Tag Archives: ELA

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:

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Range of Text for  Writing:

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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

ELA, Common Core, and Summer Plans


It is officially summer!  In Iowa that means that the temperature and humidity are creeping up!

What are you planning for this summer?

I am fortunate to have been accepted into the June Writing Institute and the July Reading Institute @TCRWP (Teachers College Reading and Writing Project) at Columbia University in New York City.  As Eva Gabor said in Green Acres, “New York is the place for me!” (You will recognize me as I will probably look and act more like Eddie Albert!)

So what will my focus be for those two weeks (and beyond)?

1) Read:   I will be continuing to read the new Units of Study by Lucy Calkins and all the authors at #TCRWP.  They are phenomenal.  I am already rereading parts because they are so well crafted. Other books are downloaded on my iPad including The One and Only Ivan and Teach Like a Pirate (#educoach twitter chat book study beginning July 10 at 9 pm CST).

2) Write:  I will, of course, tweet from #TCRWP. I believe that one day with Lucy Calkins in January was the source either four or five blogs. I cannot even imagine how much I will have to share after 10 days with Lucy and the #tcrwp tweeps on their home turf!   

And then there is this other little thing called #teacherswrite.  It begins on June 24th and the goal is to write and share every day. As @azajacks said last week, “I am putting my money where my mouth is!”  Time, or lack thereof, cannot be an excuse. In order to continue to grow as a teacher of writing, I need to write more.  (Intrigued?  Information about #teacherswrite can be found here http://www.katemessner.com/teachers-write/ ) Check it out yourself!

3) Continue to grow my technology skills!  I have a love/hate relationship with technology as I have used/owned my own personal technology for more than half my life.  When it goes well, it is a blissful honeymoon.  But when the computer exercises its control, my frustration level rises faster than the temperature!

I need to explore more tools to help teachers increase their efficiency and effectiveness.  I think I was one of the last people to know about Read and Write (Google extension that requires Google Chrome, Google Docs, etc.) and its quick conversion of spoken words to text. Eliminating the need for a scribe sounds both efficient and effective to me!!! Three or four tools that are VERY user friendly are exactly what I need to use well before I share with teachers!

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And in the interest of full disclosure, the three items on this list came from a blog I follow at http://chartchums.wordpress.com/ that was posted on June 17th.  Check it out!  Their explanations were much more eloquent than mine.  (And borrowing ideas matched my fortune cookie: “Imitation is a sincere form of flattery.”) Their blog and book are fabulous. Both have totally expanded my view of how “charts” can make learning “visible” for students.  Their charts are a perfect match for gradual release of responsibility that results in student independence!

What are you going to plan to do this summer to improve your knowledge of ELA?

 And the Common Core? 

Record your plans below!  Let’s encourage each other to meet our goals!

Common Core ELA Resources*


A LinkedIn question from ASCD that landed in my mailbox at 4:02 a.m. today asked members to “Share the name of ONE state or district that appears to offer the best Common Core resources.”  The parameters of this task – limiting myself to ONE – seemed quite daunting. It was way too early to respond on such a nice sunny, summer day!  So about four hours later, let me offer my best answers for today and you can see if you agree!

1. Building background knowledge:

2. Specific passages for use with students:

3. Building leadership capacity – teachers/administrators:

4. Planning for instruction: 

5. Student writing examples that demonstrate the demands of the core:

Did you notice that many of my favorite resources fit more than one category above?  I wonder if that is why they have become a favorite?  

Which of these resources are you familiar with?

Which ones would you have on your list(s)?

Please comment below if you would like to know “why” a particular site is included here!

There are many great resources available including many blogs by teachers and professional development providers that I follow in a text box on the right column.  The links above are the resources I continue to return to when I want to check my own understanding!

Smarter Balanced Item Quality Review


Questions continue to be voiced in the media and academic realms about the assessments that will determine whether students are “proficient” on the new Common Core Standards.  

