Adventures in Literacy Land: Close Reading

Showing posts with label Close Reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Close Reading. Show all posts

Setting Up for Close Reading {and tons of FREEBIES!!}

Hello Everyone!

 Laura here from Where the Magic Happens Blog.  A few weeks ago I was invited to present at the 2016 South Eastern Reading Recovery Conference in Myrtle Beach. I was actually invited by my favorite professor (and mentor) from grad school. To say that I was humbled and honored is an understatement.
I have HUGE respect for Reading Recovery teachers because they are the real deal.
They know the nitty- gritty.
The understand the reading and writing process better than anybody else.
Every single RR teacher that I have ever met radiates knowledge and wisdom.

So my initial thoughts were:
What do I have to offer to such a knowledgeable crowd?
What will I share with them if they already know it all?

Close reading. Yes, that was my topic.

Anyhow, one of the most recurring  questions in my sessions had to do with the things that I do to set up close reading routines with my firsties.
Well  let me ya...
According to  Fisher & Frey:
Close reading  is purposeful, and careful  repeated readings of a complex text.
As a result, it is important to remember:
Close Reading is challenging. As a teacher you need be able to model and show your students the differences with guided reading.

The very first time I attempted  close reading with my firsties, one of my sweet students told me that close reading is like peeling an onion because you uncover layers and layers.

Genius! Truly genius!

My wheels were turning.

Then, my sweet teacher friend Krystal from next door also mentioned that she had seen something similar on Pinterest where a teacher used an Oreo cookie to introduce close reading to her students.

 The wheels kept on turning. Then I figured I would do this:

Of course I thought about this like at 9:30 at night when I was taking a bath with calming oils.
I usually keep tangerines in my house for me and  my boys, but I was out. People at my school may have thought that I was going coo-coo when they received my text messages asking if they had tangerine oranges in their homes. My beautiful and stylish literacy coach even offered to stop by the grocery store to get fruit. So sweet. I ended up going to the closest Harris Teeter before school and I purchased a big bag of  "cuties."

But why a tangerine? And what does a tangerine have to do with the phases of close reading?

Let me begin by  showing you the phases of a close read:

Some researchers may use terms like cold read, hot read, or warm read to name the phases of close reading.
I particularly like how Fisher & Frey "spell out" the phases of a close read.

For stage one or "what does the text say" I took the tangerine out and asked the children questions like:
What is this?
What do you see?
And others that I don't quite recall at this moment.  I have reached  and age in which I forget a lot of things. You just cannot tell because I use really good skincare
Each pair of students got to hold one tangerine. After I asked each question, I gave my firsties 30 seconds to do a "think-pair-share." What is important to consider here is how all the questions are grounded on the  things that we can "see"  about the tangerine, just like the questions of a first read in a  close reading.

For stage two or "how does the text work" I asked my students to get the tangerine ready to eat. They had to peel it, get the pieces ready, and some of them even had to take some of those white strings off.
I asked questions like:
What would happen if you didn't peel your tangerine?
Why do we have to pull the little pieces apart?
What are your observations?
Just like in the second read where we discuss vocabulary, author's purpose, and my favorite: text structure.

For stage three or "what does the text mean" I asked the pairs to eat their tangerine. I asked them questions related to their thoughts about the tangerine:
What did it taste like and why?
For example.

For stage four or "what does the ext inspire you to do" I asked for their personal opinion about the tangerine using evidence from their experience.

Pretty neat. Kids loved it and made true connections to our goal: understanding the phases of close reading

But why going to all the trouble about finding tangerines for this activity in the middle of the night?
Very simple:

A couple of years ago I  decided that I was going to start a vegetable garden.  I bought books,  seeds, Honey Graham built two raised beds, and he ordered some manure enriched soil. This was close to our anniversary, so when my mom asked what gift I had received, I openly told her that he had given me a pile of sh.
Here I am with all this stuff in front of me and no tools. Not. A. Single. One.
Not a little shovel, nothing.
I had to go and find some little plastic shovels out of the boys' beach toys pile.
So what if I had done this wonderful tangerine lesson and my firsties had no idea what to do when I asked them to read closely.
Well first, let me tell you:
In the primary classroom, a close reading MUST be guided by the teacher the whole time. There is no sit over there with this paper and answer these questions. That is NOT a close read. I would call that a worksheet.
Isn't  our job to prepare kids for anything? Aren't we supposed to give them the tools to do so?

