How can we ask our youngest students to closely read complex text if they are just beginning to learn how to read in the first place?
This may be a question that you are asking yourself. The Common Core makes it clear that focusing only on foundational reading skills is not sufficient. Literacy must be a dressed in a comprehensive manner. “If literacy levels are to improve, the aims of the English language arts classroom, especially in the earliest grades, must include oral language in a purposeful, systematic way, in part because it helps students master the printed word.” (CCSS Appendix A, p26). For this reason, Read Aloud texts play an important role in the elementary Common Core, especially in grades K-2.
“Once, oh small children round my knee, there were no stories on earth to hear. All the stories belonged to Nyame, the Sky God. He kept them in a golden box next to his royal stool.
Ananse, the Spider Man, wanted to buy the Sky God’s stories. So he spun a web up to the sky.
When the Sky God heard what Ananse wanted, he laughed: “Twe, twe, twe. The price of my stories is that you bring me Osebo the leopard of-the-terrible-teeth, Mmboro the hornet who-stings-like-fire, and Mmoatia the fairy whom- men-never-see.”
Ananse bowed and answered: “I shall gladly pay the price.”
“By reading a story or nonfiction selection aloud, teachers allow children to experience written language without the burden of decoding, granting them access to content that they may not be able to read and understand by themselves. Children are then free to focus their mental energy on the words and ideas presented in the text, and they will eventually be better prepared to tackle rich written content on their own.” (CCSS, Appendix A, p. 27).
Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, in their article, Close Reading in Elementary Schools, share several ideas of how to modify close reading for primary classrooms along with the reminder, “Close reading must be accompanied with other essential instructional practices that are vital to reading development: interactive read-alouds and shared readings, teacher modeling, and think-alouds.”
Thus while students are learning to read through decodable text, they can also be working on the critical thinking and reading comprehension skills that a skilled reader needs through close listening.
PSESD will be offering a one day workshop for PreK-2nd grade teachers focused on Text Complexity and Close Reading/Close Listening Monday, January 27, 2013 from 8:30-3:30. Cost is $100 and includes lunch. For more information and to register click here.