Note: This is the first post in a series which takes a look at implementation of Close Reading, authored by Heath Kelley
Close reading has been a buzzword since the Common Core standards initiative was enacted. So what exactly is it? Depending on who you ask, you may get a slightly different answer. I would like to share with you what I have learned about what it really means and why it’s a worthy goal for DMS.
Where did the term “close reading” come from?
Dave Stuart Jr. in his article, “Moving Forward with Close Reading” explains that close reading stems from ELA college and career readiness anchor standard 1:
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
An added dimension is the standards’ emphasis on using complex text (see Appendix A). This combination requires that students develop skills to re-read and be able to break down layers of a text.
Christopher Leyman in his blog post “What #CloseReading Isn’t (Or At Least Shouldn’t Be)” gives a definition of close reading to be the following:
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.
Close reading is about slowing students down to “smell the roses” and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for life. This can happen in any content area. Students can closely read artwork, historical artifacts, an experiment, a math task, or the lyrics of a song. It is important to note that not every text is worthy of close reading. The text should have layers of meaning and complexity that require multiple readings.
Training Students to Go Beneath the Surface
Closely reading a text is not a new instructional practice. In an article published in the January 2013 issue of Principal Leadership, Fisher and Frey contend that teachers have closely studied complex text for many years. However, teachers have traditionally asked questions that have focused students attention away from what the text actually means, questions that can be answered without the need for close examination. Teachers have also moved on past a text quickly without re-reading. Thus, students miss the depth that is hidden within the text.
On their own, students do not yet have the habits of mind to break down the text and get to these deeper layers. Students must slow down and wrestle with the meaning of text through annotation, rereading, and text-dependent processing tasks.
By setting students up for inquiry and designing tasks that train them to think carefully about the text, they will be in a position to grow - both as a reader and as a person.
What about you? What have you learned about what it means to closely read? In your own life, what texts have you read closely? What did you gain from the experience?
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