Well... same thing with a close read.

What is inside this jar?

  • Three markers: each marker is for the first three phases of a close read. I put these labels on each of the markers so the kids know what to do and when.

I am so sorry I do not have pictures of the labeled markers.

You may download this set of labels by clicking HERE!!! the labels are Avery 5160.

There is also a cool pencil, a cool eraser, and these bookmarks:

Yes! These three think marks are what research considers appropriate for a close read. You can download them by clicking on the picture

 These are the labels that you can put on the jars. You can get them by clicking HERE!
Oh, BTW... the jars came from Oriental Trading Company.

Oh anchor charts and Thinking Maps... how I love you so.
I am going to let these pictures of this anchor chart speak for themselves.

I am an anchor chart aficionado.  In my experience, they offer an opportunity for my students to process deeply when they are offered as an initial experience.

 In case you are interested, you can stop by my TPT store and check out  my close reading packs.
I hope that you have found these tips useful and they can help you set up classroom routines for your students.
Until next time!


Close Reading ~ What is it?

Hello everyone!

This  is Laura from Where the Magic Happens  and this is my first time blogging with this great crew! I have  been crazy busy at school and have had a million things going on!
Anyhow, I have been reading and reflecting A LOT about how to transform my literacy teaching  in this era of higher standards.  For about a year I have been a close reading groupie enthusiast.  There is so much literature out there and so many materials that, I did not know what to read or where to begin. I am so lucky to have my BFF Marie from The Literacy Spot… she always recommends the best reads.   My Amazon wish-list is about to pop!


So really what in the world is close reading?

According to Fisher and Frey, close reading is:

“an instructional routine in which students are guided in their understanding of complex texts.”  Basically, close reading is a component of dynamic reading instruction where students:
  • Read strategically
  • Interact with the text
  • Reread to uncover layers of meaning that lead to deeper understanding
  • Analyze multiple component of the text and illustrations
  • Focus on the author’s message
These are some of the most important things that I have learned about close reading:
  • Not all texts deserve a close reading
  • Close reading is also not necessary when the text is fairly accessible. In other words,  when choosing texts for close reading… you want to pick a text that do not give up their meaning easily or quickly.
  • Close reading is MORE than a worksheet!!! Our students need to interact with their peers and their teachers using academic language and  argumentation skills as they discuss the text.
  • Close reading is not one-and-done reading! Rather, it is purposeful, careful, and thoughtful.
And honestly, I could go on and on…


I really could give you a million reasons.

Close reading is not to be confused with guided reading. They are two extremely important instructional approaches that must be part of your balanced literacy.  Close reading  is not exclusively about eyes on print or reading accurately. In close reading we seek to explore the comprehension of ideas and structures more deeply. In other words, there will be times (especially during the first read) that my students will read, but some texts demand to be heard  and read aloud – poems are a good example.
These are some of the benefits of close reading:
  • It leads students on a cognitive path that begins with discovering the literal meaning of a text and ends with the exploration of deeper meaning and  a plan of what should occur as a result of the reading.
  • Close reading will help our students understand the mechanics of a text, especially vocabulary, text structure, and the author’s craft.
  • Close reading will require that all students cite textual evidence in their products. 
These are some of the differences between close reading in the primary and upper elementary grades:




If you are thinking that a close read is an easy task for the teacher… then you might be like Santa Claus in the month of August.
Close reads are divided into four different phases:
  • What does the text say? (general understanding and key details)
  • How does the text work? (vocabulary, structure, author’s craft)
  • What does the text mean? (author’s purpose)
  • What does the text inspire you to do? (extended thinking)
These four phases provide our students to explore, practice, review, and navigate through literary and informational text-dependent questions. {Hello again mCLASS!} Text-dependent questions drive close reading!

