Lesson Plans

Reading Through Different Lenses: Making Text Connections Across the Curriculum

6 - 8
Estimated Time
One 50-minute session
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Linguistic style can vary from one discipline to another, and these differences can be barriers to students' understanding. In this lesson, students learn how to analyze and comprehend the linguistic styles of the nonfiction texts of different disciplines, particularly science and social studies. As you use a LCD projector or interactive whiteboard to guide them through the reading of a textbook excerpt students use the interactive ReadWriteThink Notetaker tool or the attached printouts to record answers to questions. They do a close reading of the text, exploring the experiential, textual, and interpersonal meanings of the excerpts while recording any unfamiliar or important academic vocabulary. Through this close reading, students will learn a process of analyzing and understanding the different uses of language of different disciplines.

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Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 10. Students whose first language is not English make use of their first language to develop competency in the English language arts and to develop understanding of content across the curriculum.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

Materials and Technology

  • Computers with Internet access
  • LCD projector and/or interactive whiteboard




  1. Find a content area textbook excerpt or find excerpts from other content areas by seeking assistance from colleagues in other disciplines about texts they use. Explore and bookmark websites such as Science Daily or First Amendment Center for other texts and extensions to this lesson.
  2. Number sentences in the text passage for easy directions.
  3. Print the material or make sure that students can electronically review the Sample Science Text to complete the Reading Through Different Lenses printout. In lieu of using the online tool, students can complete the questions using the interactive ReadWriteThink Notetaker tool.
  4. Bookmark ReadWriteThink Notetaker on the classroom or school computers. Use the short self-guided tutorial to practice using the tool before starting the lesson.
  5. Review the Different Lenses Rubric for the activity.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Determine meaning of a text by approaching it from three perspectives: experiential, textual, and interpersonal.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the text structure and academic vocabulary of content area language.

Before Reading

  1. Before reading the excerpt, introduce the concept of disciplinary literacy to students by asking them how they would know that a text comes from a science textbook as opposed to a social studies textbook. What differences would they notice in the texts? Expect responses about different topics, vocabulary words, and visuals in the text. Discuss with students the fact that, while both content areas use the same language the ways the language is used can be very different and sometimes those differences make a text difficult to understand. Suggest to students that they can better understand the material by learning to recognize the ways that language is used in different content areas.
  2. Distribute the Reading Through Different Lenses printout to students. Explain that by looking at a text through three different lenses (experiential, textual, interpersonal) readers can analyze the text and understand what it is saying.
  3. As an optional step, distribute copies of the textbook excerpt for students to read along with as you read aloud. 
  4. Review the Different Lenses Rubric for this exercise with students.

During Reading

  1. In a guided reading activity, display Sample Science Text using the projector or interactive whiteboard.
  2. Read the excerpt aloud slowly while students either read along using their own printout or the projected text.

After Reading

  1. While projecting the Sample Science Text on the screen, ask students to examine the Reading Through Different Lenses printout. Have students complete the excerpt title and subject lines (in this example, “Using a Thermometer” and “Science”).
  2. Instead of using printouts, you may use the interactive ReadWriteThink Notetaker tool to record student responses. Ask students to begin a new Main Section, with each of the three parts in the printout appearing as an added subsection. Questions from each of the three parts of the printout should appear as subentries under each Main Section.

  3. If you are using ReadWriteThink Notetaker, also have students click on the Notes button and type "Vocabulary" at the top. Under this heading, have students type any words (a) that they haven't seen before, (b) whose meaning they are unsure of, and (c) that have a familiar meaning that doesn't make sense in the context. Give students several minutes to reread the passage and collect vocabulary. Discuss the words students have identified or have students use a dictionary to find definitions. (If you are not using ReadWriteThink Notetaker, the last page of the printout has a box for vocabulary.)

  4. Move to the Experiential Meaning section of the printout and model with students how they would answer the first question. (Be sure to review the definitions of experiential, textual, and interpersonal meaning.) If you are using ReadWriteThink Notetaker, have students begin with a Main Section (label as Experiential Meaning) and create subheadings as they move through the section.

  5. Ask students to look at the text and identify sentences using forms of the verb "to be." If you are using an interactive whiteboard, you may want to highlight these sentences on the projected text. Students can write the numbers to identify the sentences. In Sample Science Text, numbers 1, 2, 4, and 6 use some form of "to be."

  6. Now that students have identified a number of definitions and processes in the passage, ask them to consider the passage as a whole and then to summarize in a sentence or two in their own words what the entire passage is saying about thermometers. (Example response: Thermometers are instruments or tubes that can measure temperature because the liquids inside of them expand as the temperature increases.)

  7. Proceed to the Textual Meaning section. Students should create a new Main Idea heading in the ReadWriteThink Notetaker. You may continue guiding and modeling responses for students.

  8. Explain that many sentences that use a form of "to be" are definitions. Ask students if any of these sentences look like definitions of words. If they answer "yes," have them identify the definitions. (Again, they may use sentence numbers).

  9. Ask students to consider if there are bigger ideas or concepts (thermal expansion) and smaller ideas (thermometers are glass tubes), as noted in Textual Meaning.

  10. Ask students to consider whether big ideas are introduced first or last in the second paragraph of Sample Science Text. As you guide students through the text, note that the specific idea of what a thermometer is and what it contains is introduced first and then the big concept of thermal expansion is introduced. (Note how the text circles back to the specific substances in thermometers). By recognizing how the larger idea relates to the smaller, students should be able to identify which pyramid of organization is used.

  11. Ask students to consider the subjects within the text. Is the language of the excerpt active or passive? Are the people or things that are subjects in sentences taking actions or are they receiving the actions? The language of this particular passage is mostly active ("particles move").

  12. Ask students if they see a theme in the text (or overarching purpose or idea). Students may identify the idea that temperature can be measured because of thermal expansion.

  13. Move to the Interpersonal Meaning section. Ask students to create a new Main Idea in ReadWriteThink Notetaker.

  14. Ask students if they see any action verbs. Students should be able to identify several action verbs (measure, increases, expand, etc.). Explain that phrases and sentences containing action verbs often describe processes.

  15. Ask students if the author is asking questions or seems to express uncertainty or doubt in the passage by using words such as "maybe" or "possibly." In this excerpt, the author uses some words that express uncertainty such as "can," "often," and the word "many" as opposed to "all." Explain that these uncertain words and phrases imply that there may be exceptions to the general principle.

  16. Next, ask students if they see any commands, directions, or suggestions. In this particular passage, the author is not giving directions to the reader.

  17. Moving on, ask students if they see sentences that are neither uncertain nor commanding. These sentences would be statements of fact (such as sentences 4-7). Explain that we tend to see many of these statements in scientific texts (students would circle "Statements").

  18. Next, ask students whether the author seems to know a lot or a little about the topic? Students should realize that the author seems to be an expert.

  19. In the last entry, students should ask themselves whether the author is trying to convince them that they should believe an idea or that they should do something. In other words, is the author trying to persuade? Because most of the sentences are statements of fact, with few exceptions, the author is not likely trying to persuade the reader.


  • Ask students to explore on their own either Science Daily or First Amendment Center and seek a selection or passage from one of the articles on the websites.

  • Ask students to analyze another passage using the three lenses for meaning (experiential, textual, and interpersonal). Consider having students use the interactive whiteboard to explain to the class how they analyzed the text and what they discovered.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Observe students during the guided reading activity and as they write their responses. Assist students and correct their responses as necessary.

  • Collect the printout (or the independent practice assignment) from students to assess their responses per the Different Lenses Rubric.

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