Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Close Reading = Questioning for Deeper Understanding

I've been wanting to write about close reading for awhile now. I'm fascinated about how it is such a hot topic, when I thought I was doing close reading all along for 20 years. How is it new, or is it? I've also been dealing with the nagging question of whether I WAS actually doing it.

So what is new about it? It's all about the shift in how we teach, and how we can teach it better. It's how we emphasize our lessons...and due to the new shifts in the Common Core, we need to look at how we teach from a different angle...a more rigorous one.

Like so many teachers I know, I have always aimed at getting kids to dig into the why's and how's in reading; not just the what's. But it seems that even the how's and why's are not the kind of targeted questions we need to be asking....they are merely open-ended questions, which are wonderful--but they aren't enough. It is easy to get into those questions that encourage kids to rely too heavily on their own experiences, and not enough about the text. (Text-to-self responses are important too, but there's a tendency to over-rely on them.) So the author suggests that teachers create questions more specific to the text. Get away from the ho-hum questions.

Another point Boyles discusses is how we should use shorter texts for close reads...Do we really need long passages to teach our students how to read for deeper meaning?

We need to get kids trained to ask questions about their own reading. So, close reading is more than just the teacher asking good questions. Most of us have been doing that all along. But according to Boyles, it's time to teach our kids how to create their own questions. I think that I've made valiant attempts at close reading, but I have not taught them well enough so that they are proficient at generating their own questions about the text. So, I've got some work ahead... Maybe I'll start with an anchor chart as a springboard for questioning text. For a closer look at this topic, check out the article by Nancy Boyles here: Closing in on Close Reading from ASCD.org

Here's a great video of a close reading. Note how engaged the kids are as they do a read-aloud from Gorillas, by Seymour Simon. See the youtube clip below, or click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nznO1BMtahw