The Common Core Shift: Short, Focused Research Projects in Elementary Grades

An Example for Using a Complex Text

In our example of the water cycle, we will use George Ella Lyon's book All the Water in the World as a complex text.  You have introduced the research question and now ask, “What might we learn about the journey that water takes from this book?” On a first reading of the text, read just the first half (before the comparison to other, more arid parts of the earth).  Read the words without showing the illustrations so that students listen closely to what the text is saying without distractions.  Discuss what students have gleaned from the text at this point.  Record their thoughts on a chart.  You will return to this text for more in-depth work later.

Using resources like those listed below, you will spend several class sessions building content knowledge about the water cycle.  You will access several books, view an online video or simulation, and perhaps conduct some simple experiments.  Students might record their observations as notes in science journals.   Students will then be ready to go back into the complex text.

Re-read the first half of the book again, showing the illustrations this time.  Project the text using a document camera, or type just the words so that students have their own copy of the text.  Ask text-dependent questions such as the following, challenging students to identify words and phrases that answer them: (The bold print is from the text.)

What path does water take? (a cycle)

Water doesn't come.  It goes.  Around.


That rain has been here before.

How do we know water is a renewable resource/is recycled?

All the water in the all the water in the world.


That rain that cascaded from clouds

and meandered down mountains,

that wavered over waterfalls

then slipped into rivers and opened into oceans

That rain has been here before.

What part of the text is about evaporation?

Thirsty air licks it from lakes

Sips it from ponds

Guzzles it from oceans

And this wet air swirls up

What part of the text is about condensation?

Till it's crowded into clouds where it hotly hangs around

What part of the text is about precipitation?

Till cool air bumps through

And honey, those clouds just let it go and rain, rain, rain!

Tap dance, avalanche, stampede of drips and drops and drumming

A wealth of water.




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