Close Read-aloud, Session 1: Fossils, Page 7 | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G2:M2:U2:L2

Close Read-aloud, Session 1: Fossils, Page 7

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These are the CCS Standards addressed in this lesson:

  • RI.2.1: Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
  • RI.2.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.
  • RI.2.5: Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.
  • SL.2.1: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
  • SL.2.1a: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
  • L.2.1a: Use collective nouns (e.g., group).

Daily Learning Targets

  • I can use text features to learn more about fossils. (RI.2.1, RI.2.4, RI.2.5)
  • I can discuss evidence from observations of photographs with my group to sort fossils and non-fossils. (SL.2.1, SL.2.1a)

Ongoing Assessment

  • During the close read-aloud in Work Time A, use the Reading Informational Text Checklist (RI.2.1, RI.2.4, RI.2.5) to track students' progress toward these standards (see Assessment Overview and Resources).
  • In Work Time B, monitor students' use of the discussion norms. Refer them to the Classroom Discussion Norms anchor chart when giving support. (SL.2.1, SL.2.1a)


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Poem and Movement: "A Group of Dinosaurs," Version 1 (10 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Close Read-aloud, Session 1: Fossils, Page 7 (25 minutes)

B. Developing Language: What Is a Fossil? (20 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Reflecting on Learning (5 minutes)

Purpose of lesson and alignment to standards:

  • Students engage with using collective nouns in the Opening through the use of the poem "A Group of Dinosaurs, version 1." This lesson is the first of four that focus on teaching students to form and use collective nouns.
  • This lesson contains the first of a series of five close read-alouds. Students practice using text features and determining word meanings while examining small sections of the text read aloud. Close read-alouds by definition are with complex texts, so the Close Read-aloud Guide provides intentional questions to help students with comprehension. For additional information on close read-alouds, see the Teaching Notes in Module 1, Unit 1, Lesson 6.
  • While talking about fossils over the course of this read-aloud, the abstract idea of "long ago" and "millions of years ago" will repeat. Communicate to students that this was before they were born or before their grandparents were born. It is acceptable for students to continue grappling with this understanding as they learn about fossils.
  • During Work Time B, students participate in a hands-on experience to demonstrate their understanding of what a fossil is. With a group, students sort pictures into groups of fossils and non-fossils and will discuss their observations of a picture they have chosen as a fossil. Students use their observations to practice making inferences, an important skill as a reader and a scientist.
  • In the Closing, students break down the definition of responsibility and reflect on one aspect of the definition, taking ownership of our space.
  • This lesson is the second in a series of three that include built-out instruction for the use of Goal 3 Conversation Cues to promote productive and equitable conversation (adapted from Michaels, Sarah and O'Connor, Cathy. Talk Science Primer. Cambridge, MA: TERC, 2012. Based on Chapin, S., O'Connor, C., and Anderson, N. [2009]. Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, Grades K-6. Second Edition. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions Publications). Goal 3 Conversation Cues encourage students to deepen their thinking. Continue drawing on Goal 1 and 2 Conversation Cues, introduced in Module 1, and add Goal 3 Conversation Cues to more strategically promote productive and equitable conversation. In Module 3, Goal 4 Conversation Cues are also introduced. See the Tools page for additional information on Conversation Cues. Consider providing students with a thinking journal or scrap paper.

How this lesson builds on previous work:

  • Students will use the read-aloud from Lesson 1 as a reference to understand the concepts presented in the close read-aloud.
  • Students revisit their skills as a close reader in a group setting to prepare for independent reading later in the unit.

Areas in which students may need additional support:

  • In Work Time B, students work together to sort pictures. Preview this work with students who may need coaching for solving problems with teammates. Support those students by having them talk through some problems that may arise and asking them for some ways they may try to solve those problems in the moment.

Down the road:

  • Students will return to the poem in the Opening of Lesson 3 with less teacher support.
  • Students will hear a bit more of the close read-aloud text in Lesson 3 to build a foundation of understanding about what fossils are.

In Advance

  • Prepare:
    • Chart paper to create the Collective Nouns anchor chart during the Opening with students. Complete the first column (singular nouns) before the lesson.
    • Fossils Word Wall card for clues. Write or type the word on a card and create or find a visual to accompany it.
  • Preview the Close Read-aloud Guide: Fossils to familiarize yourself with what will be required of students. Note that the Close Read-aloud Guide is divided into sessions. Complete only Session 1 in this lesson, as students will complete the remaining sessions in Lessons 3-6.
  • Determine small groups of five or six students to work together to sort photos in Work Time B.
  • Consider distributing materials for Work Time B (fossil T-chart, Fossil photo sheet, scissors, glue, and paleontologist's notebook) to ensure a smooth transition.
  • Post: Learning targets and applicable anchor charts (see materials list).

