Close Reading Introductions

Here is the step-by-step I took to get the students ready to do Close Reading (semi-)independently:

1. We developed Annotation Marks together in order to focus on main idea. We read two stories ("Slower Than the Rest" and "Boar Out There" by Cynthia Rylant, Every Living Thing).

2. We took notes on Close Reading. (Our definition was something like "re-reading a text mulitple times with a purpose.")

3. We read "Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros:

a. 1st reading: Main Idea/Gist - We read the text using our Annotation Marks and finished by writing a 20-Word Gist Statement

b. 2nd reading: Figurative Language - First we took notes on what to look for then read the text with our detective ears listening. We finised by writing an "Author's Craft" response responding to an example of Figurative Language (our focus was on similes and metaphors) in which students explained what the author was trying to say by using those words.

c. 3rd reading: Theme - First we took notes on what to look for, determined the Theme (something like "The theme of "Eleven" is that growing up can be difficult sometimes."), and the students scanned the text with a partner to find examples.

4. We read "My Name" by Sandra Cisneros:

This Close Reading followed the same pattern as the one above, but the students did the work independently while I checked in with them.

5. I read aloud "In My Heart" by Jo Witek:

Since they could write their Annotation Marks in the book, we discussed them as I read. They chose the "feeling" they liked best and did the second reading on their own. Finally, we compared "In My Heart" and "Eleven" (there is a parallel between how the author describes her feelings in "In My Heart" and growing up in "Eleven").

I'M WORN OUT! Are you?

Here's the reality:

1. My sixth graders, who are moving at the fastest pace through the work (because they are able to do more independently) have taken about a month to get through all of this (that's 4 texts for close reading and 1 quick read aloud at the end). It's a lot, but I think the benefits are there. In fact, when their homeroom teacher started talking about Close Reading earlier this week, they all raised their hands excitedly because they knew exactly how to do it!

2. We're doing Close Reading in texts that are far longer than an expert would likely recommend. Usually, the idea is to focus in on a particular paragraph. The problem with that in my situation is that my students really struggle to understand the text as a whole, so my thought it that they are digging deep into an author and a style. HOWEVER, I can see, in the future, doing a Close Reading of a paragraph or two from the focus text before reading the whole piece. We would certainly move more quickly and they would still get the chance to explore finding evidence.

3. They don't always "get it." It's important that they get exposed to literature like this where what is written isn't always exactly what is happening in the story (LOTS of Figurative Language), but I find myself struggling with whether I'm giving them answers, helping them to pick out clues, or letting them find it on their own. I've worked hard to let the students guide the way, but it is difficult when they are struggling just to determine what has ACTUALLY happened.

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