Monthly Archives: September, 2013

EdCamp DesMoines = Close Reading


The fourth week of the Close Reading Blog-a-Thon is wrapping up and I see “close reading” everywhere!  Is it all scholarly?  Is it all equally rigorous? Is it an example of close reading for life?  You decide!

Close Reading and Ed Camp Background Information

As a reminder, the definition of close reading that is used for this post is the one that comes from @ichrislehman and @teacherkate that will be in their book, Falling in Love With Close Reading:  Lessons for Analyzing Texts – and Life! due out October 17th.  That definition is found in post one and is:

“Close reading is when a reader independently stops at moments in a text (or media or life) to reread and observe the choices an author has made. He or she reflects on those observations to reach for new understandings that can color the way the rest of the book is read (or song heard or life lived) and thought about.”

An #edcamp is an organic, collaborative day of participant-organized learning.  The behind the scenes organization includes setting a date, finding sponsors, confirming a location with parking AND internet access, and recruiting a team to help with details. There were four #edcamps on Saturday, September 28, 2013, and I was fortunate to be at the #edcamp held in Des Moines, Iowa that was organized by @jamiefath.

Close Reading?

No one asked me text dependent questions at #EdCampDSM, but here is what I did as a participant when I made decisions about the sessions that I would attend.

  1. I read the entire list of proposed sessions to get a feel for the topic possibilities.
  2. I checked the twitter handle for the session proposer.
  3. When available, I checked the blog or website listed on the profile of the person listed as the session proposer.
  4.  I thought about everything I knew about that person including their professional role and my need to “learn or know more” about that topic.
  5. I made my session choice.

That was my decision-making process.  Did it also include some elements of “close reading?”  I independently stopped, I reread, and I also observed / looked for more information about the session proposers and their own work.  I believe that the first part of the definition is covered in my actions/process.  What about the second part, that “reflecting on those observations to reach for new understandings?”

The morning schedule was posted like this.

edcampdsm

When it came to the second session, I had to think about my choices.  Did I want to continue a discussion with grading and further extend my learning with @mctownsley?  Or did I want to move to a session more focused on literacy?  or even engagement?  Based on what I was hearing, learning, thinking, as I reflected on the first session about grading and changes, I made the decision to continue with more learning about grading.  (After all, standards-based grading was a topic that I had hoped would be on the board for the day!)  So was that “close reading?”

Reflections on my learning will be continuing as I dig into “standards-based grading” and I consider:

  • What is the role of homework?
  • When can students “redo” homework and “retake” assessments?
  • Is there any purpose to a “summative course grade”?

Or was this just an example of what @teachkate referred to as the “5th corner” as I inserted myself into the text?

Conversation, please!  Based on this small snapshot of the day, was this close reading?

(Note:  After a day of technology the # and @ are automatic, but will they enable or allow a reader to more easily move to Twitter and check out the people only mentioned by their twitter handles?)

close reading button

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Close Reading Informational Text? Absolutely!


Back 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 knowledge that my thinking just six short months ago was not “totally wrong!”  However, I continue to admit that my learning experiences at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project have changed many of my perceptions about literacy learning, specifically the grade level expectations for reading and writing under the Common Core/Iowa Core! This is all a work in progress and is often messy!

I believe that students and teachers must use informational text for close reading as described by Chris Lehman in post # 5 here.  The substance of “instruction” for that close reading will depend on the grade level reading standards for informational text.  In other words, the lens for “patterns” could include any of the reading anchor standards, but the ones I am currently considering for lesson development include:  vocabulary (# 4), point of view (# 6), argument (# 7) and multiple texts (# 9).  Are these more important?  No, but they are ones that I feel a need to explore to build my own knowledge and skill via some “extra practice.”

The “evidence” that I am using to support my claim is from the Core documents and includes the percentages of informational  text reading across the day for all grades as well as the percentages of informational/explanatory writing across the day.  Those are detailed in the following two charts.  Do they look familiar?

Range of Text for Reading:

Image

Range of Text for  Writing:

Image

When will students and teachers work on close reading?

It depends. Much of the informational text instruction may begin in ELA, Science and Social Studies (but probably not all) in the upper grades.  Students will benefit from learning from the “content experts” whose expertise will guide the focus to read and understand like scientists and historians. Some districts and staff may find it “easy” to have staff work collaboratively to address close reading in a variety of content areas including “Technical Content.”  However, starting with a small core group studying and considering thoughtful applications of close reading as well as possible pitfalls will help provide coordination for the student learning environment (so students will not be “close reading” every period every day!)

