Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Classroom Close Reading Starts

I've begun to think about close reading strategies in earnest as I teach my students this year.  I've heard a bit about the topic, and I've had to do a lot of close reading throughout my life for a large variety of reasons. Hence I'll combine my experience to date, classroom teaching, and regular research and reading to grow this practice throughout the year.

First, why is close reading important to teach. As I told my students today, there are many strategies that can help one to understand complex text, and if we understand how to read and understand complex text, we won't be tricked or left in the dark about subjects--we'll be in the know, and that's an important place to be for many reasons in life, reasons related to money, work, law and more.

With this in mind, we started the year learning about pre-reading strategies and the purpose of pre-reading. Yes, I realize that some close reading experts don't want to spend much time with "pre-reading," but we all know that pre-reading strategies set the stage for purposeful, efficient, and targeted reading.

Hence we took some time to answer these questions related to the selected text:

Purpose: Why are we reading this text?
The text was selected to teach us more about the five senses, senses we'll use as naturalists during our upcoming field trip to the farm.

Prior-Knowledge: What do we already know about the topic? What do we want to know?
Listing prior-knowledge and questions wakes up the brain and helps us to make connections to the new information.

Preview: Take a look at text structure and the author's intent by looking at titles, subtitles, illustrations, diagrams, length, and organization.
We learned how the author structured the text sense by sense.  We noticed diagrams and illustrations to make the information easier to understand.  We noticed there was a subtitle for each section.

Predict: What do we expect to learn from this text?
We made the prediction that the text would teach us how our senses work.

Plan: What's the best way to read the text?
We made many decisions about this including the following:
  • Read slow enough to see a picture in your mind.
  • Circle unknown words and try to figure them out by using the following strategies:
    • Read the whole sentence or section to figure out what the word might mean
    • Look for little words in the word to figure out the meaning.
    • Use the diagrams and illustrations to help you figure out the words. 
    • Consult a dictionary or ask a teacher if you're able.
  • Underline key information, information that matches our purpose.
  • Write questions and draw pictures in the margins as a way of having a "conversation" with the text.
  • "Chunk it" as Bill Belichick suggests the Patriots do at each game. We decided it was best to chunk it sense by sense.  Then after reading each "chunk" write a short summary including questions if you have any.
Since I started using the 5 P's of pre-reading for my own reading, I've been much more efficient, targeted and successful with my research.  Tomorrow students will have a chance to read the material with like-ability partners.  They'll follow the plan we set and answer a few questions at the end of the text.  

This is simply step one of our year's close reading activity.  I look forward to learning from my PLN and research about other ways to teach and facilitate practice of this important skill.