Tech and Multimedia

Consider using an interactive white board or document camera to display lesson materials.

  • Opening: Record the whole group reciting the "A Group of Dinosaurs," version 1 and post it on a teacher web page or on a portfolio app--for example, Seesaw --for students to listen to at home with their families. Most devices (cellphones, tablets, laptop computers) come equipped with free video and audio recording apps or software.

Supporting English Language Learners

Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards 2.I.A.1, 2.I.B.5, and 2.I.B.6

Important points in the lesson itself

  • The basic design of this lesson supports ELLs with opportunities to read closely and interpret academic text. Students will apply and deepen their understanding of academic content through hands-on activities, including interpreting photographs, using graphic organizers, and verbally communicating with peers.
  • ELLs may find the abundance of academic and domain-specific vocabulary overwhelming. Model using academic vocabulary such as evidence and infer whenever possible. Invite students to use these words when they interact with their peers and when they share out to the class. Introduce sentence frames that incorporate academic vocabulary into authentic task-based interactions. See Meeting Students' Needs column for details.

Levels of support

For lighter support:

  • During Work Time B, invite students to think of and to sketch their own examples and non-examples of fossils. Have them challenge other students to infer whether or not they are fossils.

For heavier support:

  • During Work Time B, distribute a partially complete copy of the Fossil T-chart. This will provide students with examples of the types of categories they should identify so that they can infer where to place the remaining photographs.

Universal Design for Learning

  • Multiple Means of Representation (MMR): In Opening A, students are introduced to collective nouns through the poem "A Group of Dinosaurs." Some may need representation of this information in a concrete, visual format to scaffold understanding. Support comprehension and perception of this concept by displaying visuals of key ideas. (Example: Provide the definition of a noun on a chart or sentence strip and cut out the various animal groups as mentioned in the poem.)
  • Multiple Means of Action & Expression (MMAE): In Work Time B, students write observations in their paleontologist's notebook about one of the fossil photographs. As you introduce independent writing, support a range of fine motor abilities and writing needs by offering students options for writing utensils (e.g., pencil grips, slanted desks, and alternative writing tools). During this independent writing, some students may forget their sentence ideas once they begin directing their efforts toward writing. Support strategy development by modeling how to draw lines for the words you intend to write. This helps students recall their observations as they write.
  • Multiple Means of Engagement (MME): As students work in groups to discuss and write an inference based on observations, support sustained motivation and effort by providing mastery-oriented feedback that is frequent, timely, and specific to students as they make and express inferences. (Example: "It sounds like you are thinking hard on inferring something about that fossil. You are close to connecting your observations with making an inference, so keep it up!")


Key: Lesson-Specific Vocabulary (L): Text-Specific Vocabulary (T): Vocabulary Used in Writing (W)


  • collective noun, observation, inference (L)
  • table of contents, chapter title, history, caption (T)


  • clues, evidence, fossils (T)


  • "A Group of Dinosaurs," version 1 (one to display)
  • Collective Nouns anchor chart (new; co-created with students during the Opening; see supporting materials)
  • Collective Nouns anchor chart (answers, for teacher reference)
  • Close Read-aloud Guide: Fossils (Session 1; for teacher reference)
    • Fossils (one to display; for teacher read-aloud)
    • Reading Informational Text Checklist (RI.2.1, RI.2.4, RI.2.5) (for teacher reference; see Assessment Overview and Resources)
  • Fossils Word Wall card (new; teacher-created; one)
  • Fossils Word Wall (begun in Unit 1, Lesson 1; added to during Work Time A)
  • Fossil photo sheet (one per group)
  • Fossil T-chart (one per group)
  • Scissors (one pair per group)
  • Glue stick (one per group)
  • Paleontologist's notebook (from Unit 1, Lesson 10; page 5; one per student)
  • Paleontologist's notebook (from Unit 1, Lesson 10, example, for teacher reference)
  • Working to Become Effective Learners anchor chart (begun in Lesson 1)


Each unit in the K-2 Language Arts Curriculum has one standards-based assessment built in. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Poem and Movement: "A Group of Dinosaurs," Version 1 (10 minutes)

  • Display "A Group of Dinosaurs," version 1 and read it aloud.
  • Invite students to chorally read the poem.
  • Invite students to turn and talk with an elbow partner:

"What is happening in this poem?" (A kid is asking his or her mom for help with a project.)