You go right ahead and download this evidence based terminology poster to use during your close reading time! {click on picture!!}

And just in case you are wondering, this is what Fisher & Frey recommend as the best think marks for close reading based on their research.


Don't forget to enter our huge birthday giveaway!  You don't want to miss it! Enter below using the Rafflecopter.
Until next time!


3 Easy Ideas to Boost Engagement during Guided Reading

Two years ago this month a group of passionate literacy teachers came together to launch Adventures in Literacy Land.  Our intention was to share ideas with each other and with you, our readers, so that we could learn and grow professionally.

To celebrate our blogging birthday, we will be reintroducing ourselves and sharing a few literacy tips in our areas of interest.  Then, we'll be wrapping up the month with a Big Birthday Giveaway.  Be sure to stop back and enter!

Here's a little bit about me...

I've been teaching for over 20 years, yikes! That makes me (a very young at heart) forty-something. Although I've taught many different grade levels, I'll always consider myself a first grade teacher since most of my years were spent there. However, several years ago I accepted a position as a reading specialist, doing what I love best, teaching children to read. :)

Here's a little bit about my area of interest...

I've always been especially fond of the time I share with students in a small group setting teaching guided reading.  So today I thought I would share a few of my favorite ways to boost student engagement during guided reading.

1.  Brighten Up Your Picture Walks 

Take a picture walk to search for tricky words and preview important vocabulary with these mini-flashlights.  You'll see students' faces light up when you hand them this 'reading' tool!

2.  Replace Lined Notebook Paper with Novelty Notepads

If you are like me, you have a basket full of notepads and sticky notes.  I use them during guided reading lessons to spark a little enthusiasm for writing.  We complete word work activities and written responses on these fun notepads.

(The problem/solution tablet shown in the last frame is from Primary Paradise and will be glued into our interactive notebooks when complete.)

3.  Add Pizazz to Close Reading

Many of my developing readers tend to shut down when reading activities require stamina and deep thinking.  For close reading, we break down the tasks and work through them one step at a time.

The Sticky Note Jot Spots from One Extra Degree are great for digging deeper into the meaning of text.  Students use the bookmarks as a reminder of what they are 'digging' for, then they jot down their thinking on stickies.

I can't tell you how much students look forward to using the highlighters pictured above while they read.  Each color has a different purpose.  You can print the labels for yourself at First Grade Bangs. (The Koala passage is from Mrs. Thompson's Treasures.)
Thanks for celebrating Literacy Land's second birthday with us!  I hope you found a tip or two that you can use with your readers.  Stop back again soon!


Have you Fallen in Love with Close Reading?

Hello Lit Land Readers!  I hope you're enjoying a happy Sunday, but if you're like me, you are most likely chained to your laptop today to fine tune your plans for the week. I'm here today from my home blog, Comprehension Connection, to gather and share my thoughts on Close Reading. In a few weeks, I am presenting a workshop for the staff at my school, so putting together this blog post will hopefully help me narrow down the important points I need to and want to share.

Last spring, Chris Lehman, author of the book, Falling in Love with Close Reading, presented at the Virginia State Reading Association conference which I attended. At the time, Close Reading was certainly becoming the rage in reading instruction, and although I'd read blog posts and purchased materials to use with my students, I wanted to know more.  Of course, I left with his book and a clearer picture of what I needed to do and how.
According to Chris, Close Reading is "making careful observations of something and then developing interpretations from those observations. In other words, we stop to look carefully at choices an author (or painter or musician or director or architect) has made, and then develop ideas from what we have noticed." In other words, students read with different lenses to match the purpose we give them and observe text evidence to fit that designated purpose. Readers use the Close Reading strategy to meet the expectations we set, and then, expand upon those observations by connecting to other texts, synthesizing the information for deeper meaning, and analyzing the author's style and word choice for example by citing the text evidence. Children need to see how the information they read connects to build the full meaning.

