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ELA G3:M1:U1:L2

Introducing Close Reading: Finding the Main Message and Taking Notes About Rain School

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The Foundational Reading and Language Standards Resources Package for Grades 3–5

Use this guide to build additional literacy blocks alongside the module lessons.


Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can identify the main message or lesson of a story using key details from the text. (RL.3.2)
  • I can describe the characters in a story (their traits, motivations, feelings). (RL.3.3)
  • I can describe how a character’s actions contribute to the events in the story. (RL.3.3)
  • I can document what I learn about a topic by sorting evidence into categories. (W.3.8)
  • I can effectively participate in a conversation with my peers and adults. (SL.3.1)

Supporting Targets

Learning TargetsOngoing Assessments
  • I can identify the main message of Rain School by reading the text closely.
  • I can sort key details from Rain School into categories.
  • I can describe what the children of Chad wanted and what they did.
  • I can discuss how the main message of Rain School is conveyed through key details. 
  • Close Read recording form (parts 1 and 2)


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

A.  Engaging the Reader and Building Fluency: Read-aloud of Rain School  (10 minutes)

B.  Unpacking the Learning Targets (5 minutes)

2.  Work Time

A.  Rereading on Your Own: Capturing the Gist (20 minutes)

B.  Reading Again for Important Details: Somebody In Wanted But So (SIWBS) (20 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

A.  Debrief (5 minutes)

4.  Homework

A.  Read some sections of Rain School out loud to someone at home or in front of a mirror. Tell someone at home what you already have figured out about the story.

  • This lesson introduces students to the concept of reading closely, by moving them through a specific process.  Students will use this reading routine throughout the year, so take time in this lesson and in the coming weeks to be sure they understand the purpose and process. To understand this process more fully, review Helping Students Read Closely (Appendix 1).
  • For this lesson and the next lesson, students will need access to Rain School.
  • In advance: Create a chart of the Close Read recording form.
  • Note that the read-aloud has two purposes: to engage students and to build fluency. Be sure that all students can see the text: Project it on a document camera or gather students close.
  • The read-aloud should be “pure”: Simply read the text. Do NOT start with a picture walk, pause to discuss key passages, etc. During the lesson, students will reread the text multiple times on their own to understand the text more fully. The read-aloud is just a taste: to get the beautiful language, rich images, and important ideas swimming in the classroom.
  • Review Think-Pair-Share protocol (Appendix 1).



gist, character, setting, motivation, problem, solution, detail, lesson

  • Document camera and projector
  • Rain School (book; one per student)
  • Sticky notes (or a notebook)
  • Example of Partially Completed Close Read Recording Form for Reading Rain School
  • Example of Close Reading Routine Chart with Nonlinguistic Representations
  • Examples of Non-Linguistic Representations of Learning Target Vocabulary in This Lesson
  • Examples of Sentence Starters for Think-Pair-Share
  • Close Readers Do These Things anchor chart (new; teacher-created)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Engaging the Reader and Building Fluency: Read-aloud of Rain School (10 minutes)

  • Gather students in a circle. Tell them that today they are going to be hearing and reading a beautiful story by James Rumford called Rain School; it is about students who are like them in many ways but very different in other ways. Tell them that the first time they hear it, they should just listen, follow the flow of the story, and enjoy the story.
  • Note: It is important that this text is read without interruption. The purpose is to acquaint students with the text, not aid them in comprehension through questioning or discussion.
  • Ask students to follow along in their text. Use a document camera or hold the book up so all students can see the text (this promotes fluency).
  • Project the book Rain School and read the entire text slowly, fluently, without interruption. If students get excited and want to talk about the text, tell them: “Right now, I just want you to listen to the story and think about it. We are actually going to be rereading this story several times during this lesson, and even tomorrow, so there will be plenty of time to talk about it.”
  • Allowing students to see the text and illustrations will aid them in their comprehension.
  • Consider providing nonlinguistic symbols (e.g., two people talking for discuss, a pen for record, a magnifying glass for details, a light bulb for main idea) to assist ELLs in making connections with vocabulary. These symbols can be used throughout the year. Specifically, they can be used in directions and learning targets. Examples of possible nonlinguistic symbols for this lesson can be found at the end of this lesson.

B. Unpacking the Learning Targets (5 minutes)

  • Direct students’ attention to the learning targets for today. Read each target aloud, and then invite students to turn and talk about what the target means in their own words. Emphasize that today they will be practicing close reading for the first time. This basically means that they will read a book more than once to keep trying to understand more about it, to figure out words they don’t know, and to think about the main message.
  • Tell them that this process will become clearer as they practice today, and that they will have many chances during this module to practice this same process again.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Rereading on Your Own: Capturing the Gist (20 minutes)

  • Tell students that now they will have a chance to work with this text on their own and with each other. They will be reading this text two more times today, each time with a different purpose.
  • Each time, they will follow a similar routine:

*    Read and think on their own.

*    Talk with their group about the text.

*    Write notes or answer questions about the text.

