Fitting the Puzzle Pieces of Close Reading Together
(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 Reading‘ that 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!
Planning to Meet CCSS Grade Level Literacy Standards
Do any of those questions sound familiar?
I spent this week with some fabulous teachers working on the Iowa Core Writing Standards. Did we work on all of them? No! Did we talk about all of them? Not by number! But we did spend a lot of time talking about what good writing should look like, how writing will be assessed in the future, and the whole reciprocal nature of reading and writing.
So what’s my best advice for planning those “first writing lessons for the new year?”
Here is my thinking based on what I learned at Teachers College Reading and Writing Institutes this summer:
- At least 50 % of reading workshop time (or more) has to be spent on students reading books of their choice every day (CCR Anchor Reading 1 and 10).
- At least 50 % of writing workshop time (or more) has to be spent on students writing every day. (That writing has to be aligned to one of the first three CCR Anchor Writing Standards, Argument, Explanatory, or Narrative and 10).
(To summarize 1 and 2 above, every day the student will be working on a minimum of 2 reading and 2 writing anchor standards.)
If I have planned my instructional sequences well, I will have also managed to “bundle in” some Speaking and Listening and Language Anchor Standards or some Foundational grades K-5 standards to support the gradual release of responsibility.
How will I decide which ones go together? One of my new tools is this graphic, A Periodic Table of the Common Core Standards, from Burkins and Yaris. During planning, this table will remind me of the wide range of standards available and I will choose the standards that best meet the needs of my students as I also consider what I have learned about “letting the students guide my instruction” from Vicki Vinton and our #wrrdchat as we studied the book, What Readers Really Do.
How will I know if I have been successful?
- I will check the amount of time students spend reading and writing every day and shorten the “teacher talk” time to ensure that students are getting as much time possible for reading and writing.
- I will listen to students in reading and writing conferences to hear what they are saying about reading and writing.
- I will talk to students about my own reading and writing histories.
- I will model reading and writing with and for my students.
- And I will ask my Twitter mates for help, encouragement and assistance when things run amuck as they are prone to do!
(Dr. Shanahan has already said that there are no power standards in ELA here so that is a non-issue.) And yes, you do have to teach all the standards!
How will you know that you are meeting the CCSS Grade Level Literacy Standards? What is your plan for this school year?
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!
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.
- “Close Reads” are not the Final Goal (March 19, 2013 post)
- How Often Do I Use a Close Reading? (March 9, 2013 post)
Then when considering text for use in close reading demonstrations or for student practice, two posts that cover this ground are:
- Close Reading: Not for Every Text (February 28, 2013 post)
- How Do I Choose Text for Close Reading? (March 2, 2013 post)
What should be the content or purpose of “close reads?”
- Are you allowed to make “connections” in close reading? (February 22, 2013 post)
- and just as a reminder: “Common Sense” and the Common Core (February 21, 2013 post)
Based on what you now “KNOW” about “Close Reading,” what will you do differently BEFORE this school year ends?
Please add your responses below!
“Silence is golden!”
When it comes to “learning,” my self talk the past two weeks has revolved around these conversations.
“Wait, wait, wait.”
“Keep your mouth closed.”
” LISTEN! ”
“Listen with your mouth closed.”
“Don’t fix. Don’t tell. Just listen.”
And it has been incredibly hard. Increasing “wait time” is a cheap and economical way to provide students with the opportunity to really tell me what they know. If I interrupt their thinking, I do not let them respond to the task at hand. If the task was “easy” for the student, he or she would already be at an “independent stage” and really would NOT need me as a guide or coach. I could move on to work with a student who needed assistance.
This has been an eye-opener for me!
It’s so easy as an educator and a Mom to be in a perpetual “fix-it” mode. After all, I have years and years and years of experience in a variety of educational and Mom (including step-mom) roles.
However Vicki Vinton reminded me in her blog post (please read it here) To Model or Not to Model: That is the Question that “Less = More.” If learning truly is the goal, I cannot be the person doing all the work. Sometimes that means I have to stop, wait, close my mouth and listen to the student.
