Hottest/Coldest Places

Two fascinating articles compare the world's most extreme environments.

Lexile Level: 550L / Guided Reading: P / DRA Level: 38

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Learning Objective

Students will love learning about life in Dallol, Ethiopia, and Oymyakon, Russia, which have some of the most extreme temperatures on Earth. The story has a special emphasis on compare and contrast.

Featured Skill

Compare and Contrast

Content-Area Connections

Social studies: world cultures

Science: weather, environment

Key Skills

Compare and contrast, text features, vocabulary, close reading, main idea and supporting details, cause and effect, informational writing

Standards Correlations

This article and lesson support the following standards:

Common Core anchor standards: R.1, R.2, R.3, R.4, R.5, R.9, W.2, SL.1, L.4, L.6

TEKS: 3.2, 3.4, 3.13, 3.20a, 3.20c, 3.29, 3.30

Teaching Materials


Activity Sheets

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Close Reading Questions
Reading Kit: Compare and Contrast
Reading Kit: Main Idea and Supporting Details

Lesson plan

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Explore Text Features/Set a Purpose for Reading (10 minutes)

• Point out the opening spread on pages 16-17.

• Direct students to the labels in the upper left corner that say “Paired Texts” and “One topic, two stories.” Ask students what the one topic is. (extreme weather)

• Looking at the photos on the opener, ask the question in the white circle: Where would you rather live? Have students predict what would be difficult about living in each place.

• Every story in the magazine has a Think and Read box at the beginning. It gives students a question or an idea to focus on as they read. Call on a volunteer to read the Think and Read box on page 16 for the class.


Preview Vocabulary (15 minutes, activity sheet online)

• Project or distribute the first page of our vocabulary activity to preview the terms in bold in the feature.  Complete the “before reading” section as a class or in small groups. Have students complete the second section after they’ve read the article.

• Highlighted words: acid, salt mines, environment, gold mines

• Word Study! Ask students which two terms have something in common. (salt mines, gold mines) Ask students what word is also bolded in the Big Read nonfiction feature. (environment)

Reading and Unpacking the Text

• First read: Students should read the articles through one time for general comprehension.  

• Second read: Distribute the close-reading and critical-thinking questions. Preview them as a class.

• Have students read the story again, as a class or in small groups, pausing to answer the questions.


“The Hottest Place on Earth”

Close-Reading Questions

(15 minutes, activity sheet online)

• Which details tell you why it is hard to live in Dallol? (main idea and supporting details) Dallol is very hot, water is hard to find, and acid comes up from the ground. Also, there are no schools, stores, doctors, or crops.

• What do men and boys do in Dallol? Why? (key details) They go to Dallol to mine salt. They sell the salt to make money.


“The Coldest Place on Earth”

Close-Reading Questions

(15 minutes, activity sheet online)

• What could happen to your body if you’re outside in Oymyakon? (key details) The inside of your nose could freeze, and your eyelashes could turn to icicles.

• Why did people go to live in Oymyakon in the 1930s? (cause and effect) They went to live there because gold was discovered, and they wanted to make money from the gold.

• What are people in Oymyakon like? (key details) They are friendly. They take care of each other.


Critical-Thinking Questions

(10 minutes, activity sheet online)

• What are two ways in which Dallol and Oymyakon are alike? (compare and contrast) Both places are very hard places to survive in because of extreme temperatures. In both places, the people who live and work there stick together and help each other. Both places have mines where people work.

• What are two ways in which Dallol and Oymyakon are different? (compare and contrast) Dallol is very hot, and Oymyakon is very cold. Nobody lives in Dallol, and some people live in Oymyakon.

• Divide the class into three groups. Assign one row of the table to each group, and have them find details from the articles to fill in their section. Have them fill in the table on their activity sheets as they work.

• Call on one student from each group to fill in the table for the class. Have students follow along and fill in the rest of their activity sheets.

• As a class, discuss the finished product to see if students would add or change anything.

• Have students complete the task in the Think and Write box on page 19 in class or as homework.


Teaching Extras

A cool video

If your students were intrigued by the idea of boiling water instantly turning into snow in Oymyakon, you can show them this video!

Reindeer meat?!

Were kids grossed out by the idea of eating reindeer meat? Our colleague, Scope editor Kristin Lewis, recently traveled to Helsinki, Finland, and got to try reindeer meat. She says it was chewy but delicious!

A breathtaking video

To see more of the crazy scenery in Dallol, play a few minutes of this this gorgeous, wordless video. Please note: Starting at the 10-minute mark, there are local men pictured holding guns, so we suggest stopping before then.

Salt mines slideshow

This striking slideshow of salt mines around the world (we bet #19 will be one of their favorites!) includes more images of Dallol.

Map of gold mines

Share this map that reveals every state’s gold history, plus info on whether it offers gold today.