I have been playing around on Twitter and getting all setup with that, so I decided to tweet the International Reading Association and ask them for some recommendations. They told me to start with Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading.
The book focused primarily on explaining what a "complex" text is. They had this pretty neat graphic, which you may have seen in the Common Core.
Basically, to decide if a text is "complex" you look at quantitative elements - such as a lexile, qualitative elements - like story structure, and what you know about the reader.
The book showed a few examples of a "close reading" lesson. The big point here is that you need to let the students struggle, as opposed to giving them too much help. This is actually really hard, but I found that you get used to it.
Now comes the fun part. Here is my first attempt at a "close reading" lesson. This lesson was used with a group of fifth graders. I decided to focus on the topic of hurricanes. For the first article I picked Taming the Storm. (Click to grab a copy if you have an ebsco login.)
Since this was a pretty challenging text for my fifth graders, I had them fill out the following graphic organizer to keep them focused on the information. (Click on the image below for a copy!) This form is based on a similar one designed by Diane Lapp, one of the authors of the book I discussed above.
After they read the text independently, I asked my students several questions. These questions focused on the author's writing style, questions requiring students to draw conclusions, and complex explanations of how hurricanes form. I took note of what students struggled with.
Next, I used a much simpler text about hurricanes to model how to analyze a text. For this part of the lesson I used Storms (National Geographic Windows on Literacy). As I read the text aloud, I underlined important concepts and took notes in the margins to demonstrate my thinking.
Then, students independently read a "medium" level text. (in between the levels of the two other texts) For this part I chose After the Storm. (Click for a copy with ebsco login.) As they read, students were asked to underline key ideas and make their own notes in the margins. (Just as I had modeled with the previous text)
After reading this text, I asked discussion questions in the same style as with the first text. Students explained what notes they took in the margins and what important ideas they underlined. They did a great job really reading with a critical eye.
For the final part of the lesson, students reread the original, most challenging text, and I asked the same discussion questions from the beginning. We talked about how their thinking had changed and grown. I have to say, I was extremely impressed. "Close reading" is an extremely powerful technique, and I plan to use it much more in the future! Is anyone else using this technique? How do you implement "close reading" in your instruction?