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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


Materials and Technology

Student Interactives





  • Computers with Internet access

  • Three short texts on hurricanes with a range of increasingly difficult levels of complexity

  • Optional: Projector or interactive whiteboard

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ReadWriteThink Notetaker

Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

ReadWriteThink Notetaker

Useful for a wide variety of reading and writing activities, this outlining tool allows students to organize up to five levels of information.


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  1. Bookmark the student interactive ReadWriteThink Notetaker on the computers you plan to use during the lesson.

  2. Use the†Hurricane Texts Arranged by Text Complexity printout to select a variety of short texts on hurricanes with a range of text complexities. If you need to find additional texts, use the online database EBSCOhost. Search through a variety of texts based on lexile level, and select those texts appropriate for the needs of the students.

  3. Choose one text to use for the teacher modeling portion of the lesson. This text should be at the easy level for the majority of the students.

  4. Select two additional texts for each student. One text should be considered complex, or challenging for the student. The other text should be at the instructional level for the student, which would be a medium level of complexity. If your class is at different levels, it may be most helpful to group students based upon lexile ranges and then pull a medium and complex text for each lexile range.

  5. Provide each student a copy of the texts he or she is to read.

  6. Read through the easiest text youíre going to use to model note-taking. Determine what key vocabulary words you want to draw attention to, identify main ideas and important details, analyze any text features and identify how they contribute to the text, and consider the authorís word choice and writing style. These are the elements of the text you should point out to students as you model note-taking with the easy text.

  7. Read through the medium and hard texts, and identify the same elements as listed above with the easy text. Be prepared to ask students questions about these elements during the discussion portions of the lesson.

  8. Review the Note-Taking Rubric for the most complex text. Identify where the elements from the rubric can be found in the most complex text and what specifically you are looking for in studentsí notes.

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