If your grade 3-6 students are ready to explore higher-order thinking skills, introduce them to Raz-Plus Close Reading Packs and see their skills expand as they engage in active reading and textual analysis. Inspired by Science A-Z’s Investigation Packs, these Raz-Plus Close Reading Packs help students practice 21st century skills as they explore complex questions like “How can human action protect animals in the wild?” or “What are some ways people solve problems?”
While working with Close Reading Packs, students practice active, reading comprehension strategies with texts at three levels of difficulty—Low, Medium, and High—so all students have an opportunity to read level appropriate texts. Here is a step-by-step guide for using Close Reading packs with your grades 3-6 students.
What’s Included in Each Pack?
- Each pack is organized by grade and includes 4 different fiction and nonfiction passages at 3 different reading levels that help students think about a Key Question.
- A Connecting Passage that students analyze after reading individual passages with which the class refines their response to the Key Question.
- A Lesson Plan that helps teachers facilitate group activities and discussions.
- Graphic Organizers that students use to structure their understandings of the passages.
Step 1: Group Students
Each Close Reading group should have 4 students, and the Close Reading Packs work best when each group consists of students with different learning levels.
When you’ve arranged groups, students can choose different roles to facilitate reading discussions. Each group will have a Discussion Leader, who uses the Student Response Sheet to direct group members in sharing what they learned from the passage that they read. Another student takes on the role of Reporter, who shares the group’s findings with the class. As students move from reading and discussing their individual passages to the Connecting Passage, the students who did not get to be Discussion Leader or Reporter will take on those roles.
Step 2: Pre-teach Vocabulary and Key Question
Once students are placed in groups, begin the lesson by activating prior knowledge and pre-teaching vocabulary which is included in the lesson plan. This vocabulary review helps students understand their readings and the Connecting Passage. Introduce the Key Question and ask students to think about their background with the topic and share initial ideas about how to start answering the question. Then, create a short vocabulary list and discuss definitions for more difficult words found in the passages and the Connecting Passage.
Step 3: Small Groups Read and Discuss Individual Passage
After pre-teaching discussion and vocabulary review, ask students to read their individual passage. You can assign a passage based on their reading level, as each Close Reading Pack has 4 different passages at 3 reading levels. Encourage students to read the passage twice on their own and to ask you or their group members if they have any questions. Usually, if students have a question after the first read-through, reading it a second time helps them answer questions for themselves, thus fostering independence and self-sufficient learning. Encourage your students to annotate their passage by circling vocabulary words and underlining evidence that answers the Key Question.
Once students can answer the Key Question on their own, the group can share summaries of their passages on how they answered their two questions and the Key Question, and compare and contrast their different passages. The Discussion Leader ensures that every student gets a chance to discuss their passage, and the Reporter takes notes on their group members’ reading summaries.
Step 4: Whole Class Brainstorms Answer to Key Question
After small groups share their preliminary answers to the Key Question, begin a whole class discussion about the what the groups discovered in their readings. This short discussion highlights the main ideas and details that students encountered in their passages and builds a foundation for their reading of the Connecting Passage.
Step 5: Students Read Connecting Passage and Discuss Answers with Class
Distribute the Connecting Passage or project the passage on your classroom’s whiteboard. You can ask students to read the Connecting Passage independently, ask a group member to read the passage out loud, or read projectable passage out loud while using features like highlighting and annotating.
Then, the Discussion Leader directs discussion about the Connecting Passage and asks students to combine information from their individual passage and the Connecting Passage to help answer the Key Question as a group. The Reporter will take notes on discussion and share the group’s answer with the class.
During whole class discussion, make sure to ask students to identify text evidence that supports their group’s answer to the Key Question. Students can cite evidence from any of the passages or the Connecting Passage to explain their answer, or they can come to the front of the class to interact with the projected Connecting Passage.
Finally, the whole class analyzes their response to the Key Question and changes it based on new information from the Connecting Passage.
Step 6: (Optional) Mini-lesson
Extend the close reading activity into a comprehension lesson that builds off of students’ knowledge. For example, the 3rd grade Close Reading Pack for “How can human action protect animals in the wild?”, features a mini-lesson on point-of-view. In this lesson, students create a Venn diagram comparing their point of view of an issue and the point-of-view of a character or subject in the text. This comparison-contrast activity encourages students to think critically about what an author’s interests are and how an author’s perspective may influence how a story is told.