Tag Archives: Tim Shanahan

Close Reading in Kindergarten? Is it Possible?

close reading button

“The CCSS are too hard.”

“The CCSS are not developmentally appropriate.”

“The CCSS have pushed many skills down into the primary grades before students are ready to tackle such difficult texts.”

As of 09.02.13 according to Chris Lehman:

“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.”

Check out that link above the definition for the original blog post with foundational understandings of close reading built upon the work of Patricia Kain, Doug Fisher, Kylene Beers and Bob Probst.  More information will also be available in Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts soon to be released text, Falling in Love with Close Reading.  Some of those beliefs about the ultimate goal of close reading from a Teachers College presentation by Kate Roberts are also found in an earlier blog post of my own found here.

Thinking about misconceptions . . .

Is close reading appropriate for kindergarten and first grade students?

It would appear that #CCSS expert Tim Shanahan believes that close reading is not appropriate in the primary grades.  In his blog post from Tuesday, July 16, 2013, Shanahan responds to a reader’s request as follows:

Close Reading for Beginning Readers? Probably Not.

“I am a first grade teacher. My principal has mandated that all classes K-5 do Close Reading. Is it appropriate for all ages? It seems to me that the texts at K/1 are not likely to be complex enough and that the students at this age are too concrete in their thinking.”


“Good question. I share your concerns. There are very few articles or stories appropriate for K/1 that would make any sense for close reading. The content usually just isn’t deep enough to bear such close study (and, frankly, if you look at the comprehension standards themselves, specifically standards #4-9 for those grades, it should be evident that CCSS doesn’t envision particularly close reading at these levels).”

But if we base our work on the definition above and in Chris’s post, I believe that “close reading” is possible for kindergarten and first grade students.  Will it be easy?  No!  Will all students get it?  Not, YET!

Teachers will have to carefully craft their instruction in order to allow students to “independently” have the opportunity to look for patterns.  After reading Dorothy Barnhouse and Vickie Vinton’s What Readers Really Do, I continue to believe that beginning students can engage in the thinking necessary for “close reading.”

My example:  
The teacher uses No, David! by David Shannon as mentor text and reads it to the class.  She models her thinking as she reveals patterns and encourages the students to also think about the patterns that were included.  On another day, the teacher will provide time for the students to read David Goes to School and David Gets in Trouble.  The teacher will invite the students in partner groups to search for patterns for “Know, Wonder” charts.  Questions will not be used to interrogate the students.  Students will be invited to “tell me more . . .”  Students will be encouraged to think about the patterns that the teacher revealed about relationships between the words and the illustrations that David Shannon used in No, David!  Because some of our kindergartners have been in session for three weeks, I think we can develop additional “Know, Wonder” charts and check for students who are “close reading” as they search for patterns in the books they are reading.  Students who are able to explain their thinking about the patterns and draw inferences to similarities across multiple texts (especially if they point to the matching pages) will be providing evidence of their “close reading.”

Common Core Grade Level Reference

RL.K.(7-9) Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
RL.K.7 – With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).(Goal – Students will complete this goal without prompting and support after appropriate instruction and opportunities to practice tracing patterns.)
What do you think?  Is this close reading?  Or is this another misconception?

Check out this link:  Close Reading in Kindergarten – Advertisements  (Added 02.23.14)

Join in here!

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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?

Close Reading: “The Ultimate Goal”

Really, another post on Close Reading?  Oh, yes! And here’s why. I had the privilege of hearing Kate Roberts (@teachkate) passionately illuminate Close Reading at a session at Teachers College Writing Institute this week. (Kate will have a book out this fall with @ichrislehman titled Falling in Love with Close Reading.)

The ultimate goal:  Read our lives closely.   

Our goal with close reading is not just to pass a test, perform above a “cut score,” or read closely because the teacher said so.  Sure, the current emphasis on close reading may be due to CCR Reading Anchor Standard 1 , but is that really what we want for our children, grandchildren, and students?

“Close reading is not just academic.  Close reading impacts our everyday lives.  It is a way of being:  reading, watching TV and listening to music.  We read our moments closely. We read our lives closely. What did I say? What did I do?  Close reading in our lives .  . . when was I not patient?  What was my language / or what were the specific words that I used with that  favorite person/ that challenging person?  How were they the same?  How were they different?  Maybe I could make some changes. . .

Close reading is challenging. Revising writing is challenging. But more importantly we need to read our lives the way we want to be!

Be better persons!”  (Kate Roberts, 6/26/2013, Teachers College Writing Institute)

Why is it important to know the ultimate goal?  It is very hard to meet a target in life or in learning if you don’t know that desired outcome.  As I listened to Kate’s presentation I thought, “Wow!  This answers that age-old question from students, (often spoken with a whiny tone), ‘Why do I have to know this?'”

Kate showed us some  results from an internet search for “close reading” (and there was great variety). As far as instruction and close reading, one source  is Patricia Kain at Harvard University.  Kain lists these steps for close reading:

  1. “Read with  a pencil in hand, and annotate the text.
  2. Look for patterns in the things you’ve noticed about the text—repetitions, contradictions, similarities.
  3. Ask questions about the patterns you’ve noticed—especially how and why.” (Kain, P. How to Do a Close Reading, Harvard University, 1998.

Other authors have spent countless hours and much ink also defining, explaining, and demonstrating “close reading.”  Check out these links for Frey, N., & Fisher, D. (2012). Close reading. Principal Leadership, 13(5), 57-59. Doug Fisher or Tim Shanahan for additional information.

Kate shared with us that there are typically two ways to do this:  open or directed.  Some students may not have the skills or the sophisticated language to do close reading.  They may need the practice and the security of directed instruction to fully understand the nuances of the text. I am confident that her book will have much more information on both of those ways.

But another “gold nugget” from her presentation was this thinking about the reading behaviors  simultaneously employed by powerful readers.

“When you are able to read closely you are doing three things at once:

  1. Lens – What am I looking for? (examples:  text evidence, word choice, structure, figurative language)
  2. Patterns –  What patterns do I notice?  (Not to pick out one just one word, but to look across the text to determine ‘What does the author tend to do?’)
  3. Idea -What is the big idea that this author is writing about?   (not just confirm previous thinking)”  (Kate Roberts, 6/26/2013, Teachers College Writing Institute)

If these simultaneous behaviors are easy for you, what do you need to do in your instruction to make it easy for your students?  Food for thought?  Please continue to consider

How close reading  can help you become a  better person

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