What length of text will be used?

It depends.  Many of the beginning texts will be short pieces.  However, some full texts will be considered through the use of “Know – Wonder” charts like the one used for Because of Winn-Dixie as described by Vicki Vinton here. Longer pieces of informational text will also be considered if they meet the instructional purposes.  Varying lengths of material were supported by Doug Fisher here because they do allow the reader to become the “fifth corner” as proposed by Kate Roberts because the goal is “understanding what the author is saying and then comparing that with our own experiences and beliefs” (p.108).  We also remember that our goal is that our students will BE readers and writers (not just read and write)!

How is text defined?

Text types are evolving.  Texts are no longer limited to passages with words, sentences, and paragraphs.  What are the texts that will be part of “reading” for students for the rest of their lives?  It is hard to predict the “form” for future texts. The following forms will be considered for close reading:  artwork, video, commercials, pictures, signs, songs, magazines, digital sources AND books! (and examples of student and teacher writing)

Does this match your picture of “close reading of informational text?”  What would you do differently?

close reading button

Fitting the Puzzle Pieces of Close Reading Together


21054105-3d-illustration-of-man-on-puzzle-piece-joining-group-of-people-3d-rendering-of-people--human-charact

   (Photo: 123RF    #21054105)

The Blog-A-Thon for Close Reading hosted by Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts has resulted in thoughtful conversations around two words in CCSS Reading Anchor Standard #1.  We are all eagerly awaiting elaboration from Chris and Kate’s book ‘Falling in Love With Close Readingthat will add to our knowledge  Blog posts have discussed close reading as a noun, a verb and with very specific cautions about being very careful to not destroy “the love of reading.”

So, a quick review that close reading is:

  • Not every story
  • Not dragging a two page story out to a week’s worth of lessons
  • Not 999 text dependent questions
  • Not the teacher scaffolding the work all the time
  • Not the students being ‘assigned’ text to read and reread and reread
  • Not a scripted procedure
  • Not surface learning
  • Not limited by the four corners of the page
  • Not worksheets
  • Not independent reading
  • Not scripted lesson plans
  • Not just a “school activity “
  • Not isolated work with the CCSS reading standards one at a time
  • Not always rereading three times
  • Not . . .

In the first post for the Blog-A-Thon, Chris told us last week that:

“Close reading is when a reader independently stops at moments in a text (or media or life) to reread and observe the choices an author has made. He or she reflects on those observations to reach for new understandings that can color the way the rest of the book is read (or song heard or life lived) and thought about.”

Which words or phrases caused you to stop, pause, or reread as you read that definition?

Or (gasp!), did you tell yourself that you had already read that definition last week so you just kinda, sorta glossed over it?  Did you notice any “patterns?”

Inherent in this definition is the belief that the reader will read like an author while observing the author’s choices within text, media or life.  That means that the reader will probably “know and wonder” (Barnhouse & Vinton, What Readers Really Do) or “notice and note” (Beers & Probst, Notice and Note:  Strategies for Close Reading) as he/she traces patterns from the text.  Pattern tracing may evolve through the use of post-its, reading notebook entries or even on chart paper or interactive white boards.  Student reflection on the meaning of the pattern would seem to be essential for “new understandings” to be constructed!

What routine(s) should be used?

The routine that the reader uses will be based on teacher instruction explicitly designed for independent application by the reader.  The instructional format may include conversations about the “stance” or lens that the student is using to view the text:  text evidence, word choice, structure, or figurative language.  But it could also involve the lens of “character development and change over time.” (CCSS Reading Anchor #3 – Scroll down to the chart about “lonely characters and then go back to read the blog for the chart context.“)  In the search for a theme (CCSS Reading Anchor #2), the lens could be the signpost “Again and Again” (Beers & Probst) or  “Searching for Meaning”in Dea Conrad-Curry’s post.

Desired outcome =  students independently and capably engaged in close reading of text, media and life 

The path for instruction may be varied but it has to include authentic reading experiences.  At times instruction may be inquiry with the teacher carefully observing students and the patterns they discover in their reading.  At other points a more direct instructional framework may be Fisher and Frey’s  gradual release of responsibility that includes:  productive group work, guided instruction, focus lesson (including modeling), and independent work until the ultimate goal of close reading and “constructing new understanding” is TOTALLY dependent on the text and the student!

