Saturday, January 25, 2014

Close Reading for Little Learners

Flickr image credit Mark Skipper 
A few weeks ago, I wrote this post after reading Falling in Love with Close Reading by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts, an amazing book about teaching analytical reading. It was filled with great information and practical strategies. But...

It's like many of the professional books I read-- they're mostly written by teachers of grades 4 and above. Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe that good teaching is good teaching, regardless of grade level. I'm always looking for the key instructional components in any book I read, and then I try to make a connection to the grade level I'm teaching.  But we're talking about teaching close reading to kids when they may not. even. read. Teaching reading and writing when kids are as young as four is definitely an adventure! 

So I was just a little bit excited when I received a flyer from the Placer Area Reading Council (PARC) about a Saturday workshop-- K-2 Close Reading! I signed up to attend along with four teachers from my school. The cost of the workshop: $20, for a six hour training including breakfast treats and lunch. Such a deal.

We spent the day at Penryn Elementary, a tiny school located a few minutes outside of Roseville, California, with about 20 other teachers. Although PARC is a small reading organization from the Sierra foothills, they frequently host big names in literacy. About 10 years ago, Jim Trelease presented, and last year they hosted "The Book Whisperer" Donalyn Miller! Check out their Facebook page or visit to find out about their events. Today's presentation by Patty Calabrese was filled with tons of practical information about close reading with K-2 learners. You can check out the link to my complete notes here. Here are some highlights from today's workshop:

Close reading is…

  • analytic reading
  • careful and purposeful re-reading of text
  • can involve a short text
  • analyzing structure and craft
  • to develop deep understanding of text
  • rereading when needed as they work to analyze complex text

Close reading is not…

  • a reading program
  • just ELA (it’s actually best implemented in content areas)
  • just a strategy
  • the same old stuff
  • a silver bullet

Close reading requires text dependent questions:
  • Require the reader to return to text
  • Can be low level but not as many (blooms levels)
  • Usually higher levels of thinking - requires citing evidence

Close reading is all about comprehension.

Patty shared this analogy:
“Close reading is like digging a hole to plant a tree”

Reread the text at least three times:

  • First read: scratching the surface -- establish purpose for reading, looking for big picture / main idea
    • Generally read by the teacher
    • Discussion (What is this text mostly about? Turn and talk-- sentence frame-- This text is mostly about ____________________.

  • Second read: digging deeper into text structure and author’s craft
    • How does this text work? What did you notice about the text?
    • Students notice language, new thinking
    • Read aloud, independent, or group read.
    • Students need their own copy of the text if you want them to read with a pencil (annotating text) as you read together-- sticky notes, sheet protector, photocopy, typed copy
    • Reading with a pencil-- kids need to have 1:1 correspondence to be able to do
    • Discussion “Who is telling the story?”

  • Third read-- the deepest part of the hole (the deepest levels of comprehension)
    • Connections are made to text
    • Quality of text is considered
    • Lots of discussion
    • Usually read aloud or group read

Easy ways to support students in tackling complex text
  1. Get kids passionate about reading! Kids need choice and exposure to many different genres.
  2. Kids need to read more!
  3. We need to develop vocabulary

Some final thoughts as we ended the day:

Close reading is about thinking.
Emphasize oral response before written.
It's best implemented in content areas.
We need more informational texts.
Kids need more discussion!
Anything by Gail Gibbons is great for a close read.

Reading closely with little learners is not going to be easy. But after today's workshop, I feel so much more informed and inspired-- I can't wait to see our little learners reading and analyzing complex text.



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