#CloseReading Blog-a-thon Post #1 response: Thinking about my goals for close reading this year

When Chris Lehman first tweeted the news of a close reading blog-a-thon, I instantly knew that I’d want to find a way to tune in and participate…even though it would coincide with the first mad cap weeks of the school year, when long days blend together in a blur of getting-things-ready-getting-things-going.  Why was I so intent? Because I had just spent a week learning with Chris at the August Writing Institute, and I  knew that I would learn a lot – through him, and through Kate Roberts, and through all the educators who would be participating, too.  Sadly, I’m a few days late to the show on account of said first week of school – but it’s never too late.
Here’s how the blog-a-thon works, via Chris’ invitation:
Welcome to the first post in our 7-week blog-a-thon on #closereading. We invite YOU to join in! Find more on how-to here. Several selected posts will be linked to on the Contributors page. Let’s closely read the practice of close reading together!

And here are my thoughts:

I loved the clarity of the way Chris defined close reading:

Close reading is when a reader independently stops at moments in a text (or media or life) to reread and observe the choices an author has made. He or she reflects on those observations to reach for new understandings that can color the way the rest of the book is read (or song heard or life lived) and 
thought about. 

I needed to read this, because I fear that this new school year is going to bring a slew of purveyors of close reading curricular materials, each filled with graphic organizers and weird text choices and designed to kill any love of reading I may be able to nourish in my kiddos.   I need a clear understanding of what close reading should be in my classroom: a learned habit of being able to identify and return to key passages in a text which adds meaning and purpose to the book, poem, etc. as a whole.    The five underlined words in the above definition act as anchors to the process, I think  – especially the first one: independence.  I don’t want close reading to be a teacher driven endeavor in my classroom – I’d rather it was a habit we learn to cultivate because we know that this is how readers make meaning of the text.  

I spent a great deat of time this summer reading  Notice and Note: Strategies For Close Reading, by Kylene Beers  and Robert Probst, in an effort to figure out how we would be reading closely in Room 202.  Early in the book, the authors cautioned: “…we worry that a focus on text-dependent qustions may create a nation of teacher-dependent kids.  Text-dependent questions usually suggest that a teacher has crafted the questions and the order of them to lead students to a predetermined meaning of a particular passage.  With this understanding of text dependent questions, students come to rely on the teacher to ask questions.”   Cue my vision of curricular materials being purchased to “help” us teach close reading…yuck!!   So, if this is what I want close reading NOT to look like, what is my vision for the year ahead? 

  • I hope we learn how to identify passages within a text that bear re-examining.  I know that this will take modeling and working through together as a class, and that I will need to choose mentor texts carefully.  I need to be deliberate in the way I model close reading strategies – my students need to see the value in this process.
  • I hope we learn that close reading is not something we reserve for reading workshop, but bring to bear upon our reading in general – in all the content areas.  
  • I hope that I can plan my teaching year so that there is a gradual release of responsibility with the ultimate goal of independence and automaticity: can I observe my students making a habit of pausing to re examine text, and to indicate how this close reading enhanced their experience of the text as a whole?
I’m looking forward to going back and reading what everyone else has had to share – how marvelous that we can learn from each other!
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