Do you recognize the experts listed below?

Do you trust their input? 

 

“Item Quality Review Panel convened on May 20–21—The Item Quality Review Panel convened in Las Vegas to discuss three critical aspects of the item development process: quality criteria, item specifications, and archetypes. The panel members (listed below) who represent content expertise and expertise in services to underrepresented students met as a whole group to discuss the design of the Smarter Balanced assessment and the goals of the Field Test item development. Then, in content-specific groups, the panel members, Smarter Balanced staff and work group representatives, and contractor staff discussed key areas of focus and made recommendations to improve item development.

Dr. P. David Pearson
Dr. Donald Deshler
Dr. Douglas Hartman
Edward Bosso
Dr. Elfrieda Hiebert
Dr. Guadalupe Valdes
Dr. Sandra Murphy
Dr. Alan Schoenfeld
Dr. Bill McCallum
Estelle Woodbury
Dr. Francis (Skip) Fennell
Dr. Guillermo Solano-Flores
Dr. Jason Zimba
Dr. Karen Fuson
Dr. Patrick Callahan
Steve Leinwand”

 

This information was released in the Smarter Balanced Weekly Update #118, 2013-06-07.

Not all “Close Reads” are Equal!


I am fascinated by the discussion level that continues around “Close Reading” which is just a “part” of the text in Reading Anchor Standard 1.  (Specifically two words out of 31 that actually say, “Read closely.”)   You can read what Grant Wiggins posted about Close Reads here.

Tim Shanahan has several posts about close reads.  This one, “A Time for Humility,” posted after the IRA  conference on April 23, 2013, is particularly enlightening as Shanahan shares that there is no “one perfect model” for close reads.

Who are the experts?  Is there a “formula” or a plan that works for every story?  No, NO, NO! Close reads are dependent on the complexity of the texts, the skills of the students and the goal of the specific lessons.

When a reader begins with the text, the meaning has to be aligned with the author’s words and craft.  How do students understand that?  Some students may get all that in the “first read” and therefore not need a second or a close read.  But if the second grade students can only provide a “topic” when questioned about a page they have read, a “second read” may be necessary for instruction/modeling of main idea whether explicitly shared by the author or implicit in the text.

Will a single close read work for all students?  Probably not!  That is the “ART” of teaching,  a teacher that can propose a learning target, provide a model and the resources and then begin to check for understanding to specifically meet the needs of all students.

In the waning days or weeks of the 2013 school year, I would encourage teachers to continue to challenge students.  Ask your classes when they felt that they were “stretched” in their learning this year. Likewise, ask them when they felt like they were “coasting” and they didn’t need to put out a great deal of effort.  Consider students’ input and “Try something different” in your implementation of the Core.  A lot of other bloggers and authors have written about the value of  high expectations.  With scaffolding and some collaborative practice, many student CAN be successful!

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What is close reading?

To begin at the beginning, this began with Reading Anchor Standard #1.

Then when considering text for use in close reading demonstrations or for student practice, two posts that cover this ground are:

What should be the content or purpose of “close reads?”

Based on what you now “KNOW” about “Close Reading,” what will you do differently BEFORE this school year ends?

Please add your responses below!

How Often Do I Use a Close Reading?


The answer to today’s question is in the form of a Tweet from Doug Fisher’s address to the Michigan Reading Association, March 9, 2013:

“Close reading takes place 2 or 3 times a week. Not all day every day. –Doug Fisher #MRA13

 

Close reading is NOT for every text!

 

How often are you using Close Reading?

How do I choose text for Close Reading?


I have heard this question multiple times in the last month.  I do not remember being asked, “What text should I use for a Read Aloud?”  or “What text should I use for a Think Aloud?”   Maybe it happened and my memory is faulty, but I just don’t remember those questions in the past.

Suddenly, text seems to matter.  And many teachers are very concerned about using the “right text” for instruction.

