Saturday, April 27, 2013

CCSS: Close Reading

The Common Core Standards talk about close reading.  I've been thinking of doing a workshop this summer on close reading and thus I have been thinking about them.  Here is a some of what I have found and my "not so profound" parallel to household cleaning!  I'll call this Close Reading: Part I

Close Reading is

Reading analytically
Studying meaning thoroughly
Reading and rereading methodically
Understanding central ideas and supporting details
Reflecting on the meanings of words and sentences
Thinking about the order of ideas
Thinking about ideas over the course of the text
Understanding of the text           

How is it different?
In the workshop model, we focus on learning to be readers through modeling strategies and scaffolding practice.  We use whole group mini lessons, guided practice, strategy groups, conferences  and independent practice with "just right" books as means to support strong reading. 
In Close Reading, we can use all those structures; however, our content and focus shifts to include more folktales, legends, myths, fables, classic short stories, poetry, plays, biographies, and primary-source materials. 
How do we do it?

Kids need to be able to do this "close reading" independently and in the primary grades; however, the road to close reading is not easy.  While some "close reading proponents" are suggesting we need more direct teaching, I think we must learn from Reading Workshop models and continue to scaffold and guide children with questions that will allow them to think more deeply about a text than they might do when reading on their own. Ultimately, they need to be able to ask themselves the questions that shape what we are calling close reading. 

Nancy Boyles, in Educational Leadership (2013) proposed these questions:
  • What is the author telling me here?
  • Are there any hard or important words?
  • What does the author want me to understand?
  • How does the author play with language to add to meaning?
  • Who is speaking in the passage?
  • Who seems to be the main audience?
  • What is the first thing that jumps out at me? Why?
  • What's the next thing I notice? Are these two things connected? How? Do they seem to be saying different things?
  • What seems important here? Why?
  • What does the author mean by ______? What exact words lead me to this meaning?
  • Is the author trying to convince me of something? What? How do I know?
  • Is there something missing from this passage that I expected to find? Why might the author have left this out?
  • Is there anything that could have been explained more thoroughly for greater clarity?
  • Is there a message or main idea? What in the text led me to this conclusion?
My Parallel
Back in 2001, I probably would have called what I am writing now a "connection" but now it is a parallel to life experiences!

I propose "close reading" might be to "regular old reading" what "deep cleaning" is to "a quick clean".  Let me try to explain, but please don't judge me too harshly!
Usually on Saturday morning, I clean the kitchen and bathrooms and then run the vacuum quickly in the areas of our house we see and use the most now that we are "empty nesters."  Every month or so, I do the hallway, extra bathrooms and our bedroom (I never really see that space as it's dark when I leave and dark when I get back!).  A couple of times a year, I dust walls, corners, stairwells, venture into the living room and look under the bed!  Deep cleaning makes the house smell great and look lovely.  It really does make me feel happy and accomplished to know there are fewer dust bunnies nesting in the hallway and Charlotte's great grandchildren have been evicted; however, I usually do something my mother would call, "a lick and a promise."
Thus, I propose close reading might be somewhat like deep cleaning.  It's cleaning all the cobwebs, looking under the bed and even turning the mattress (sigh...that's been a while). mother always said that someday I would take my nose out of a book and see the value of cleaning!      


Boyles, N. (2013) Closing in on close reading. Educational Leadership.
Partnership for
Student Achievement Partners. (2012). Close reading exemplar: Grade 3, "Because of Winn-Dixie." Retrieved from Student Achievement Partners.

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