Really, another post on Close Reading? Oh, yes! And here’s why. I had the privilege of hearing Kate Roberts (@teachkate) passionately illuminate Close Reading at a session at Teachers College Writing Institute this week. (Kate will have a book out this fall with @ichrislehman titled Falling in Love with Close Reading.)
The ultimate goal: Read our lives closely.
Our goal with close reading is not just to pass a test, perform above a “cut score,” or read closely because the teacher said so. Sure, the current emphasis on close reading may be due to CCR Reading Anchor Standard 1 , but is that really what we want for our children, grandchildren, and students?
“Close reading is not just academic. Close reading impacts our everyday lives. It is a way of being: reading, watching TV and listening to music. We read our moments closely. We read our lives closely. What did I say? What did I do? Close reading in our lives . . . when was I not patient? What was my language / or what were the specific words that I used with that favorite person/ that challenging person? How were they the same? How were they different? Maybe I could make some changes. . .
Close reading is challenging. Revising writing is challenging. But more importantly we need to read our lives the way we want to be!
Be better persons!” (Kate Roberts, 6/26/2013, Teachers College Writing Institute)
Why is it important to know the ultimate goal? It is very hard to meet a target in life or in learning if you don’t know that desired outcome. As I listened to Kate’s presentation I thought, “Wow! This answers that age-old question from students, (often spoken with a whiny tone), ‘Why do I have to know this?'”
Kate showed us some results from an internet search for “close reading” (and there was great variety). As far as instruction and close reading, one source is Patricia Kain at Harvard University. Kain lists these steps for close reading:
- “Read with a pencil in hand, and annotate the text.
- Look for patterns in the things you’ve noticed about the text—repetitions, contradictions, similarities.
- Ask questions about the patterns you’ve noticed—especially how and why.” (Kain, P. How to Do a Close Reading, Harvard University, 1998.)
Kate shared with us that there are typically two ways to do this: open or directed. Some students may not have the skills or the sophisticated language to do close reading. They may need the practice and the security of directed instruction to fully understand the nuances of the text. I am confident that her book will have much more information on both of those ways.
But another “gold nugget” from her presentation was this thinking about the reading behaviors simultaneously employed by powerful readers.
“When you are able to read closely you are doing three things at once:
- Lens – What am I looking for? (examples: text evidence, word choice, structure, figurative language)
- Patterns – What patterns do I notice? (Not to pick out one just one word, but to look across the text to determine ‘What does the author tend to do?’)
- Idea -What is the big idea that this author is writing about? (not just confirm previous thinking)” (Kate Roberts, 6/26/2013, Teachers College Writing Institute)