  • Tell them that the first time they read, they will be getting the gist of the story. Define gist: the central or main idea. In other words, they’ll be trying to understand what the story is mostly about.
  • Tell them that just as in Lesson 1, they can also pay attention to words they don’t know or that they think might be important.
  • Model this process using the first section of Rain School. Distribute a copy to each student, inviting them to silently read along with you.
  • Read the first section of the text aloud, without showing illustrations (stop at: “This is the moment they have been waiting for”).
  • Then think aloud the process of identifying unfamiliar words. This might sound something like: “I’ve never heard the word ‘sapling’ before, so I’m going to write it down.” Either underline the word sapling in the text or write it on a sticky note.
  • Continue thinking aloud: “But this new word does not stop me from understanding the text, so I’m going to leave it for now and come back to it later.” Tell students they will be working more with vocabulary tomorrow.
  • Tell students that their second important job when they read this time is to think about and record the gist of each section as they read. Review the word gist. Look at the first section again, and think aloud. “When I try to figure out the gist, I think about the characters in the section and the important events that happened.”
  • Have students Think-Pair-Share with someone near them the question: “Who was in this section and what happened?”
  • Tell students this is exactly what it sounds like. They first think about the question on their own. They then pair with a “next-door neighbor” to talk about their thinking. Finally, they share with the class either their own or their partner’s thinking.
  • Invite students to share their ideas. Model for students how to write the gist of the section on their text or a sticky note.
  • The gist of the first section might read something like: “Thomas is very excited to go school. But first he has to help build the school out of mud and plants.” Tell students that they should stop every few pages (or paragraphs) to jot down vocabulary and the gist of the section they just read.
  • Place students in groups. Direct students to do the next couple of sections on their own. Remind them that they are looking for words they do not know, as well as writing the gist for the next sections on sticky notes.
  • Circulate and support students as they read.
  • After students have read for 10 minutes, stop them in their work. Ask them to discuss with their group what they wrote. Remind students of the Conversation Criteria that was developed in Lesson 1. Consider posing questions such as: “Do you have similar words circled? Did you have a similar ‘gist’ for sections two and three of the story?”
  • After 2 to 3 minutes of discussion, distribute the Close Read Recording Form to each student. Ask them to look at the top section and the read the question aloud: “After reading this for the first time on your own, what do you think the lesson of this story is?” Discuss the word lesson in this context: what the author is trying to teach us. Invite students to Ink-Pair-Share the lesson of the story.

  • In this lesson and future close reading lessons, students are directed to write on sticky notes on the text to record unfamiliar words and the gist.
  • Consider pairing struggling readers with a stronger reader for this task. Alternatively, consider pulling a small group of students who may not have the fluency, language, or decoding skills to do this task on their own.
  • When doing Think-Pair-Share, it is helpful if students are already sitting near a peer with whom they can work well. It is also engaging to add movement to this protocol: an exaggerated gesture of finger on the forehead and eyes closed for thinking and putting bodies knee to knee when pairing up.
  • To make the text more accessible to students, consider breaking it into the following sections:
  1. pp 1–13 (ending with: “This is the moment they have been waiting for.”)
  2. pp 14–22 (ending with: “Thomas and the other children race home.”)
  3. pp 23–28 (end of story)
  • Pre-write “who” and “what happened” on sticky notes for students who need additional scaffolding to capture the gist as they read.

B. Reading Again for Important Details: Somebody In Wanted But So (SIWBS)(20 minutes)

  • Gather students back in a circle. Congratulate them on their first reading of the text.
  • Tell them that it is important to get the gist of a text and think about the lesson before looking even more closely at the parts of the story. Tell students they will now be reading closely to collect the important details of the story that relate to this main message. Discuss the word details as the small parts of the story that add to the overall lesson.
  • Direct students’ attention to the Close Read Recording Form, specifically to the Gathering Important Details section. Tell students they will be using the Somebody In Wanted But So categories to help them take notes on the important details of the story, and that each section is for a different kind of detail.
  • Review and discuss each category. On the Close Read Recording Form for Rain School, record literary terms that relate to each section while discussing. For example, write character under the word somebody because that’s where students should record the people in the story. In indicates the setting of the story. Wanted tells the motivation of a character. But indicates the problem. So is the solution or resolution.
  • Tell students that they will be like detectives today, hunting for details to complete the Gathering Important Details section of their Close Read Recording Form. Remind students that they should reread the entire text in order to be thorough close readers and detectives. As students read the text, circulate and support them.
  • Give students 2 to 3 minutes to discuss with their groups the important details they collected. Consider asking students to consider whether the important details of the story changed their thinking about the story’s lesson.
  • Point out to students that our understanding of a story gets deeper or changes when we reread and pay attention to details that relate to the main message or lesson.
  • Direct students to fill in the last section of their Close Read Recording Form: “Now what do you think the lesson of this story is? Why do you think this?”
  • Gather students back in a circle, and as a whole group complete the Gathering Important Details section and the Close Read Recording Form for Rain School.

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Debrief (5 minutes)

  • Ask students to review as a whole group the steps they took as readers today. Ask: “How did these steps help us to better understand this text?” Think-Pair-Share this question.
  • Once students have shared, tell them that today they did part of a process called close reading. Begin a Close Readers Do These Things anchor chart. In the next lesson they will read the text again and use the text to answer specific questions.
  • Some students may benefit from being given sentence starters for Think-Pair-Share. An example of sentence starters can be found at the end of this lesson.




  • Read some sections of Rain School out loud to someone at home or in front of a mirror. Tell someone at home what you already have figured out about the story. What is the story mostly about? What details are important, and why? How are the students in that school like you? How are they different?  

Note: For the next lesson, students will continue to work with their Close Read Recording Forms and their copy of Rain School. Consider collecting students’ work from today so nothing gets lost, or direct students to save their work in a

reading folder.

Supporting Materials


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