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

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6 responses

  1. Fran,
    Thanks for the push to focus on those percentages! I’m just starting to look at using videos (think: teaching note taking) in concert with non fiction. Scholastic Magazine does a really nice job of offering a quick video to introduce the feature article,. This is the grade 5 link: http://sni.scholastic.com/SN5/09_02_13_SN5 It’s really exciting but challenging stuff.

    1. Thanks, Julieanne!
      There are no easy “one size fits all” answers to any of the questions that surround close reading and deeper understanding for our students. I think it’s exciting that publishers are providing quality resources. Having videos with Scholastic News will save “search time” for you and that’s another huge plus. “A picture is worth a thousand words” and there is great value in purposefully using multiple texts together (Smarter Balanced uses a video and text piece beginning at grade 3)!

      I look forward to hearing how it goes for your students!

  2. […] McVeigh makes an argument for the use of nonfiction texts in close reading and offers some beginning thinking about just when that might happen and what sorts of texts could […]

  3. […] 6. Close Reading Informational Text? Absolutely! […]

  4. Great job on close reading strategies.
    D

  5. […] Close Reading Informational Text?  Absolutely! […]

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