaning of specific words and phrases, the teacher is instantly able to identify the point (or points) at which L2 comprehension breaks down. By aligning these questions with the target structures and constructions from a course, a teacher can use this question type to determine with what specific course content a student needs additional support.

Multiple Choice Which word in the following statement is most similar in meaning to the word “says”?

“Brandon es muy inteligente. Él considera el comentario de su mamá y le responde, –  Mamá, ¿no quieres un perro porque los perros son problemáticos?”

  1. considera
  2. comentario
  3. responde
  4. quieres
True/False True or False? In this excerpt from Chapter 2, the word ‘como’ is best translated “how”:

“Brandon exclama: «¡Marley es un perro perfecto! Quiero un perro como Marley».”

Short Answer/Free Response Which phrase in the following excerpt from Chapter 2 tells us that Brandon is excited to talk about this topic with his mom?

La mamá de Brandon está irritada. Ella no quiere un perro y no quiere continuar la conversación. Pero Brandon continúa la conversación con mucho entusiasmo

What is the difference in meaning between “soy” and “eres” as used in this excerpt from Chapter 2? 

–  Ji, ji, ji. Brandon, tú eres muy inteligente –le dice su mamá. 

–  Sí mamá. ¡Y soy responsable también! 

STANDARD R.5: Analyze text structure

If you are unfamiliar with the text structure as it relates to the Common Core State Standards, I recommend viewing this slideshare slideshow. Questions that assess students’ ability to analyze text structure help them to focus on the strategies that the author employs in his or her text to communicate the desired message. While an author will typically use one main text structure, elements of other structures will likely be included within it.

Multiple Choice Which text structure best describes the first two chapters of Brandon Brown quiere un perro?

  1. Chronological order
  2. Compare and contrast
  3. Description
  4. Problem and solution
The author’s main purpose in Chapter 1 is to…

  1. describe Brandon to the reader.
  2. establish that Brandon is discontent about something in his life.
  3. contrast Brandon with his sister.
  4. explain an event.
True/False True or false? In Chapter 2, Brandon tries to solve his problem by calling one of his mom’s friends.

True or false? In Chapter 2, Brandon tries to solve his problem by calling one of his mom’s friends.

Short Answer/Free Response Give one example from Chapter 1 in which the author uses compare/contrast to communicate an idea:

STANDARD R.6: Assess point of view

Questions that assess point of view are an excellent tool to use in the L2 classroom because they give students an opportunity to think critically about grammatical constructions other than the traditional third person narrative form. It is important that students know the difference between first, second, and third person perspective in order to respond to many of these questions, so take time to explain the perspectives in English before administering any assessments that include those terms. Don’t assume that students have already learned it in their English classes!

Multiple Choice From whose perspective is this statement written?

Mi hermana tiene una rata y mi amigo tiene un hámster.

  1. Brandon’s
  2. Brandon’s mom
  3. Brandon’s sister
  4. Brandon’s friend
True/False True or False? “Quiero un perro para mi cumpleaños” is written from Brandon’s point of view.

True or False? To change the statement “La mamá de Brandon está irritada” to be written from first person perspective, the only thing that you need to do is replace “está” with “estoy”.

Short Answer/Free Response From which perspective (1st, 2nd, or 3rd person) are Chapters 1 and 2 written? Copy one sample sentence (in Spanish) from the text, and explain how it proves your answer.

Re-write the statement, “Brandon es muy inteligente” from the first person perspective, as if Brandon were making the statement about himself.

STANDARD R.8: Evaluate argument and specific claims

These questions are easier to write about non-fiction, expository and/or persuasive texts. Within a fiction piece, questions of these type should focus on arguments presented by the characters in the text or even details that an author uses to support statements that s/he makes in the text. For example, if an author states that a character is a bad influence, what details does s/he included in order to support that statement? Notice that some of these sample questions do not force students to evaluate the argument and specific claims on their own, but rather assess reading comprehension while helping the students to focusing on the evaluation of arguments and claims already contained within the text.

Multiple Choice What is the problem with Brandon’s argument that his sister is allowed to have a pet?

  1. His sister is older.
  2. He wants a different pet than his sister has.
  3. Girls are more responsible than boys are.
  4. Brandon’s parents only allow one pet.
True/False True or False? Brandon’s mom would be more likely to agree to let Brandon have a small dog than a big dog.
Short Answer/Free Response Copy three statements from text that the author uses to reinforce the idea that Brandon is not interested in other pets or gifts; only a dog:

In your opinion, what is Brandon’s best reason for wanting a dog? Please explain your answer in English using information from the text.

All content © 2011-2014 The Comprehensible Classroom www.martinabex.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written consent from Martina Bex is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martina Bex at The Comprehensible Classroom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

4 comments

  1. Martina, I said it before and I say it again. You are the best! Thanks for doing this. It is so clear to me now. And you used Brandon quiere un perro which is one of my favorite Carol Gaab’s books. Thanks again!

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  2. Martina, thanks, as always. Q’s:

    1) Do you assess each of the CCSS Standards really as standards in your Standards-Based Grading class, or is “Reading Comprehension” one of your standards, and you simply use this to design reading assessments?
    2) If the latter, how many of these standards do you include on any given single assessment?
    3) How many of each type of question (multiple choice, t/f, open/free response) do you include on each reading assessment?

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    • Everything falls under the ‘Reading Comprehension’ category. Most of my reading assessments have just 5 questions, and 2-3 of them are usually explicit recall while the other 2-3 target one standard each. Almost all of my questions are short answer; I rarely give T/F or multiple choice assessments because of the dilemma presented by assessing critical thinking in the target language. Short answer assessments allow me to see if an incorrect answer is due to a deficiency in reading comprehension or a deficiency in critical thinking ability.

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