Tag Archives: Iowa Core

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!

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!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *    *      *      *     *     *

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 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.


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!”


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.

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