Tag Archives: Shanahan

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!

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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