With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical subjects teachers are being asked to shift their instruction to provide regular practice with complex text and its academic language.
One way of supporting students in this endeavor is through close reading. Tim Shanahan is quick to say close reading is not a teaching technique, but rather “a sophisticated and powerful way of reading.” It is the outcome of applying one’s knowledge of language structures to the analysis of a text in order to better understand the meaning of a text.
Chris Lehman defines close reading this way, ”Close reading is when a reader independently stops at moments in a text (or media or life) to reread and observe the choices an author has made. He or she reflects on those observations to reach for new understandings that can color the way the rest of the book is read (or song heard or life lived) and thought about
Of course not every text warrants a close read, but for those that do, Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey have identified six features of successful close reading lessons.
1. Short Passages
2. Complex Texts
3. Limited Frontloading
4. Repeated Readings
5. Text-Dependent Questions
Throughout the course of the close reading lessons it is helpful to keep these three overarching questions in mind; What does the text say? How does the text work? and What does it mean?
There are a variety of reading and questioning strategies that support the work of close reading and it is important to remember that close reading looks different across disciplines and grade levels.
Here is one video of how a fifth grade teacher uses close reading of an informational text to support deepening his students’ social studies content knowledge.
This year Puget sound ESD will be offering two workshops focusing on Text Complexity and Close Reading strategies specifically for Elementary Teachers. The first is on November 18 and is for 2nd -8th grade teachers (Register here). A second class will be focusing on strategies for K-2 teachers as they support their students in Learning to Read Closely. This class will be offered on January 27 and repeated on April 30. All classes are $100, include lunch and will offer 5.5 clock hours.