Tag Archives: Connections Under Fire

Common Core: Are you allowed to make “connections” in a close reading?

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Why do I need to know about close reading?

College and Career Ready Anchor Standard 1 in Reading (K-12) says:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

So I need to know about close reading because it is in the first standard for the Common Core’s  K-12 English Language Arts (ELA) and 6-12 ELA for History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects.

The kids in my classes do that all the time, so what’s the big deal?

Students are soon going to be tested on pilots for Smarter Balanced Assessments and “someone” needs to know that the students have learned how to do this close reading stuff.


How do I teach this “close reading”? How do I know what I should or should not ask the students? 

The process suggested by Dr. Timothy Shanahan in his July 12, 2012 blog found here (reposted Aug. 3, 2017): (please do check it out for yourself – verifying the accuracy of a source)

“For a first reading, you want to ask questions that ensure that the students understand and think about the major ideas in the story or article. That means you limit your questions to big ideas or you query information that you think the students might be confused by. 

On the second reading, you want to ask questions that require students to analyze how the text works: why the author made certain choices and what the implications of those decisions would be in terms of meaning or tone.

On the third reading, the issue is how does this text connect to your life and your views, critical analysis of quality and value, and how the text connects to other texts.” 

A power point is included on that blog post that allows you to dig deeper into both the meaning of this standard as well as see a demonstration of a close reading lesson.

Back to the title:  Are you allowed to make “connections” in a close reading?  Dr. Shanahan suggested in his lesson plan format that you begin with the text, what the words say, then move to the structure or specific words, and finally with the third reading of the same text move on to connections.  Specifically, he said, “. . . how does this text connect to your life and your views, critical analysis of quality and value, and how the text connects to other texts.”  Those would be text to self and text to text connections.  (In the third reading of the same story or part of the story!)


First of all, consider the source.  How reliable was that expert?  Not sure?  Then go to Dr. Shanahan’s blog and ask him about “what you heard.”  He is very approachable.  Why Dr. Shanahan?  Dr. Shanahan was one of the authors of the ELA section of the Common Core.

Need a  second opinion?

Check out “Connections Under Fire” posted by Burkins and Yaris on April 6, 20112.  Their video tells us that not all connections lead the reader to higher levels of comprehension.  When connections go awry, students head down the wrong path.  That happens to students when they read a passage about a soccer match and their own background knowledge (not the words in the text) interfere with their understanding.  That video explains that connections beginning in the print of the text that lead to evaluation and synthesis are valued.

What isn’t valued?  Getting ready to read a story about a dog and asking students if they, or their families, have had dogs as pets.  Now the student is focused on “old Shep” and has a hard time paying attention to the dog in the story.  After all, “dogs” and “pets” would both be familiar vocabulary for most school-aged students.

??? Is “close reading” only about teachers asking students questions?  When, where and why are students encouraged to generate their own questions?  ???

Check out the links and make an informed decision. . . for your students!

When, Where, and How should you use “connections” when reading text?

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