Grade 3: Close Examination of a Complex Text – BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE


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Reading Literature

RL.3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

RL.3.2 Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

R.L.3.3 Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

Reading Foundational Skills

RF.3.4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.


W.3.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

Speaking & Listening

SL.3.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

SL.3.2 Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.


This Grade 3 lesson plan titled “Close Examination of a Complex Text: BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE” cited on is intended to be completed in three days of ELA/Literacy instruction with an additional day for assessment. The lesson is intended to give students an opportunity to closely examine a complex text and to discuss text-dependent questions while building academic vocabulary. Students independently write an informal explanatory essay. A culminating assessment is included to measure the students’ ability to examine textual evidence and discern deep meaning.


Connecticut teachers should be cautioned that the activities as described would be difficult to complete in three class periods and still achieve the rigor intended.  Many of the Common Core standards listed in the lesson plan are not fully targeted in daily instruction, nor are they addressed in the summative assessment. Instruction would be enhanced with more scaffolding, teacher modeling, and graphic organizers to help students build the skills necessary for independence and deeper comprehension, as well as for the teacher to better evaluate student understanding.


The lesson plan is a useful example primarily because of its rigor and learning tasks that address Common Core standards in reading, speaking and listening.   Activities provide students with opportunities to engage with a complex text. The annotated “Teacher Guide” included with the assessment demonstrates how to create a specific rationale for answer options. Quantitative data about text complexity for the excerpt from BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE is included with lesson materials. This model clearly demonstrates the process that educators could use to analyze text complexit.  The following link illustrates how to adapt curriculum to differentiate instruction.

Adapting Curriculum to Learners’ Needs (from Expeditionary Learning) This video illustrates how Kerry Meehan, a third-grade teacher at the World of Inquiry School #58 in Rochester, NY, adapts and differentiates a close reading lesson from an Expeditionary Learning curriculum module. Meehan attends to students’ various readiness levels through her instructional decisions, the adaptation of materials, and classroom management strategies.