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From the World of Common Sense:

1. Consider what your students are currently reading and what they need to be reading to meet R.CCR.10 Text Complexity and Range of Reading

2. Aim for text that  is complex and will be a “stretch” for the students

3. Check your class data – What is a procedure, skill, or strategy that students need to be using more consistently?

4. What are your writing goals?  What mentor texts are you using?

5. How can you combine reading, writing, speaking and listening and language standards so the students can “practice” using a variety of language arts skills on a very rich and relevant task that is worthy of class time?

Doug Fisher (2012) reminds us that we do want to choose “short, worthy texts” (p. 108) when planning for close reading.  The use of a short piece of text allows the teacher to have time for modeling the skill, strategy or procedure before turning it over to students to practice in a gradual release of responsibility framework.  That modeling is going to include rereading with a specific purpose in mind.  The focus lesson needs to be explicit and include the actions that students will eventually be expected to use.  One goal is to have the students use the skill, strategy, or procedure as soon as possible  in the context of their own reading.  Doug  is crystal clear in explaining that close reading does not happen to every page in any book nor only with short pieces of text.  Balance of text (genre, length, and complexity)  is always a consideration in selection for instruction because close reading is about really “understanding what the author is saying and then comparing that with our own experiences and beliefs” (p.108).

The key points to remember for close reading according to Doug Fisher (2012) are:   “rereading, reading with a pencil, noticing things that are confusing, discussing the text with others, and responding to text-dependent questions” (p. 108).

Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Lapp, D.(2012). Text complexity: Raising rigor in reading. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

However, do keep your eye on the “prize.” If the goal is that students will independently “close read” text, then the teacher cannot always be providing the “short” text, the directions and the text-dependent questions.  In the world of “gradual release of responsibility” and “common sense” another goal would be for students to be “close reading” their independent reading texts and texts for other courses outside the realm of ELA.  Consider how you would scaffold instruction to build towards multiple goals for close reading.  What can and should that instruction look like?

What text have you used?  Did it work as you expected?  What text will you plan to use next?

Close Reading: Not for Every Text


“Prepare for the tsunami!  Prepare for the earthquake!  Prepare . . . .”

“DANGER!  Will Robinson!”

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Tweet from Michigan Reading Association (March 9, 2013):  “Close reading takes place 2 or 3 times a week. Not all day every day. –Doug Fisher #MRA13″

_____________________________________________________________________________

Highly skilled teachers are constantly talking with students who are reading books to see if the students are applying the skills that they have been taught. Nothing new there.  Solid core instruction (checking for understanding/application)!

Is there a list of skills that need to be taught?  Well, it depends . . .

  • What skills does the student already have executive control over/with?
  • What skill does the student need for the next genre or text in any content area?
  • How do you know what the student knows?  Or doesn’t know?

There is no “curricula of close reading text” that all students can or should be comprehending. One goal of the Common Core is that students will be “College and Career Ready.”  Specific ranges and genres of text expectations are included in RL.10 and RI.10 and exemplars are also listed in Appendix B. (Nor should there be a curricula of close reading text!)

We do not want students to have a view that  reading is only something that is done “at school.”   “Assigning complex text”  should not be a standard event if the student has not had skilled, scaffolded instruction that will allow him/her to construct the meaning of the text.  Constructing the meaning may involve a bit of a struggle.  It also may allow for multiple understandings to co-exist especially when backed with textual evidence!

I was reminded today that there are many views of “close reading” available because this idea has been around since 1929.  But the feeding frenzy in the publishing world now has a “close reading” for every page of every story in some primary basal texts.  Really?  Why? (refer back to the bulleted questions above)  Is every piece of text “complex enough” to require close reading?  If the answer is no, heed the warning that began this blog.  Ask questions when you are quizzed about how often you are modeling “close reading.”

Need more information?

In 2010, Newkirk said,  “Not all texts demand this level of attention but some texts do!” He added, “We never really ‘comprehend’ these anchoring passages – we’re never done with them; we never consume them.  Like sacred texts, they are inexhaustible, continuing to move us, support us, and even surprise us” (p. 11).

