How do I choose text for Close Reading?

I have heard this question multiple times in the last month.  I do not remember being asked, “What text should I use for a Read Aloud?”  or “What text should I use for a Think Aloud?”   Maybe it happened and my memory is faulty, but I just don’t remember those questions in the past.

Suddenly, text seems to matter.  And many teachers are very concerned about using the “right text” for instruction.

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From the World of Common Sense:

1. Consider what your students are currently reading and what they need to be reading to meet R.CCR.10 Text Complexity and Range of Reading

2. Aim for text that  is complex and will be a “stretch” for the students

3. Check your class data – What is a procedure, skill, or strategy that students need to be using more consistently?

4. What are your writing goals?  What mentor texts are you using?

5. How can you combine reading, writing, speaking and listening and language standards so the students can “practice” using a variety of language arts skills on a very rich and relevant task that is worthy of class time?

Doug Fisher (2012) reminds us that we do want to choose “short, worthy texts” (p. 108) when planning for close reading.  The use of a short piece of text allows the teacher to have time for modeling the skill, strategy or procedure before turning it over to students to practice in a gradual release of responsibility framework.  That modeling is going to include rereading with a specific purpose in mind.  The focus lesson needs to be explicit and include the actions that students will eventually be expected to use.  One goal is to have the students use the skill, strategy, or procedure as soon as possible  in the context of their own reading.  Doug  is crystal clear in explaining that close reading does not happen to every page in any book nor only with short pieces of text.  Balance of text (genre, length, and complexity)  is always a consideration in selection for instruction because close reading is about really “understanding what the author is saying and then comparing that with our own experiences and beliefs” (p.108).

The key points to remember for close reading according to Doug Fisher (2012) are:   “rereading, reading with a pencil, noticing things that are confusing, discussing the text with others, and responding to text-dependent questions” (p. 108).

Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Lapp, D.(2012). Text complexity: Raising rigor in reading. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

However, do keep your eye on the “prize.” If the goal is that students will independently “close read” text, then the teacher cannot always be providing the “short” text, the directions and the text-dependent questions.  In the world of “gradual release of responsibility” and “common sense” another goal would be for students to be “close reading” their independent reading texts and texts for other courses outside the realm of ELA.  Consider how you would scaffold instruction to build towards multiple goals for close reading.  What can and should that instruction look like?

What text have you used?  Did it work as you expected?  What text will you plan to use next?

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9 responses

  1. Simply and clearly stated! Thank you! Daily stories in Student News Net provide interesting text as well! “Yesterday the U.S. Geological Survey, USGS, announced that now anyone can check current conditions of thousands of rivers.” https://www.studentnewsnet.com/

    1. Thanks, Kristin.

      Student News Net and Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week are my two most favorite sources for “current information” that can add background knowledge as well. Sometimes it is also helpful to pull a page from a full text as well because short articles are NOT the only complex texts in the world!

      I always appreciate your comments! Thank you for adding to the conversation!

  2. […] I have heard this question multiple times in the last month. I do not remember being asked, “What text should I use for a Read Aloud?” or “What text should I use for a Think Aloud?” Maybe it happened and my memory is faulty, but I just don’t remember those questions in the past.Suddenly, text seems to matter. And many teachers are very concerned about using the “right text” for instruction.  […]

  3. […] I have heard this question multiple times in the last month. I do not remember being asked, “What text should I use for a Read Aloud?” or “What text should I use for a Think Aloud?” Maybe it happened and my memory is faulty, but I just don’t remember those questions in the past. Suddenly, text seems to matter. And many teachers are very concerned about using the “right text” for instruction.  […]

  4. I am asked this question frequently as well – “How do I choose texts for close reading?” My work focuses on synthesis of informational texts. My response is – “What excerpts from the text you are reading with students reveal the author’s message or theme?” This has proved helpful to teachers in thinking about chunks of text they might engage students in rereading and annotating for deeper understanding.

  5. […] How Do I Choose Text for Close Reading? (March 2, 2013 post) […]

  6. […] in March, I addressed the topic, “How do I choose text for Close Reading?”   After my “close reading” as a part of this blog-a-thon,  I am comforted by the […]

  7. […] that close reading should come in texts of varying lengths and was not a daily diet requirement as referenced here.  And then the signposts from Notice and Note (Kylene Beers and Bob Probst) were next to receive […]

  8. […] 5. How do I choose text for Close Reading? […]

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