Answering with Detail

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SWBAT use close reading strategies to retell texts using key details.

Big Idea

It only makes sense that after learning to read and re-read with a purpose, students will have a better understanding of what they read and be able to answer comprehension questions with more detail.


Common Core Connection:

We begin teaching comprehension from the moment we start teaching the alphabet to our children: this is an ‘a’, it says ‘aa’.  That basic beginning cumulates to students reading closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it (CCR.R1).  Students do not get to this point overnight.  The process to help students develop the skills includes teaching them to ask and answer questions about key details, retell stories, describe characters, and use illustrations to name a few. 

Lesson Overview:

In today’s lesson my students practiced using close reading strategies of re-reading parts of the text, looking at the pictures, and using what they already know about words and life experiences to answer retelling questions with more detail and understanding.


  • Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 8: Our Earth, Fireflies for Nathan, by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim

(If you do not use this curriculum try: Treasure Hunt, by Allen Ahlberg) 


5 minutes

We began this lesson on the rug where I reminded my students that the day before they practiced re-reading parts of the text to identify the character traits of the main characters Nathan and his Grandparents, further reminding them that the author gave hints to help us know how Nathan was feeling instead of telling us.  I gave my students a moment to remember some of Nathan’s traits and how did they know.  As my students raised their hands to answer, the rest of the class agreed or disagreed with a thumb up or down.  Answers I was looking for included: Nathan was impatient because he pulled Nana’s sleeve, he was curious because he asked what his Daddy was like when he was little.  Once finished I told my students today they would practice re-reading and using the picture clues to answer re-telling questions.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

I then had them stand up to take a stretch and ‘blink’ their fingers like fireflies as they walked to their desks. Adding a kinesthetic movement during transitions help my more active students stay focused as they are transitioning.

Once settled in their desks I explained that sometimes it is easier to read when we already know what the questions are or why we are reading.  I gave my students a moment to think about this before asking them how they felt about reading Fireflies for Nathan knowing I wanted them to read to find the character traits of Nathan and his Grandparents.  My students agreed it seemed easier because they knew what to look for. 

At that point I displayed the Comprehension Retell Wheel on the Promethean and explained they would work in partner pairs to re-read the story and answer the questions on the retell wheel.

Collaborative Activity

20 minutes

With that, I had my students stand up, and, with their anthologies and copies of the retell wheel in hand, find a partner they wanted to work with.  Once they were partnered up and re-seated we read the questions on the retell wheel as a whole group.  When we finished reading the questions I explained they were to partner read Fireflies for Nathan and then take turns reading and answering the questions on the retell wheel.  As my students began reading I listened in on each partner pair to make sure they were reading together and/or reading and answering the questions.  

I also wanted to make sure my students were using complete sentences to answer the questions on the retell wheel - after all, one word answers are not detailed answers.

*In the video titled: Using the Retell Wheel, I can be heard trying to help the two students by extending their answers, which is an example of not letting the students formulate their own answer.  To help these students further develop their English language abilities, I should have prompted them to use the words they already know to answer in a more complete sentence.  The two students in the video Taking Turns are quite comfortable answering in complete sentences

Once my little ones were all finished reading and answering the questions I had them return to their regular seats.  Once they were settled, I again asked them how they felt about reading and answering the questions after they knew the questions first.  Again they agreed they liked it better because they knew why they were reading.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

Usually at this point we break into our differentiated reading groups and rotate through independent reading activities, one of which is journal writing.  However, today instead of a journal prompt that required a narrative type answer, I displayed a set of questions that my students answered.  As I listened to each partner pair read in the previous section, I noticed that my students were pretty good at answering the questions and wanted to see if they were using some of the strategies we had practiced this week, such as looking at the picture, re-reading, remembering and using past experiences.  That is when I decided to fore go the journal prompt and created the questions my students answered.  Basically I felt the questions on the Retell Wheel were not as text dependent as I wanted them.  As my students answered the following questions they had to cite the page number or explain their answers.  (See picture: Text Dependent Questions)

  1. Who are the main characters? How do you know?
  2. Where does the story take place? List two ways you know.
  3. What is the problem in this story?  3a.  How did the problem get solved. Cite the page number.
  4. What happened in the beginning of this story?
  5. Re-read page 181 and explain what Nana is doing.
  6. How does this story end?

After re-reading page 181, the student in the video, Close Reading, told me she used the picture, the way the Nana 'sounded', and 'the words on the page', to figure out that Nana was remembering a long time ago.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

To receive a sticker my students told me why they liked using the retell wheel.  The student in the video, Ticket Out the Door, is very clear that the retell wheel helped her with both her reading and answering the questions.