Doug Fisher reminds us often that “Reader Response Theory” is a part of Rosenblatt’s (1978) work.  “The formal elements of the work – style and structure, rhythmic flow – function only as a part of the total literary experience”(p.7).  An individual’s interpretation may change over time. Doug uses the example of The Jungle Book when discussing close reading in his book titled Text Complexity. A child might believe the theme is loyalty and friendship while an adult could see an anti-colonialist message (p.107).

There is always a balance.  .  . A time to learn a new skill.  .  . A time to practice a skill.  But remember the caution from the last blog post.  The “reader response” needs to be based on the text.  Yes, it can include “connections” that are based on the text.  The response should NOT exclude the text and result in “rewrite the ending to include an outcome you would prefer” (Fisher, p. 107).

Choose your close reading text carefully.  Consider your student data.  Consider your knowledge of your students.  Consider your knowledge of the curricula.  Consider the next steps to independent application . . . and your students will be on the road to being College and Career Ready!

How do you know when you need to plan a  “close reading”? Please share your ideas in a comment!

Newkirk,T. (2010) The case for slow reading. Educational Leadership, 67(6), 6-11.

Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Lapp, D.(2012). Text complexity: Raising rigor in reading. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

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.

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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: (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!)

HAVE YOU HEARD A DIFFERENT VERSION FROM ANOTHER “EXPERT”? 

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?

“Common Sense” and the Common Core


Remember the old game of telephone?  A small group would be sitting in a line or circle.  The first person would whisper a sentence to their neighbor.  The sentence would be repeated in whispers one at a time.  The last person would say the sentence out loud and everyone would be “shocked” that the message had completely morphed.  It was unrecognizable and often had zero connection to the original message!

Take a deep breath, exhale slowly!

Now think of the “last thing” that you heard about the Common Core that “riled” you up.  What was your role?

  • Did you ask clarifying questions?
  • Did you repeat what you heard verbatim?
  • Did your listener hear the same message?

Take a second deep breath!  Exhale even more slowly this time!

Think about that “irksome” idea(s) from the Common Core.  Did you fact check it yourself?   Have you read the notes in the sidebars alongside the Common Core Anchor Standards in search of the “truth” about what the Core says?   If you have the Core in a Word document, it is easy to “search” for those specific ideas and phrases that seem to be problematic.

I can easily become embroiled in conspiracy theories about the forces behind the Common Core, but I choose not to even go there with this topic.  For me, “common sense instruction” and the Common Core is about:

  1.  Taking a step back
  2.  Listening to the question, complaint, concern
  3.  Consulting the document for the answer (evidence)
  4. Verifying/clarifying my knowledge with multiple sources
  5. Considering the benefits for increased student learning

This process allows me to move forward on a daily basis as I work to increase my own understanding and help teachers implement the Common Core.  As a “thinking” educator, I believe that the potential for increased student learning is limitless under the Common Core, and I want to be a part of implementation with high expectations and high quality instruction!

Is the Common Core perfect?  Of course not!  However, our students now have the possibility of the same K-12 goals in English Language Arts across the majority of our country.  A child with mobile parents may have some consistency in their education for the first time in the history of our country.  For children of military families, this new possibility may even make it easier for families to travel from base to base as a family unit.

Implementation of the Common Core is not going to be easy.  Some teachers are being asked to “change” the content they are teaching to more closely align with the content of the Core so students are College and Career Ready.  Yet, the “HOW” and the art of teaching is inevitably up to each and every teacher every day in every classroom across our country.

I continue to look for the good and “the gold” in the Common Core (Thank you, Lucy, Mary and Chris for Pathways to Common Core!).  Some days it may be a bit tarnished, but it’s there!  Keep digging!  Use your own close reading and research skills to unearth it!

Choose the positive!  Choose knowledge and common sense!

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