Wait time for our students is so powerful when the classroom is a trusting, student-centered environment. It isn’t about 25 sets of eyes staring at Joey who didn’t even hear the question. There are no “eye rolls” from exasperated peers because “Would anyone like to help Joey out?” is going to be the teacher’s followup question. That is a non-example of wait time.
Respectful, thoughtful wait time is the result of students working collaboratively as the teacher checks in with partners to see what strategies they have tried or are currently using. Yes, there is a lot of work to be accomplished this year, but I cannot rush through teaching without providing opportunities for the students to literally show and tell me what they know. Simply “waiting” to hear each student voice (scaffolding with questions,prompts, or cues AFTER listening is acceptable) results in both formative data to guide my instruction and evidence of STUDENT learning. That doesn’t happen when the teacher is busy telling.
Why is this important? Why does it matter?
After references to Ellin Keene’s new book, Talk About Understanding, from Vicki and my retired, but still voraciously reading, friend Darlene, I’m actually reading a book that doesn’t have the words “Common Core” in the title. Observations of teachers revealed trends in talk that resulted in these behaviors:
- “Cut students off before they have a chance to fully develop their thinking
- Accept students’ first thoughts without probing for deeper thinking
- Move on before we label students’ descriptions of thinking (i.e., naming for them what they’re doing) so that the thinking can be transferred
- Segue from modeling to student responsibility too quickly”
In order to really talk with students, we must “WAIT” and allow them to both use their voices and interact with the meaningful, real-life tasks they are presented. Instead of rushing to complete the task, please stop, WAIT and LISTEN for the student evidence that will inform instruction as you see and hear them collaboratively tackle the task before releasing them to independent work. Remember, Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey would BOTH tell us, modeling does not have to be the first interaction. It may be better served later in the the learning period as a demonstration during the “debrief” so learning is at the forefront with student talk as evidence of student thinking and learning.
So yes, sometimes “Teacher Silence is golden!”
Thank you @melaniemeehan1 for the suggestion of tying wait time into the self-talk.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Teacher? Coach? Both?
What is the role of a teacher? Is it solely to be a teacher? A coach? Or both?
I believe that a responsive student-centered learning classroom requires the teacher to be part coach and part teacher in the role of lead learner in the classroom. That combination of roles is necessary for students to meet the requirements of the Common Core!
Where can I find evidence to support this?
1) Reading Recovery
When a child doesn’t know a word, the Reading Recovery teacher does NOT tell the student the word. She/he works with the student to figure out what the student knows and can try. The quote that I remember hearing when I observed a “behind the glass session” was something like: “A word told today is a word told tomorrow, is a word told the next day, and the next day!”
Why is this important? Telling doesn’t work because the student isn’t engaged in the cognitive work! (Saying the same thing over and over or louder and louder is often NOT effective!)
2) John Hattie – Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning
According to researcher John Hattie, the average effect size of feedback is 0.79. That is twice the average effect of all the school effects and is also in the top ten influences on student achievement so it is very important. However, Hattie’s synthesis of over 900 studies also pointed out that “not all feedback is equal.”
What does that mean? Effective coaches spend a lot of time “showing” how to do something and then getting out of the way to watch for application of the “something” that was taught. Classrooms with more coaching and work done by the students may be the best indicator of success for classrooms implementing the Common Core.
Where can you find out more?
Last week’s posts by @burkinsandyaris on their blog “Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy” bring a laser focus to those teacher roles. They were also the source of inspiration for this post. You can read all five yourself on their Friday Weekend Round Up posted December 8th. It included the different skills that a coach/teacher needs to employ for improved literacy for ALL students!
“Monday – The Coach and the Gradual Release of Responsibility (Part 1)
Tuesday – The Coach and the Gradual Release of Responsibility (Part 2): Coach as Demonstrator
Wednesday – The Coach and the Gradual Release of Responsibility (Part 3): Teacher as Spotter
Thursday – The Coach and the Gradual Release of Responsibility (Part 4): Coach as Consultant
Friday – Friday Favorite: Mindbending”
Check out all five posts. As you reflect, consider where your expertise lies . . .
Are you a Coach?
Are you a Demonstrator?
Are you a Spotter?
Are you a Consultant?
Let me know how you weave those roles together!