Buzzzzz "Close Reading" Buzzzz Buzzzz

One of the most popular buzz words for teachers currently (thanks Common Core) is "Close Reading." And I feel like.... everyone has kind of a different view and purpose of what close reading is and how to implement it in their classrooms.

I personally think, that it is going to look different in every classroom due to the grade level of the students among other factors, but the focus is the same...

"What did I get out of reading this?" In order to answer this question, students need to...

  • think about the structure of the text and how it aided them.
  • think about the word choice of the author and how it added to the author's message.
  • think about the author's craft  and how the reader brought their own ideas and thinking to a text because of it. 
  • apply a variety of reading skills to help them successfully understand what they are reading.

I think the clear, take away message is that close reading is purposeful rereading (as mentioned by Dr. Douglas Fisher). So I try not to get into a "step-by-step" approach with close reading. I know some teachers do, where they have a set process (read 1- we do vocabulary, read 2- we do main idea/details, etc. ), or a set mode of annotating (? for confusing part, circle new words, ! for importance, etc). Again, I'm not saying one way is right or wrong, as I think it depends on the grade and such. I just think if I pigeon-hole myself this way, the purposeful aspect of close reading goes away.

We made this close reading chart last week inspired by one I found on Pinterest (the link was broke so if this looks like your work, please let me know so I can properly credit you) to explain what close reading means. We determined it was a fancy way of saying "rereading" but we emphasized that we reread things with different focuses and to be able to really discuss what we read and the ideas it made us come up with. Yes, I did put 1st read, 2nd read, 3rd read- but it more open-ended...meaning, it isn't based on reading skills, but rather levels of understanding.




We then began our first attempt at "close reading" using Alyssha from the blog and TpT shop Teaching and Tapas's  amazing Close Reading Passages.
For real people, this is a doozy of a resource. And I would urge anyone in grades 2 or 3 (those are the grades she has now... she's working on 4th grade as well as fictional texts too) to purchase this resource. Here's a few reasons why I think this is so beneficial:

  1. She has 5 passages for each standard. This means, we can do 2 as a class as a piece of shared reading, and then I still have 3 passages that cover that standard for students to practice independently both in school or as homework.
  2. The text-dependent work pages are laid out the same so students know how to do the pages independently- they see the similar layout from our shared reading. 
  3. The topics she wrote these original passages about are totally engaging for my students. They have variety and many are on things that they are either interested in (so they want to read them) or they are about topics they know nothing about (so it truly forces them to read closely as they have limited background knowledge on it).
  4. The way she organized them by standards lets us have a solid focus over a long period of time and makes it easier for me to see which of my students have mastered that standard and which ones I need to meet with in strategy groups.
These are just the stand out reasons why I love this resource, but there are more and I know the more I use it, the more I will enjoy it. So this past week, we focused mostly on determining the meaning of words and why the author chose those words, but we also did some summarizing and we had some great discussions on the content we read. Next week, we aren't necessarily going to be focusing on those skills as a whole class, but I'm sure many students will still take note of new words and annotating what the focus of each paragraph is about since they found it very helpful to use when I asked them questions about the text.  We are also in the mindset and focus of test prep, so our take on this is slightly different.

So.

We did used these passages as a whole group. They did some on their own. Now what?

I looked over their independent work and took notes.


I looked for the type of annotating my students were doing: were they just underlining, were their circling/boxing in things, were they drawing arrows, writing notes in the margins, marking up 'too much', not marking up 'at all?' All of these could be strategy groups on how to mark up the text. I also create my own assessments by writing my own multiple choice questions to passages that focus on targeted reading skills. I then am able to see who needs more assistance in which skills. My note taking is impressive...I know. (Did you feel the sarcasm there?)

With all this data, I can then form strategy groups. For example, I had one group work on strategies for solving the meaning of new vocabulary words. I met with them and discussed what I noticed from their work and then provided them with some strategies. We used their copies to discuss. I modeled one and they shared out what they noticed that I did. Then we tried one together. Lastly, I pulled a short passage from Reading A-Z for an independent job.

I did a similar process with my summarizing group, but did so with different strategies. I realized that I had to erase the strategies from my vocab group to make room for strategies for this group. I didn't want my vocab strategy group to forget the strategies they could use, so I thought about making them a little card to remember. It got me thinking, that my strategy groups will be fluid; students will move in and out of them throughout the unit. I thought about doing a book mark, but I felt they would loose those easily, especially when they move to different strategy groups and before you know it, they have 5 bookmarks. So I went home and brainstormed these:



Now, students can keep track of the strategies we used for that reading skill. They also, can accumulate other reading skills and strategies in other strategy groups they partake in. I have them attach them to their book bags so they don't get lost or mangled.



Whenever they come to a strategy group, they bring their ring.

I color code them as well so I can easily see who has met with me in which type of group. It also makes it easy for them to know which card to flip to for a particular strategy.


I also have these cards that are blank. They are on the same colored paper as others and I can print them back to back or just add them to the ring. I can put an additional note, or I can add an example for them to reference.



What has helped SO much is that I have these cards stored in little manilla envelopes so they are ready to go. Once I give a formative passage assessment, I can quickly look it over, look for students who need more support in a skill and have a resource ready to go off of. Depending on my group and who is in it, we may find a different strategy that works, or they may need more information on the skill. Having these cards printed back to back allow me to differentiate the strategies for my learners in a very convenient way.

I have 9 different reading skills for reading Non-Fiction text that I can use with different strategy groups as we go through our test prep. They include:
  • Tricky Word and their Meanings
  • Summarizing Paragraphs
  • Fact vs. Opinion
  • Cause and Effect Relationships
  • Main Idea/Details
  • Compare/Contrast
  • Point of View
  • Text Features
  • "Right There" Questions

Thanks to Alyssha's passages, I can get great data on what to do, and with who during my small group time. It's targeted, purposeful, and preparing them not only for 'the test,' but also building great reading skills they'll use throughout their academic careers. These Close Reading Cards allow me to feel prepared to meet with a variety of groups to meet their needs and have really helped me stay focused.

You can snag my Close Reading Strategy Cards for Non-Fiction Reading Skills at my TpT store by clicking on the photo below, and make sure you check out Teaching and Tapas' TpT store for her close reading passages!!





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