Close Reading in Practice

This is from the cover of the resource suggested to me by Ben Baptiste.

This is from the cover of the resource suggested to me by Ben Baptiste.

Ben Baptiste practiced close reading with his students this week and invited me into his classroom.  It was a good experience for us both to become more familiar with the process, and I am looking forward to trying it again next week with Jillian Walters.

A couple of things he and I determined through the experience were that it seemed important for the reading to be fairly short given the number of readings and that peer sharing lead to better responses.

Here is a general outline for the close reading strategy with some variations he and I discussed and/or tried in the classroom:

1.    First reading aloud together while underlining sentences deemed important by students

2.  Pair students to collaborate on a single, one-sentence “gist” statement before sharing answers aloud as a class

3.  Second reading silently while students circle unknown words and write down what they guess the word might mean based on the context

4.  All students write the words they did not know on the white board; if a student sees the words they had are already written, they put a check mark next to them

5.  High frequency words are discussed as a class, and students share guesses as to what each might mean while the teacher prompts them for context clues along the way (Ex: what in the sentence made you think the meaning was…?)

6.  Third Reading students answer text-dependent questions in pairs or individually and share out answers.  This could also be split into an additional fourth reading following the same process as the third.  If split up this way, maybe the first set of questions would be lower-level comprehension questions and the second set might be higher level analytical or inference questions. 

Inference and other types of higher level thinking questions were a strength of Ben’s.  In particular, he asked a great question about the effect of the author’s use of the “dash” in the article which sparked an interesting conversation about punctuation for effect in writing between the two of us.

He also mentioned a resource while I was visiting that prompted the text-dependent question and seemed very well aligned with our current literacy/close reading push.  It is called The Art of Slow Reading, and he assigns it to his AP students.  I also found a Washington Post article by the author called “Reading is not a Race: The Virtues of the Slow Reading Movement.”

Here is the handout Ben used for his close reading: Close Reading activity – Facebook Friends article (Henig)

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