  • Tell students that the poem talks about things that come in groups and that those groups have special names.
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"What is a noun?" (person, place, thing)

  • Tell students that when there is one person, place or thing, you use a singular noun, like "one student" or "one teacher."
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"What would it sound like to have more than one student or teacher?" (students, teachers)

  • Tell students:
    • A noun changes when there is more than one.
    • When a noun becomes a group of people or things, it changes again. Then you use a collective noun (a group of students is called a class).
  • Reread the poem together as a class.
  • Pause after reading "She said she knew a group of fish was always called a school."
  • Think aloud by saying: "I heard there could be a group of fish. The word for a group of fish is a school."
  • Start the Collective Nouns anchor chart by adding "fish" and "school" to their respective columns.
  • Continue reading the poem slowly, asking students to help fill in the chart with the rest of the collective nouns from the poem. Refer to the Collective Nouns anchor chart (answers, for teacher reference) as necessary.
  • As time permits, invite students to stand in their place and march to the beat of the poem as they reread it aloud.
  • For students who may need additional support with oral language and processing: Provide ample wait time throughout the Opening as students share. (MMAE, MME)
  • For ELLs: Check for comprehension of the definition of noun by asking students to brainstorm more nouns. Consider incorporating some of the students' ideas into the Collective Nouns anchor chart.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Close Read-aloud, Session 1: Fossils, Page 7 (25 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning targets and read the first one aloud:
    • "I can use text features to learn more about fossils."
  • Tell students that today they will start exploring an informational text that will help them learn more about fossils. There are many ways to learn facts from the book.
  • Direct students' attention to the Unit 2 Guiding Questions anchor chart. Point to the 2nd guiding question. Share that together they will use the information from the book to help answer one of our Unit 2 guiding questions:
    • "How do readers learn more about a topic from informational texts?"
  • Using the Close Read-aloud Guide: Fossils (Session 1; for teacher reference), guide students through the close read-aloud for Fossils. Consider using the Reading Informational Text Checklist (RI.2.1, RI.2.4, RI.2.5) during the close read-aloud (see Assessment Overview and Resources).
  • After completing the close read-aloud, show students the Fossils Word Wall card for clues.
  • Invite students to turn and talk to an elbow partner:

"What is a clue?" (something that helps to solve a mystery or a problem)

  • Invite students to stand up for a moment to pretend to look for clues. After 30 seconds, invite them to sit down.
  • Ask:

"What is the translation of clues in our home languages?" (pistas in Spanish)

  • Call on a student volunteer to share. Ask other students to choose one translation to quietly repeat. Invite students to say their chosen translation out loud when you give the signal. Chorally repeat the translations and the word in English. Invite self- and peer correction of the pronunciation of the translations and the English.
  • Place the Fossils Word Wall card and picture for clues on the Fossils Word Wall.
  • For students who may be uncomfortable sharing their own thinking about the first focus question with the entire class: Consider allowing them to share what their partner said so that they still have a chance to speak in front of the class. (MME)
  • For ELLs: Pair students with a partner who has more advanced or native language proficiency. The partner with greater language proficiency in the pair can serve as a model during the read-aloud, initiating discussions and providing implicit sentence frames.
  • For ELLs: During the read-aloud, provide sentence frames for Think-Pair-Shares. (Example: "We can learn ...")
  • For ELLs: During the read-aloud, display the text on a document camera or an enlarged copy of the text to help direct students to the appropriate sentences on each page.

B. Developing Language: What Is a Fossil? (20 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning targets and read the second one aloud:
    • "I can discuss evidence from observations of photographs with my group to sort fossils and non-fossils."
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"What is an observation?" (something that is noticed or seen)

  • Draw students' attention to the word evidence.
  • Tell students that scientists and readers often make a lot of observations during their learning. They use their observations as evidence, or proof.
  • Share with students that both readers and paleontologists take their evidence, or proof, and come up with an inference about what they are looking at or learning about.
  • Define the word inference (to make a guess based on facts and observations).
  • Share with students that while they are in groups, they will be given pictures but will not be told which photographs are fossils and which are not fossils. Just like good paleontologists and readers, students will practice making observations, finding evidence, and making an inference (or a good guess) about what they are working on.
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"What do you think you will learn by studying these fossil photos closely?" (Some fossils give clues; some photos don't fit the definition for fossil.)