We want our readers to be strategic in their reading and thinking. We want them to observe the author's use of language to convey meaning and apply that learning in their own work.  I tell my students all the time that reading and writing go hand-in-hand. When I share a read aloud with them to introduce a new writing assignment, I'm not simply reading the book. We are ANALYZING the author's craft to apply it to our own writing ideas. The best way to become a strong writer is to read strong writing that is filled with vivid vocabulary, includes varied sentence length and type, that's well organized, and that shares a strong message or idea.  

As students work with the Close Reading strategy, their level of understanding improves.  With the first reading, I see my students navigate through the decoding process with some of the vocabulary, get the gist of the reading, and observe basic information with a pencil in hand to mark it.  They scratch the surface. With the second and third visits to the text, we hone in on specific skills, record annotations in the margins of the evidence that proves our thinking and that match the assigned purpose, and share our learning and opinions with one another.  It is through group discussions that we quickly see the depths of understanding our students have achieved.

Close Reading is a strategy that can be used with all sorts of text types, so don't confine it's practicality to just short fiction and nonfiction stories.  It works well with video clips, song lyrics, poetry, television ads, and movies. Students in middle school and high school have a need to talk and crave controversy.  Chris gives examples of how we as teachers can capitalize on that energy in studying point of view, argument, and text structure across multiple texts. Although Chris recommends Close Reading for grades 5-8, I believe this gives evidence of how the strategy can be used with younger students as well.  We can use Close Reading with poetry as we think about the author's choice of words and use of rhythm and rhyme, with class read alouds or youtube showings of a story, and with songs...even in kindergarten.  You see, kinders love to talk too, and they can be very observant. If you decide to wear one red sock and one blue, I would place a strong bet that you wouldn't make it through the day without your kinders telling you.

With all of this in mind, there is a routine that is used with Close Reading. Chris talks at length about what Close Reading is and is not, so be sure to use the term accurately. It is not answering the ol' textbook questions, listening to a read aloud, doing book reports, jotting post its (unless it's for a specific piece of evidence from the text), or filling out a worksheet. It is a strategic method of looking at and using text. It is about the interactions between reader and text, the ideas drawn from the reading, and the conclusions made. Here are the general steps I use when doing a Close Read with my students.

First Reading-Lenses
Ø Briefly assess schema for the text.
Ø Set the purpose for the reading lesson. Tell your students the text evidence they are to record.
Ø Keep each student actively engaged with the text by questioning their thinking. Flush out confusions and help the student clarify the meaning.
Ø Allow time for discussion and debriefing about the reading afterwards.  Students need to share their observations and respond to each other.  

Second Reading-Patterns
Ø Review previous observations briefly.
Ø Set a new purpose for the reading lesson. During the second reading, students begin to rank the importance of text information and observe how ideas are connected.
Ø Read and record new evidence to match the purpose.  (and improve reading fluency).
Ø After reading is completed, the response is the best assessment of understanding.  Students need to independently record their thinking and share it for clarification. 

Third Reading-Ideas
ØSet a new purpose for the reading lesson. During the last reading, students use high level thinking skills and observation to analyze the ideas shared.
ØReread all or part of the text to gather ideas.
ØAfter reading is completed, students respond with their learning via a written prompt or through discuss about their learning.
Lesson Example
I am sharing a sample lesson today with this post to show how I work with my students with a Close Read.  To begin, I use a before/during/after approach with every lesson, and Close Reading is no exception.  I build schema for the reading with my students typically with an organizer, anchor chart, or response form of some sort and a key question for them.  For this lesson, I plan to begin with a Penguins Tree Map for brainstorming prior knowledge followed by our first read.  During the first read, students are asked to find penguin characteristics.

On day 2, we will read to respond to the Four Squaring Thinking organizer. 
On the final day, students may reread the full article, but with the final day, the focus is using the information gathered to develop a writing plan that uses the information.  Students will explain how they'd use the information to protect endangered penguins.  

To download the Close Reading set I made, just click the collage below, and remember, throughout the process to talk less and observe your students' thinking.  

Have a wonderful Sunday, and now...I'm off to get my own plans done. Until next time..