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Fitting the Puzzle Pieces of Close Reading Together


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   (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 Readingthat 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!

http://christopherlehman.wordpress.com/oddsends/we-are-closely-reading-close-reading/

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