  • Move students into pre-determined groups and distribute:
    • Fossil photo sheets
    • Fossil T-charts
    • Scissors
    • Glue sticks
  • Open to the glossary of Fossils (pg.46) and read the definition of fossil (bones, shells, or other traces of animals or plants from millions of years ago, preserved as rock).
  • Invite the groups to work together to sort the pictures into two groups (fossils/not fossils) and glue them to the correct column on the fossil T-chart.
  • Circulate to support students by reminding them of discussion norms to practice. If students experience trouble with group work, support them by having them talk through the problem with you. Ask for and provide a few solutions the students would like to use to solve the problem. For groups having trouble with sorting, remind them of the definition of a fossil and talk through what they see in the picture.
  • When 10 minutes remain, refocus whole group. Invite students to retrieve their paleontologist's notebook and open to page 5.
  • Using a group's completed fossil T-chart as an example, think aloud to model making an observation about a fossil photo. Say:

"I could see that this is hard, like a stone, and it looks like an animal that used to be alive."

  • Invite groups to choose one picture of a fossil from their chart to discuss and write two observations about individually.
  • After 5 minutes, refocus whole group. Use the same photo from the previous think-aloud to model making an inference about the fossil photo. Say: "I can see a fin and some scales in this fossil. I infer that this is a fossil of a fish."
  • Have students work with their group to discuss and write an inference they can make based on their observation individually.
  • When 1 minute remains, invite students to turn and talk in their small group:

"What did you learn by studying these fossils closely?" (It is no longer alive; there are only bones or marks left; it is very old; it represents something that used to be living.)

  • If productive, use a Goal 3 Conversation Cue to encourage students to think about their thinking:

"What strategies helped you succeed in this task? I'll give you time to think and discuss with a partner." (Responses will vary.)

  • For students who may need additional support with oral language and processing: Provide a sentence frame during the sorting discussion. (Example: "I think this is a fossil because I see _____ as evidence.") (MMAE)
  • For students who may need additional support with understanding and conceptualizing new language: Provide a concrete example of an inference that relates to students' lives. (Example: "If I said that I put on my coat, hat, boots, and mittens before going outside, what inference could you make about the weather outside?") (MMR)
  • For ELLs: Create groups with varying levels of language proficiency. The students with greater language proficiency can serve as models in the group, initiating discussions and providing implicit sentence frames. If possible, consider grouping students who speak the same home language together to help one another interpret and comprehend the conversation in their home languages.
  • For ELLs: Spend additional time unpacking the definition of fossils from the glossary as needed. Annotate the definition with sketches and simplified language. While thinking aloud the process of deciding which column to add a photograph, refer to the glossary definition. Introduce and model using the sentence frame: "The glossary says a fossil is ________. This looks like a picture of a ________. Based on the evidence, I [do/do not] infer that this is a fossil."

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reflecting on Learning (5 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the Working to Become Effective Learners anchor chart and invite them to read aloud the definition of responsibility.
  • Emphasize that as responsible learners, it is important to be aware of and responsible for our space.
  • Invite students to turn and talk with an elbow partner:

"What does it mean to show responsibility for our space?" (We take care of our space, keep our space clean and safe.)

"What did you do today during or after the sorting activity to show responsibility for your space?" (We moved chairs back; we cleaned up the scrap paper.)

"How do you think paleontologists show responsibility for their space?" (They clean up the dirt; they hang up their tools, etc.)

  • If productive, use a Goal 3 Conversation Cue to challenge students:

"What if the paleontologists did not show responsibility and kept their work sites messy? I'll give you time to think and discuss with a partner." (They might lose their tools; they might damage the fossils.)

  • Tell students that their learning about fossils in the next lesson will give everyone a chance to show responsibility for their space.
  • To activate background knowledge, invite students to recall their learning about the work of paleontologists. Say:

"Think about what we learned about the work of paleontologists and their space." (MMR)

  • For ELLs: Model the turn-and-talk sentence frames to prompt discussion. Invite students to use the frames. (Examples: "I showed responsibility when _____." "I saw _____ showing initiative when _____.")

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