View a printable pdf of the whole lesson here.
The geosciences offer many interesting explanations about the world in which we all live. Informational text sources such as EARTH magazine and articles from NASA, the US Geological Survey, and others offer compelling content that many students will find engaging, which can motivate them as they learn strategies to comprehend the science discussed in the text. One approach to helping students get the most out of informational text is known as “close reading”, a version of which is outlined in this activity.
Common Core English Language Arts Standards:
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.8: Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.8: Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8: Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Performance Expectations:
The close reading of informational text can be a part of an instructional plan that addresses not only literacy standards, but also NGSS performance expectations. The specific performance expectations that can be addressed depend on the content of the actual passage. For the examples provided in this activity, which all relate to earthquakes, the performance expectations are:
MS-ESS2 Earth's Systems:
- MS-ESS2-2: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.
- MS-ESS2-3: Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions.
MS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity:
- MS-ESS3-2: Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.
HS-ESS2 Earth's Systems:
- HS-ESS2-2: Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth's surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
- HS-ESS2-7: Construct an argument based on evidence about the simultaneous coevolution of Earth’s systems and life on Earth.
HS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity:
- HS-ESS3-1: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
The goal of this activity is for students to develop strategies that will help them understand complex informational texts. Individually, students read a text and annotate key words and phrases that strike them as important, surprising, unclear, and so on. After students have read and annotated the text they participate in a collaborative conversation about the text with a group. Then, they create a poster that highlights the main idea and supporting evidence of the text. Finally the students share their poster and what they learned with the class.
Enough printed copies of the text passage for each student to have her or his own copy. Links to suggested texts are:
- EARTH Magazine: Are slow-slip earthquakes under Tokyo stressing faults?
- EARTH Magazine: Slab tear explains perplexing Colombian earthquake activity
- USGS: The Science of Earthquakes
Students should have their own pen or pencil for annotating the text.
For each group:
- Poster paper
- Colored markers or colored pencils
- Copy of the Collaborative Poster Rubric document | PDF
- Instruct students to read the text quickly the first time, just to get a sense of the ideas expressed. This is sometimes called “reading for gist”.
- Ask students to read the text a second time, much more slowly and focusing on specific details. As they read the text they should underline and highlight key words and phrases in the text. Encourage students to make notes in the margins of the text to enhance the annotations. Share the Close Reading Annotation Symbols table with the class. Using the Close Reading Annotation Symbols table as a guide, students can respond to the following questions as they annotate their texts:
- What did you find confusing? Identify key words, phrases, or ideas that you don’t understand with question marks. Make a note in the margin about what was confusing. What ideas did you find surprising? Use exclamation marks to identify these and note what caught your attention.
- What ideas did you find important? Underline these points and note why you found each one important.
- What terms are new to you, and what do they mean? Circle them. Use a dictionary to define words unfamiliar to you and write their definitions in the margin.
- What questions do you have about the text? Write your questions in the margin.
- Are you able to make a connection to something in the text? Draw an arrow and note the connecting idea or experience in the margin.
- After students have read and annotated the text, break the students into groups for discussion.
Explain to them that they will be working with their groups cooperatively to create a poster that identifies the main ideas of the text. Pass out the Collaborative Poster Rubric. Have students read the rubric and consider how they can best achieve the “Outstanding” criteria in each row. Below is some guidance you may want to provide students on how they should carry out their work collaboratively on the poster.
- Decide through consensus on an image that represents the main idea of the text.
- Decide on a quote from the text that is important to understanding the text.
- Decide on an original phrase that highlights or summarizes the main idea of the text.
- Consider the main idea that you found for the text. How is that idea supported? Is there evidence given? Is that evidence sound? Is the reasoning clear? How can you add the main idea and one or two key pieces of evidence to your poster?
- Everyone in the group should sign their poster.
- Bring the class together and have each group share their poster. Presentations can address such questions as: What did you learn from the text? What was the main idea of the text? Share the image that represents the main idea. What quotes from the text did you decide were necessary to understanding the text?
- After all of the groups have presented, have the class consider how the posters are alike, and how they are different. What might be some reasons for those similarities and differences? The discussion can focus on the priorities, interests, and prior knowledge that different readers bring to their interpretation of informational text.
See the rubric below to assess group work on the collaborative poster.
Collaboration with Peers
(Adapted from Provencher, n.d.)
Boyles, N. (December 2012/January 2013). Closing in on close reading. Educational Leadership, 70(4). Retrieved here.
Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (November 2012). Close reading in elementary schools. The Reading Teacher,66(3), 179-188.
Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (n.d.). Annotation [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved here.
Kain, P. (1998). How to do a close reading. Retrieved here.
Provencher, A. (n.d.). Collaborative Poster (QTEL). Retrieved here.