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Friday, February 22, 2013

Adventures in Close Reading

For awhile now, I have been hearing the buzz words "close reading" being thrown around. Soon enough my curiosity got the best of me, and I figured I would get to the bottom of just exactly what this "close reading" is.

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?



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19 comments:

  1. I just discovered your blog!! Thank you for sharing all your ideas. I am your newest follower!! Come check us out sometime. Stephanie http://primarypossibilities.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I will definitely check your blog out! :)

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  2. Wow! This is something I keep hearing about too. I need to get in on this action! ;-)
    Jivey
    ideas by jivey

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    1. I'm definitely a believer in close reading now! I loved it!

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  3. I am having a hard enough time getting them to take good notes and write good sentences about a simple nonfiction text! I am so glad you post these, though, because I will be able to come back and reference this later in the year.

    -Maria
    Everyone deServes to Learn

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    1. Don't worry! My next post will be about using the same database to find other levels of text! The ones in this lesson were definitely very challenging.

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  4. Hi Amy,
    Thank you for the resource ideas. I need to try this strategy. Like you I have heard of close reading as a buzz word. I can see which students I will try this with first.

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    1. It is definitely worth trying. I found that I really enjoyed this technique, and it was very beneficial for my students.

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  5. Wow, what an interesting strategy. I wish I saw this during our nonfiction unit last month. I'm going to pin it to remind myself to start gathering easy and medium texts for topics in our anthology and try this out!

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    1. I hope you enjoy the strategy as much as I did! It has really changed my perspective.

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  6. Looks great!! I'm always looking for new ideas for close reads!! Thanks!

    Brittany
    http://thesuperheroteacher.blogspot.com/

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  7. We are your newest followers!! Loved reading about this. I must live under a rock because I have never heard about close reads before. this was very interesting. I've already written the title of this book down as a must have.

    Thanks,
    Kristy and Misty
    Teachingtimes2

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    1. It really is a change in thinking, but I think it is a good change. Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. Great information! Thank you for posting.

    Amy
    Teaching in Blue Jeans

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  9. I love that you tweeted the IRA. It is such a great organization. I had the opportunity of attending the annual convention a couple of years ago and it was AMAZING. (I'm a reading nerd.)

    What a wonderful post! I love how detailed you were in explaining the process. At a recent district training, I learned that poetry is excellent for teaching close reading as well.

    Thanks for sharing!

    GroovyEducator.blogspot.com

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  10. I just found your blog! It is great! What grade levels was this book geared towards? Do you have any insight on close reading in the primary grades?

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    1. Glad you like it! This lesson was geared towards struggling fifth graders. (fourth grade reading level) Here is a lesson I did with struggling third graders. I have found close reading works well with the primary grades. Just keep the passages short and make sure to model sufficiently.

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  11. Hi,

    I am going into my first year teaching and was curious about close reading. I'm so glad that I found your posts!! For primary levels, when do you think it's appropriate to start close reading? I will teach first, so it makes me apprehensive to implement it anytime before..March/April? Any insight is appreciated!! :)

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    1. I would want to make sure I had plenty of time to introduce a variety of different reading strategies before beginning close reading. That way, students would be able to actively apply these strategies. I would think the second half of the school year would be appropriate. Hope that helps! Feel free to ask more!

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