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.


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

10 responses

  1. Fran,
    What strikes me is the multidimensional nature of internet connected text. Is it beyond the four corners of the page? You used your knowledge not only of the people and your needs, but also how to access more information (is that all the 5th corner?). Then you had to filter all of that information your read closely through your 5th corner of knowledge and needs to make your decisions. After you obtained more data (the work of the sessions) your 5th corner was enhanced and your decision making process had to start again with a re read of the original text. Whoa! complex.

    Sounds like a great conference. I’m so interested in your questions. I really have issue with homework. Wonder about the benefits with young children. Right now all I really require of my students is reading. The trouble is the student/parent perception of homework is so worksheet oriented. They don’t think that reading is homework because it isn’t as tangible; they can’t see it and check it as easily. As for re-dos, if they teach and students learn, why not. Summative grades, who are they for anyway? Is their purpose to let parents know where their child “fits” in school. Seems that information is more complex than a letter or a number could possibly convey. A grade seems to be more of a label for a box than a thoughtful assessment of a student’s growth, performance and potential.

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Julieanne,
    I so LOVE when you share your thoughts and push me to think even more!

    What we do as “proficient readers” is filter a lot of information in a very short amount of time, and yes, it is all very complex with a lot of decision points. That’s why teaching and guiding students in the learning process is so critical. There are so many places where a student could get hung up on the minutia which may not matter much in the long run but could act like a brick wall and create unexpected hurdles.

    As for the assessment questions, I think you must have been in the room! We have been giving parents some “talking points” for student books and that has increased “parent satisfaction” with reading homework. “Re-do’s” – absolutely when the focus is on learning. And we wondered if parents needed to “see” all scores to know if they had made progress which might imply a graph. Your last sentence is going to keep me thinking, “A grade seems to be more of a label for a box than a thoughtful assessment of a student’s growth, performance and potential.” WOW!

    Do check this out – Which student would you want to pack your parachute?

    Make it a FABULOUS learning week!

    1. Teaching to avoid getting caught up in the minutia, so hard for some students. Seems readers need to be on a quest for answers, that was what you were doing at the conference. Reminds me of Vicki Vinton’s Need to Know blog this week.

      That Edufication post is so on point, so difficult to achieve, but so much better than thinking of a student as one data point!

      Thanks so much Fran! Looking forward to a great week!

  3. Hey Fran,
    Two quick comments:

    1) It was nice running into you this weekend. Let me know if I can help you in any way in the future.

    2) “Close reading” is new to me. I learned something new today! Thank you.

    1. Matt,

      I am sure that I will be asking for more help with Standards-Based Grading. I was reading through your resources this afternoon.

      Close reading is such a “buzz” because of CCR Reading Anchor Standard 1. There are many opinions and ideas about “how” to do it. I’m glad I added a bit to your knowledge!

  4. This is so interesting Fran, I was just thinking about what close reading looks like in people’s professions, and I came across your post. I had the same questions about what “counts” as close reading in the real world, so I interviewed people with different careers to see what I could uncover. Your post certainly gives me more food for thought, thanks!

    1. Thanks, Anna!

      I love the wide variety of professions that you interviewed. When close reading is considered a for life it transcends academics and really does move us into the realm of “being readers and writers.” The possibilities are endless! (And so are my wonderings!)

  5. […] #Edcamp DesMoines – Close Reading? […]

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