So how do we get to our final destination?

Observe the current status of our students.  Provide explicit instruction that will “nudge” students to reach new understanding.  Continue to “construct” meaning – not just identify it.  Use the phrase, “Tell me more” instead of a barrage of questions.  Sometimes the learning path will be whole class, small group or 1:1, but the journey needs to begin now.  It’s 2013 and we can improve instruction and student learning as we work and learn together with a sense of urgency that will propel student thinking beyond current levels!

We read forward and think backward, making within-text connections to notice patterns” (Barnhouse & Vinton, p.113) as we “trust student talk around texts to support our thinking goals” (p. 122).  Reading, observing, talking, thinking about text, media, and life will help construct meaning and fit the puzzle pieces together!

It’s complicated!  It’s messy! And close reading is definitely a big puzzle with no ONE right way to accomplish it!

http://christopherlehman.wordpress.com/oddsends/we-are-closely-reading-close-reading/

Close Reading in Kindergarten? Is it Possible?


close reading button

“The CCSS are too hard.”

“The CCSS are not developmentally appropriate.”

“The CCSS have pushed many skills down into the primary grades before students are ready to tackle such difficult texts.”

As of 09.02.13 according to Chris Lehman:

“Close reading is when a reader independently stops at moments in a text (or media or life) to reread and observe the choices an author has made. He or she reflects on those observations to reach for new understandings that can color the way the rest of the book is read (or song heard or life lived) and thought about.”

Check out that link above the definition for the original blog post with foundational understandings of close reading built upon the work of Patricia Kain, Doug Fisher, Kylene Beers and Bob Probst.  More information will also be available in Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts soon to be released text, Falling in Love with Close Reading.  Some of those beliefs about the ultimate goal of close reading from a Teachers College presentation by Kate Roberts are also found in an earlier blog post of my own found here.

Thinking about misconceptions . . .

Is close reading appropriate for kindergarten and first grade students?

It would appear that #CCSS expert Tim Shanahan believes that close reading is not appropriate in the primary grades.  In his blog post from Tuesday, July 16, 2013, Shanahan responds to a reader’s request as follows:

Close Reading for Beginning Readers? Probably Not.

“I am a first grade teacher. My principal has mandated that all classes K-5 do Close Reading. Is it appropriate for all ages? It seems to me that the texts at K/1 are not likely to be complex enough and that the students at this age are too concrete in their thinking.”

Response:

“Good question. I share your concerns. There are very few articles or stories appropriate for K/1 that would make any sense for close reading. The content usually just isn’t deep enough to bear such close study (and, frankly, if you look at the comprehension standards themselves, specifically standards #4-9 for those grades, it should be evident that CCSS doesn’t envision particularly close reading at these levels).”

But if we base our work on the definition above and in Chris’s post, I believe that “close reading” is possible for kindergarten and first grade students.  Will it be easy?  No!  Will all students get it?  Not, YET!

Teachers will have to carefully craft their instruction in order to allow students to “independently” have the opportunity to look for patterns.  After reading Dorothy Barnhouse and Vickie Vinton’s What Readers Really Do, I continue to believe that beginning students can engage in the thinking necessary for “close reading.”

My example:  
The teacher uses No, David! by David Shannon as mentor text and reads it to the class.  She models her thinking as she reveals patterns and encourages the students to also think about the patterns that were included.  On another day, the teacher will provide time for the students to read David Goes to School and David Gets in Trouble.  The teacher will invite the students in partner groups to search for patterns for “Know, Wonder” charts.  Questions will not be used to interrogate the students.  Students will be invited to “tell me more . . .”  Students will be encouraged to think about the patterns that the teacher revealed about relationships between the words and the illustrations that David Shannon used in No, David!  Because some of our kindergartners have been in session for three weeks, I think we can develop additional “Know, Wonder” charts and check for students who are “close reading” as they search for patterns in the books they are reading.  Students who are able to explain their thinking about the patterns and draw inferences to similarities across multiple texts (especially if they point to the matching pages) will be providing evidence of their “close reading.”

Common Core Grade Level Reference

RL.K.(7-9) Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
RL.K.7 – With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).(Goal – Students will complete this goal without prompting and support after appropriate instruction and opportunities to practice tracing patterns.)
What do you think?  Is this close reading?  Or is this another misconception?

Check out this link:  Close Reading in Kindergarten – Advertisements  (Added 02.23.14)

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