Close Read: “Amphibians” | EL Education Curriculum

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These are the CCS Standards addressed in this lesson:

  • RI.3.1: Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
  • RI.3.3: Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
  • RI.3.4: Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.
  • RI.3.5: Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
  • RI.3.7: Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
  • RI.3.8: Describe the logical connection between particular sentences and paragraphs in a text (e.g., comparison, cause/effect, first/second/third in a sequence).
  • L.3.1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
  • L.3.1a: Explain the function of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in general and their functions in particular sentences.
  • L.3.1h: Use coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.
  • L.3.1i: Produce simple, compound, and complex sentences.
  • L.3.4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning word and phrases based on grade 3 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
  • L.3.4a: Use sentence-level context as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
  • L.3.4b: Determine the meaning of the new word formed when a known affix is added to a known word (e.g., agreeable/disagreeable, comfortable/uncomfortable, care/careless, heat/preheat).
  • L.3.4c: Use a known root word as a clue to the meaning of an unknown word with the same root (e.g., company, companion).
  • L.3.4d: Use glossaries or beginning dictionaries, both print and digital, to determine or clarify the precise meaning of key words and phrases.

Daily Learning Targets

  • I can refer explicitly to the text when answering questions about the text. (RI.3.1, RI.3.3, RI.3.5, RI.3.7, L.3.1a, L.3.1h, L.3.1i)
  • I can find the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary. (RI.3.4, L.3.4a, L.3.4b, L.3.4c, L.3.4d)

Ongoing Assessment

  • Close Reading: "Amphibians" note-catcher (RI.3.1, RI.3.3, RI.3.4, RI.3.5, RI.3.7, L.3.1a, L.3.1h, L.3.1i, L.3.4a, L.3.4b, L.3.4c, L.3.4d)


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Reviewing Learning Targets (5 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Close Read: "Amphibians" (50 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Debrief (5 minutes)

4. Homework

A. Conversation about amphibians using the prompts in your Unit 2 homework packet.

B. Accountable Research Reading. Select a prompt to respond to in the front of your independent reading journal.

Purpose of lesson and alignment to standards:

  • In this lesson, students participate in a teacher-led close read of a complex text about amphibians. This close read guides students through the text's challenging vocabulary and helps them to understand what amphibians are, specifically focusing on how water is necessary for amphibians' survival (RI.3.1, RI.3.3, RI.3.4, RI.3.5, RI.3.7, L.3.1a, L.3.1h, L.3.1i, L.3.4a, L.3.4b, L.3.4c, L.3.4d).
  • The close reading guide is very detailed and may take longer than the time allocated. Consider spreading it out over two lessons, working through questions 1-10 on the first day and the Language Dive on the next day.
  • Close reading refers to the careful and in-depth look at a section of text that warrants additional time and attention. For this reason, parts of pages 6-7 that do not directly relate to the excerpt's central idea (i.e., amphibians depend on water to survive) are excluded from today's close read.
  • During the close read, students participate in a Language Dive that guides them through the vocabulary and language structure of a sentence from the anchor text, Everything You Need to Know about Frogs and Other Slippery Creatures (RI.3.1, RI.3.3, RI.3.8, W.3.2c, L.3.1a, L.3.1i). The sentence is compelling because it connects to current and future content and because it uses the pronoun it to state that something exists. Invite students to discuss each chunk briefly, but slow down to focus on the structure it is so humid. Students will apply their understanding of the structure of this sentence when completing their research during the mid-unit assessment in Lesson 7.
  • The close reading in this lesson is mostly teacher-led, so all students work at the pace the teacher sets, with support when necessary. Consider inviting students who need an extension opportunity to be peer coaches.
  • In this lesson, the habit of character focus is working to become an effective learner. The characteristic they are reminded of specifically is collaboration, as they will be working in partners and small groups as they read and analyze "Amphibians".
  • 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 Goals 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.
  • Note that the student version of the "Provide reasoning and evidence" Goal 3 Conversation Cues (and expected student responses) are built into the Discussion Norms anchor chart in Work Time A. The "Challenge Thinking" Goal 3 Conversation Cues were built into the Discussion Norms anchor chart in Lesson 1. The "Think about thinking" Goal 3 Conversation Cues are not built into the Discussion Norms anchor chart, as these cues are best suited for teachers to prompt students.
  • The research reading students complete for homework helps to build both their vocabulary and knowledge pertaining to frogs and specifically frog adaptations. By participating in this volume of reading over a span of time, students will develop a wide base of knowledge about the world and the words that help describe and make sense of it.
  • Students practice their fluency in this lesson by following along and reading silently as the teacher reads aloud from Everything You Need to Know about Frogs and Other Slippery Creatures throughout Work Time A.

