Thursday, February 20, 2014

Close Read or Reading Closely

Close reading has become a staple in reading instruction throughout New York's public schools...most likely even across the entire country.

I have been using this reading technique for the past two years. It involves digging deep into a passage and annotating the text.  

Although, I find this reading tool to be valuable, there are some drawbacks.  In a typical close reading lesson, students are asked to read the entire passage once independently.  Then, a teacher reads the entire text aloud, and finally the students read the passage independently again with a pencil.  The pencil is used to annotate portions of the text.  My findings are that this is a LONG process.  

Overkill = resistant, bored, disengaged children

The current close reading procedure doesn't lend itself to a timed, state assessment. The students need ample time to read and answer questions and to write an essay. So, why bother teaching a reading strategy that has limitations? 

Merging the close read with a timed reading assessment was my goal.  Basically, I needed to shed some time off of the practice of close reading, but still adhere its core structure.

The teacher reading the text out loud would certainly be removed.  The passages on the state assessments are not read aloud.  So, I was now down to two independent reads by the student. There also needs to be less annotating. The best bet for a timed test is to "label" or provide a title for each section/paragraph in an article. This technique makes it much easier when looking back to the text for specific information. If the paragraph is labeled, the students don't have to re-read the entire selection in an effort to find one supporting piece of evidence. 

The answer was simple, a "quick" close read. 

My class has been following this procedure for several months and it has been extremely beneficial. They are even using it on their own for other tasks.  It has become so internalized, that students are now using post-it notes to label textbook passages. 

I am planning on introducing more difficult text each week to assess how the quick close read will impact students when there is greater frustration.

Like most educational strategies, the close read must evolve.  Welcome to 21st century skills.


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