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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tried It Tuesday {Close Reading}

I can barely believe that it is already November!  Wow!!  As I know you can all relate, life has been so busy lately and I have been struggling to stay afloat with school, family, blogging, and sleep!  I am finally getting past my cold/sinus infection (although I still can't belt out notes in the car to my favorite songs!). It hung on for over a month and this past week my body told me to get more than my normal 4-5 hours of sleep a night.  Halloween week is always tiring with school and my own kids.  To top it off, the hubbie was out of town last week for three days for a work conference!  It is amazing how much a difference that makes with even just taking care of the day to day chores, two kids, and two dogs.  Whew!  
My Tried It:
Close Reading

Last year, close reading was starting to become the "buzz word" in my neck of the woods.  I am not sure if other areas had been using this strategy specifically called "close reading" longer, but I didn't explore it until last year.  To be honest, I was skeptical at first.  Some of the materials and lessons about close reading seemed SO dry and it seemed like I was beating a text to death!  This summer, I spent more time researching close reading and came across this website:
Teaching the Core blog post Part 3: Close Reading
I have tweaked close reading to fit my teaching style and took many pointers from the website above.  Here are some of the highlights from the post that really helped me:

So what is close reading?

If you came into our classes and asked our students what close reading is, what they’d probably describe is something that can be boiled down to this: the careful interpretation of a text wherein which readers pay close attention to the way ideas unfold as they read. Often, this involves annotating texts for the sake of slowing ourselves down and recording our thinking so that we can do cool stuff with what you read.
  • close reading slows us down and allows us to interpret difficult passages;
  • it keeps us focused on our purpose for reading (e.g., finding a claim to argue with);
  • it leaves us “bread crumbs” with which we can find our way back to our thinking later on, like when we’ve got to write a paper or prepare for a discussion.
For any close reading, it is helpful to consider the following components:
    • Introduce complex vocabulary
    • Establish a purpose
    • Model higher-order reading/thinking
    • Partner practice
    • Check for understanding
    • Independent practice

Check out the post for a lot more information and links to a variety of sources.

We have been reading Love That Dog in my three ELA classes and working on a poetry unit.  The students really love this unit!  If you are not familiar with this book, my BBB, Jivey, at Ideas by Jivey blogged about it for the mentor text linkup on Sunday here.

This is my copy of the book and each student has their own copy to use while we read the book.  We have a great multi-copies library to borrow from.  The sticky note marks the section in the back of the book where there are the poems that Miss Stretchberry refers to in class.

One of the poems is "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost.
 We did a close reading of the poem in small groups.
The reading specialist took a group of 3-4 students and I took a group of 3-4 students while the rest of the students were at word work or work on writing.  Then, we switched and finished the remainder of the class.  I liked having a small group for the close reading because it really gave each student a chance to participate and we found out so much more about their thinking.  I had two students in completely different groups tell me that the poem was about Jack Frost (they were stuck on the author's name, Robert Frost and the fact that the poem had snow in it).  Another student was convinced it was about Santa Claus because the harness bells rang and he "had promises to keep".  This provided a great teaching moment where we could discuss what clues tell us that the poem is not about Jack Frost or Santa Claus (horse, not reindeer; Santa usually travels in his sleigh in the air; no mention or suggestion of magical elements in the poem).  
Here is the poem as written in the back of the book.
After completing all the close reads, I read the poem as a book with illustrations to the class.
Here is a link to a free close reading printable poster on TPT.
Here are some resources that I have picked up recently on TPT for close reading:

Close Reading Figurative Language Stories by I'm Lovin' Lit (I have blogged about her interactive notebooks recently here and here!).

I would love to hear how you use close reading in your classrooms!  


  1. Close Reading is possibly the only way that I will be able to get through poetry. I do not care for poetry...at all. P.S. I am sorry for pickin' on you about the Bills. It will never happen again. Karma got me...bad. XOXOXO
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  2. Have you read Chris Lehman's book on Close Reading? I have heard it is really good. I just ordered it. There is a chat on Twitter about it coming up soon.

    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  3. I've used Close Reading several times in social studies for nonfiction texts - it's great to really get kids activating their own thinking. We've done a close reading on modern day Inuit and we have another one to do on the Civil Rights. I bought a Close Reading Kit from Teachers Pay Teachers during the "Big Sale" and it was worth the splurge. It had some great handouts and the kids loved the bookmarks... I'll have to try it with poetry this year. We won't get to love that dog until later in the year because of our new calendar. Right now, we're getting ready to start nonfiction :)

    Thanks for sharing the idea and the link to the cute poster :)
    My Shoe String Life

  4. I love this post, and the close reading poster. I recently came across a free resource on TPT that has students previewing text to prepare them for a close read.

    Check out the blog post here: http://sparkingthemind.blogspot.com/2013/11/thieves-close-reading-strategy.html

    Anyway...I will definately be downloading the poster! Thank you!

    Mind Sparks

  5. Thank you for all of this great info and the links. We have not been hit by the close reading movement yet - but I am sure it is coming - thanks for helping me get prepared!!

    1. And thanks for not taking my topic this week, two weeks in a row you totally stole my idea : )

  6. LOL we are sharing a braaaaaaaaaaaaaain!!!! :) :)

  7. I have tried Close Reading some, but I need to use it more.
    ~April Walker
    The Idea Backpack
    Balancing the Backpack