I’ve recently spent a good deal of time diving deep into the strategy of close reading; analyzing various thoughts and experiences from literacy experts from around the country. I’ve learned that close reading is an instructional strategy that helps teach students how to make meaning of a complex text. I’ve learned that it is an approach that allows students to move past surface-level understanding and begin to unearth deeper levels of meaning within worthy literature. And, thanks to Timothy Shanahan, I’ve learned a process in which to approach close reading with students, that aligns seamlessly to the progression found within Common Core English Language Arts standards.
What Does it Say?
Each time my students interact with a complex text, we set a purpose for reading. The first pass through is to gain a general sense or idea of what the text is mostly about. Sometimes they’re writing gist notes, they might be underlining or highlighting unknown or important words, and they’re often flagging details that help them determine meaning with their evidence flags (i.e. post it notes that have been cut into strips).
How Does it Say It?
The next time my students interact with a complex text, they have a different purpose for reading. With a general understanding of the flow of the text along with a grasp of what the text says, they begin to dig a little deeper to uncover what specific strategies or literary devices the author included to make the text more interesting or worthy. They zoom in to powerful vocabulary and word choice, they begin to analyze the structure and organizational patterns of the text, and start to think about the author who wrote it; what might have been their purpose?
What Does this Mean to Me?
When my students have a sturdy grasp on what the text says (key ideas and details) and how it says it (craft and structure), it’s time to answer the, “so what?” Why does this text matter and what can it teach us about ourselves, others, and the world around us? What can this text teach us about other texts that we’ve read; can it help us understand them better or gain further meaning? Was this a valuable and worthy text in which opinions and/or ideas were presented thoughtfully and effectively and if so (or if not) how do we know?
Hopefully the connection I tried to illustrate is clear. Close reading is so intentionally and seamlessly related to the learning standards that we have for our students in the area of English Language Arts. Know that I wasn’t even aware of this explicit connection until I began to immerse myself in the close reading experiences of other teachers and literacy researchers.
How do you approach close reading in your classroom? Does it vary from the process outlined above? Share in the comments below!