Friday, April 4, 2014

Read Closely

Standard 1 for reading requires us to teach students to "Read closely..."with all the attendant requisites and considerations. Standard 1 is a learning outcome for students, as are all of the standards. Standard 1 does not prescribe a specific set of steps to follow every time a person reads closely. Standard 1 begins with a verb (an action) and its modifier (an adverb) that tells us how that action is performed.

Now that teachers have digested the big shifts associated with the standards - build content knowledge, extract and employ evidence, and engage with complex texts and tasks, the questions I hear most often are regarding the instruction involved to teach students to read closely. So lets look at the ins and outs of reading closely.

What is it?
Reading closely is the purposeful reading and rereading of a particular text to mine evidence of as much information/meaning as possible from it. Complex, grade-level text is a requisite.  Text-dependent questions or prompts are requisite. Considerations include choosing engaging and authentic short texts and planning connections to other texts being examined or studied.

Why read closely (learn to read closely)?
Reading closely requires that the reader think about what the author is saying literally and what meaning the author is conveying. Regular practice with reading closely builds a habit of critical thinking that leads to thoughtful, critical analysis. Considerations include choices that are worthy of your time and attention as a teacher and as students who will spend considerable time and effort with the text. Students should understand that not every text is read closely. Only challenging texts are read closely.

How is it learned and taught?
Researchers working with practitioners - most notably Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey as well as Timothy Shanahan - have spent considerable time working with teachers and their students in order to provide information to the field. Standards 1 and 10 are always in play while the rest of the reading standards provide the various opportunities to develop the reasons for asking students to reread a text. Teachers must consider the text itself, the tasks that students will be asked to perform, and the particular purpose for choosing a text within the unit and/or the curriculum. Teachers are making the instructional decisions. Students are reading with a pencil. For each reading, they are marking the text to support the reason for the reading. The accumulation of the information gleaned is put to work for a final product or performance.

Who needs to read closely?
All students need to learn to read complex, grade-level text (Standard 10). It should go without saying that teachers will need to read and reread the texts that are chosen to be read closely. They will do so to consider which standards will dictate the text-dependent questions, how the students will annotate text for each read, and what kinds of student discourse will be used to support deeper learning of the text's meaning.

Requisites: short, worthy texts; text-dependent questions/prompts that reflect the standards; questions that build from the less to the more complex standards (Standards 2-9); several readings during one sitting; annotation of texts; opportunities for peer, academic discourse.

Considerations: students need to learn how to annotate text (Writing Standard 10); students need a structure for participating in discourse (Speaking and Listening Standard 1); students need to know what they are expected to do and why; texts that are authentic are more engaging; teachers will need to plan the differentiated strategies that will allow all students access to complex texts and the critical thinking involved.

Please look for help in the best places, not just anywhere. Some pretend experts are only adding to the confusion and frustration that some educators are experiencing. I highly recommend the following:

Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2012). Close reading in elementary schools. The Reading Teacher. V. 66 #3, pp. 179-188. Available at the IRA website if you are a member.
Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2013). Rigorous reading:5 access points for comprehending complex texts. Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin. This book has a professional learning guide, videos, and power point slides available to go with it.
Shanahan, Timothy. This site carries the blog of Timothy Shanahan who provides a very balanced and common sense approach to all things Common Core. You can sign up for regular installments of his blog.
Video. This clip provides one good example of a class involved in reading an authentic text closely.