How it builds on previous work:

  • In Lesson 1, students were given a general introduction to frogs. In this lesson, they continue to build background knowledge on what makes frogs unique and how they survive.
  • Students continue to research the answer to one of the "why" questions developed in Unit 1.

Areas where students may need additional support:

  • Throughout Lessons 1-2 and 4-5, students should work with a reading partner. Strategically pair students so they can support one another well as they read this complex text.

Assessment Guidance:

  • Throughout the teacher-led close read, call on students to share their responses with the whole group to build knowledge collectively and clarify any misconceptions. As students are writing, circulate to clarify misunderstandings and use these as teaching points for the whole group.
  • Consider using the Speaking and Listening Informal Assessment: Collaborative Discussion Checklist during Work Time A and Closing and Assessment A.

Down the road:

  • In Lesson 3, students will use the information they have learned and gathered in the close read to plan and write an informational paragraph in response to the "why" question generated in Unit 1: "Why do polliwogs wiggle?"
  • Students will repeat this cycle of reading for gist, then closely reading the text, and then writing about it in Lessons 4-6.

In Advance

  • Read the Close Reading Guide: "Amphibians" in conjunction with the text to familiarize yourself with what will be required of the students. Note that the Language Dive Guide is integrated into the Close Reading Guide. Determine which questions your students will work through based on their needs.
  • Consider using heterogeneous partnerships for Work Time A.
  • Prepare the sentence strip chunks for use during the close read (see supporting materials).
  • Create a "Language Chunk Wall"--an area in the classroom where students can display and categorize the academic phrases discussed in the Language Dive.
  • Post: Learning targets.

Tech and Multimedia

  • Work Time A: For students who will benefit from hearing the text read aloud multiple times to find the gist, consider using a text-to-speech tool like Natural Reader, SpeakIt! for Google Chrome, or the Safari reader. Note that to use a web-based text-to-speech tool like SpeakIt! or Safari reader, you will need to create an online doc, such as a Google Doc, containing the text.
  • Work Time A: Students complete their note-catchers in a word processing document, for example a Google Doc using Speech to Text facilities activated on devices, or using an app or software like
  • Work Time A, Closing and Assessment A: Student Freaky Frog research notebooks could be completed by students online, for example on Google Docs in a folder for each student.

Supporting English Language Learners

Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards 3.I.B.6, 3.I.B.8, 3.II.B.3, 3.II.B.4, 3.II.B.5, 3.II.C.6.

Important points in the lesson itself

  • The basic design of this lesson supports ELLs with the opportunity to break text down into smaller chunks in both the close read and the Language Dive. This conversation allows students to develop the habits of mind and character they need to approach other complex texts and to develop their own academic writing skills. In addition, students have the opportunity to test their oral language skills, confirming their successful communication or "repairing" communication that is not understood by other students. These oral processing sessions are critical for language development.
  • ELLs may find it challenging to listen for an extended period of time to the read-aloud on the rug. Consider incorporating some movement into the routine. Example: "Stand up and wiggle like a polliwog!" or "Get up and switch spots with your partners. Sometimes moving to a different spot helps us think in new ways."

Levels of support

For lighter support:

  • During the close read and Language Dive, challenge students to generate questions about the text and Language Dive sentence before asking the prepared questions. Example: "What questions can we ask about this sentence? Let's see if we can answer them together."

