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Lesson Plan

Using Tiered Companion Texts to Comprehend Complex Nonfiction Texts

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Using Tiered Companion Texts to Comprehend Complex Nonfiction Texts

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Six 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

International Literacy Association



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From Theory to Practice



To read complex nonfiction texts independently, students must develop the necessary background knowledge and problem-solving skills to comprehend them. In this lesson, students learn to identify their own areas of weakness by initially reading a complex text independently. Then students read increasingly difficult nonfiction texts and learn how to problem solve through teacher modeling and group work. Using the ReadWriteThink Notetaker, they take notes on the texts and then have the opportunity to use the Notetaker independently with the most complex text. Teacher modeling helps them on the easy text, and collaborating with other students helps on the medium text.

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ReadWriteThink Notetaker: This resource is an online note-taking tool to model how to take notes on a text and that students use to take notes independently.

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Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Lapp, D. (2012). Text complexity: Raising rigor in reading. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • Students should be given the opportunity to read complex texts independently in order to learn about themselves as readers.

  • To develop problem-solving skills, students need the opportunity to problem solve with complex texts paired with proper modeling.

  • When given the necessary instructional supports, students have greater success with texts that might originally have been considered at their frustrational level.

  • Complex texts provide students with a reason to talk and collaborate with one another by giving them challenging problems to solve together.

Read more about this resource


Lapp, D., Moss, B., Johnson, K., & Grant, C.C. (2012, Fall). Teaching students to closely read texts: How and when? In Rigorous real-world teaching and learning, (pp. 1-12). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. doi: 10.1598/e-ssentials.8022

  • Companion texts help build the background knowledge, vocabulary, and literacy skills needed to critically analyze a more difficult text on the same topic.

  • Students need opportunities to attempt the first reading of a text independently to provide a formative assessment of what skills they need assistance with.

  • Through modeling, the teacher is able to demonstrate the necessary skills and strategies for students to support their own growth in reading.

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