As part of our unit on elephants, I decided to also cover the extinct relative of the elephant, the wooly mammoth. I used an article from Newsela.com, as my anchor for the close reading as well as a short video from the BBC that explains the wooly mammoth's adaptations to spark my students' interest and curiosity.
When initiating a close reading of an article, I always pre-teach, or front load, at least 3 academic vocabulary words that the students should have in order to understand the article and any other possible background information they may need. For this reason I created the PowerPoint, Woolly Mammoth, that prepares my students, and sets the expectations for when they read the article. The students use a modified Frayer Vocabulary Model to help them better understand the new academic vocabulary and to refer to, if needed, when reading the article.
By having my students first read the article to themselves, and then choose at least two points that they want to discuss with a partner allows for authentic discussion of the article without my assistance for the initial read. It is extremely beneficial that the articles on Newsela.com are leveled by lexile which also enabled me to differentiate in these small groups of two.
Reading the article at least three times, twice independently, then with a partner and finally, engaging in an open discussion whole group, was extremely helpful for my students. Giving my students the opportunity to both read with a purpose, and defend their thinking, is extremely important. In order to meet the challenges of The Common Core Standards as well as the Next Generation Standards students must be able to express their ideas clearly and with supporting evidence. It is not only about writing with clearly expressed ideas, but also about speaking and sharing those concepts. I know that because my students shared with a partner first, and then with the whole group, they were better prepared to clearly voice their opinions backed by evidence from the text.