For heavier support:

  • The forthcoming mid-unit assessment contains several selected response questions that require students to analyze text for related ideas and author's intent. Sample questions appear in the Closing and Assessment section in this lesson. Gauge students' comprehension of the questions. If necessary, spend extra time unpacking them and discussing potential incorrect responses to the questions.
  • There is an abundance of information discussed during the read-aloud. It would help students who might become overwhelmed to briefly preview some of the key ideas and concepts before beginning the close read. Key points to preview: water and words related to water; understanding linking words and phrases that connect opposing ideas; comparing and contrasting amphibians with reptiles. Consider assigning different groups to each listen very carefully for one of these key concepts. They can be the experts on their own "piece of the puzzle." This will give students a focal point, and it will also provide additional motivation.
  • Although the text was read for gist in the previous lesson, some students may not have fully comprehended or retained the information. Check for basic comprehension before asking text-dependent questions.
  • In preparation for the mid-unit assessment, review exit tickets with the class at the start of the next lesson. For selected response questions, discuss the reasons each distractor item is incorrect and think-aloud the process of choosing the correct response.

Universal Design for Learning

  • Multiple Means of Representation (MMR): Similar to Unit 1, this lesson offers a variety of visual anchors to cue students' thinking. Continue to support students by creating additional or individual anchor charts for reference and charting student responses during whole class discussions to aid with comprehension.
  • Multiple Means of Action and Expression (MMAE): In this lesson, some students may need additional support staying on pace during the close read. Consider gathering these students in one place in the room to support them quickly and quietly throughout the close read. Give prompts to help students stay on task, point out where the class is, or offer sentence frames as needed.
  • Multiple Means of Engagement (MME): Throughout this lesson, continue to provide prompts and sentences frames for those students who require them to be successful in peer interactions and collaboration. Also support students in sustaining effort and/or attention by inviting students to restate the goal of each activity.


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

  • explicitly (L)
  • amphibian, reptile, partly, but, water, most, gills, metamorphosis, permanently, humid, all the time, allowing (T)


  • Everything You Need to Know about Frogs and Other Slippery Creatures (from Lesson 1; one per student and one to display)
  • Discussion Norms anchor chart (begun in Module 1; added to with students during Work Time A)
  • Discussion Norms anchor chart (example, for teacher reference)
  • Freaky Frog research notebooks (from Lesson 1; one per student and one to display)
  • Close Reading: "Amphibians" note-catcher (pages 2-3 of Freaky Frog research notebook)
  • Close Readers Do These Things anchor chart (begun in Module 1)
  • Working to Become Effective Learners anchor chart (from Module 1)
  • Close Reading Guide: "Amphibians" (for teacher reference)
  • Language Dive Sentence Strip Chunks: "Amphibians" (one to display)
  • Language Dive Note-catcher: "Amphibians" (one per student and one to display)
  • Exit Ticket: Polliwogs (one per student)
  • Parts of Speech anchor chart (begun in Unit 1, Lesson 11)
  • Parts of Speech anchor chart (example, for teacher reference)
  • Vocabulary logs (from Module 1; one per student)
  • Academic Word Wall (started in Module 1)
  • Domain-Specific Word Wall (started in Unit 1, Lesson 1)


Each unit in the 3-5 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. 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. Reviewing Learning Targets (5 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning targets and ask for volunteers to read them aloud:

"I can refer explicitly to the text when answering questions about the text."

"I can find the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary."

  • Underline the word explicitly in the first target and use a total participation technique to invite responses from the group:

"What do we do when we explicitly refer to the text?" (We find direct or clear information in the text that supports our thinking.)

  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"Why is it important to explicitly refer to the text?" (When you use evidence, it makes your answer or your ideas stronger, and people are more likely to trust and believe it.)

  • If necessary, add the word explicit to the Academic Word Wall. Write home language translations of explicit nearby in a different color.
  • Focus students on the words unfamiliar vocabulary. Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"What are some things you can do to figure out the meaning of a word that is unfamiliar?" (Look it up in a dictionary, read around the sentence, or break the word up into parts.)

