The first thing I need to point out is that close reading is NOT in the common core standards. It is a practice through which the standards are met. It’s a process of “thoughtful, critical analysis of a text that focuses on significant details or patterns in order to develop a deep understanding of the text’s form, craft, meanings etc.” (email@example.com 2013)
Now all of that technical jargon sounds all well and good but what does that mean for the real teacher in the classroom right now? I can tell you that my last class had five special education students and nine different languages. How could I get them to do a “thoughtful, critical analysis of a text” when I couldn’t even get them to write simple sentences? I had to start small. I had to scaffold. I had to keep trying.
The goal is to get students reading complex text on their own. Until our kiddos can get there, we need to scaffold them. We as teachers already do this all the time. We do things such as guided reading, literature circles, shared readings, interactive read alouds and more. I wanted to make a printable that I could give all of my students to help scaffold as we began the close reading process. I wanted us to have universal symbols that we could use when talking or writing about close reading.
I made something simple that we could all refer to. I posted one on my whiteboard by my guided reading area and then shrunk them down and copies 4 to a page so each kid could have one in their reading notebook. (This is a free download if you are interested. Link: Close Reading Toolbox or this link for Google docs).
Using this poster really helped my kiddos to “read with a pencil”. It helped to bring them back into the text. I gave my kids the small size sticky notes so they could make their marks on those and didn’t have to write in the actual book. It worked wonderfully.
Besides reading with a pencil, close reading also includes:
-using SHORT passages or excerpts (this could be a couple paragraphs to several pages to a chapter in a longer book depending on grade level).
-limited pre-reading activities
-discussing the text with others
-responding to text dependent questions
Okay now you are probably thinking that sounds nice but how do I do all of that? Well let me begin by telling you that there are no specific steps to conducting a close read. That’s part of the beauty of it. Once you try it out a few times you can do it in the order/way that works best for your style. This is NOT a scripted program that you have to follow to perfection. It is a series of guidelines to help you bring your students back into the text.
My state decided to set up organizational structure that had our students read each text 3 times. They were brilliant in doing this because it follows the organizational setup of the anchor standards for reading: Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. This does not mean read the entire book three times! Let me explain:
1st Read: Key Ideas and Details:
– After setting a purpose for reading, have students read the text as independently as possible. (For me that meant some of my SpEd’s and ELL’s had to read with a partner or para. This could also be done as a read aloud or think aloud if the text is very complex.)
– Do not build up background knowledge, instead focus more on the key ideas and details of the text. (Think Right There type questions).
2nd Read: Craft and Structure:
-Choose a piece of the text- paragraph, pages, chapter- that is complex enough to do a close read on.
-Have students reread that section only.
-After rereading that sections, students discuss the text focusing on the author’s craft, structure, and organization. These can include vocabulary, word choice, text structures, text features and answering text-dependent questions (more on that next time!) etc.
3rd Read: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
-Students go even deeper into the piece. They synthesize and analyze the information in the text. They compare this text to other texts or forms of media (see anchor standards for reading). They also begin to record their ideas on graphic organizers, journals, sticky notes etc.
What’s nice about this setup is that I can do a close reading on a variety of leveled books. My students that are on an L can do a close read on Horrible Harry or Junie B. Jones books. My next group that’s on an Q can do a close read on Dear Mr. Henshaw. I can take each group through this process using appropriate books for each student.
This is a good place to stop for now. I know this is a general overview but close reading is a BIG hunk of nebulous materials, ideas, procedures etc. I promise I will keep writing more on it as I go and answer any questions that you have.
Have you had any trainings on close reading? What is the most important thing you learned?
PEACE, LOVE AND STICKY NOTES