  • Tell students that today they are going to do a close read of a complex text. Let them know they have read this text for the gist in Lesson 1, and today they will dig deeper. Tell them they may struggle with some sections of the text at first, but by working through it in small chunks and persevering, they will have a deeper understanding of frogs by the end of the lesson.
  • For students who may benefit from visual supports: Provide the opportunity to draw or sketch definitions, act them out, or list synonyms for key terms in learning targets, such as refer, explicitly, and unfamiliar vocabulary.  (MMR)
  • For ELLs: Practice the pronunciation of explicitly. Clap out the syllables and emphasize the stressed syllable: "ex-PLI-cit-ly." Note the shape of the mouth and positioning of the tongue. Point out that just like the meaning of the word, the mouth must move very clearly for this word to be understood.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Close Read: "Amphibians" (50 minutes)

  • Pair students.
  • Display pages 6-7 of Everything You Need to Know about Frogs and Other Slippery Creatures and invite students to turn to the Close Reading: "Amphibians" note-catcher on pages -3 of their Freaky Frog research notebooks.
  • Point out the Close Readers Do These Things anchor chart and focus students on bullets 5-11.
  • Tell students you are going to guide them through this close read. Some of the questions will be discussed as a whole group, and others will be discussed with a partner.
  • Focus students on the Working to Become Effective Learners anchor chart, specifically collaboration. Remind students that as they will be working in pairs as they work, they will need to collaborate.
  • Introduce students to two new cues that will help them "Provide reasoning and evidence" (Goal 3 Conversation Cues) for their responses as they complete the close read:

"Why do you think that?"

"What, in the _____ (sentence/text), makes you think so?

  • Tell students that these two new cues will be added to the Discussion Norms anchor chart today. Focus student attention on the Discussion Norms anchor chart and add the "Provide reasoning and evidence" cues. See the Discussion Norms anchor chart (example, for teacher reference). Ensure students understand how to use these cues.
  • Refer to the Close Reading Guide: "Amphibians" (for teacher reference), the Parts of Speech anchor chart, and the Parts of Speech anchor chart (example, for teacher reference).
  • Invite students to share any new words, adding any unfamiliar words to their vocabulary logs. Add any new words to the academic word wall and domain-specific word wall and invite students to add translations in native languages.
  • For students who may need additional support with reading: Provide key sections that are pre-highlighted in their texts. This will help the students focus on smaller sections rather than scanning the whole text. (MMR)
  • For ELLs and students who may need additional support with organizing ideas for verbal expression: During the read-aloud, provide sentence frames for Turn and Talk discussions. Example: "Amphibians need water when they ________." (MMAE)
  • For ELLs and students who may need additional support with visual perception: During the read-aloud, display an enlarged copy of the text or use a document camera to help direct students to the appropriate sentences on each page. (MMR)

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Debrief (5 minutes)

  • Congratulate students on their hard work persevering through the close read.
  • Focus students on the learning targets. Read each one aloud, pausing after each to use a checking for understanding protocol for students to reflect on their comfort level with or show how close they are to meeting each target. Make note of students who may need additional support with each of the learning targets moving forward.
  • Repeat, inviting students to self-assess against how well they collaborated in this lesson.
  • Remind students that the reason they read these pages was to try to answer the "why" question: "Why do polliwogs wiggle?"
  • Invite students to Think-Pair-Share:

"Why do polliwogs wiggle?" (They wiggle their tails to swim.)

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

"How does our close read discussion add to your understanding of why polliwogs wiggle? I'll give you time to think and discuss with a partner." (Responses will vary.)

  • Distribute Exit Ticket: Polliwogs.
  • Read the question on the exit ticket aloud. Then select students to read each option aloud and invite students to underline the answer they think is correct.
  • Tell them they will have the chance to write an answer to this question in the next lesson.
  • For ELLs: To foster inclusion and confidence, assist a student who needs heavier support to formulate an answer to the question, then call on him or her to share with the class. 


HomeworkMeeting Students' Needs

A. Conversation about amphibians using the prompts in your Unit 2 homework packet.

B. Accountable Research Reading. Select a prompt to respond to in the front of your independent reading journal.

  • For ELLs and students who may need additional support with writing fluency: For all homework assignments in this unit, read the prompts aloud. Students can discuss and respond to prompts orally, either with you, a partner, family member, or student from Grades 1 or 2, or record an audio response. If students have trouble writing sentences, they can begin by writing words. Consider providing a sentence starter or inviting students who need lighter support to provide sentence starters. (MMAE)

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