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Brainy Apples: So You Decided to Give Close Reads a Try....Now What?
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So You Decided to Give Close Reads a Try....Now What?

I hope that after reading my last 2 posts about Close Reads (you can check them out here and here), or my initial post on ATUE that you can check out here, you are excited to implement Close Reads in your classroom. Last year when Close Reads was new to my colleagues and myself, we found ourselves wondering, "OK, so how do I get started?" There isn't a manual of how to implement Close Reads, so I began to play around with different strategies and techniques. What I am going to share with you all is what I found to work for me, and I shared with my colleagues and it also worked for some of them. A few colleagues varied up how they implement Close Reads, but the point is that you will have to just give it a try, take notes on what worked and what didn't work, and then tweak until you have found a fit that is perfect for you. I hope that I can give you a starting point at which to begin, so you aren't having to start from scratch, blindfolded in a dark room :)

The reason why I started hosting a monthly Close Reads linky party is because I want to help you implement Close Reads, and I also want to invite others who use Close Reads to share what has worked, and in some cases did not work, for them. True collaboration is how we all improve our instructional practices, and hosting linky parties allows educators from around the world to collaborate with one another. It is so exciting to think about! My Close Reads linky party will be held on the 18th of every month, so be sure to check back on that date to read up on Close Reads. I also provide a Close Reading Tip of the Day a couple of times a week on my Facebook page. These will help you on your journey of implementing Close Reads. You can click on my photo album to see previous tips in case you missed them.

In addition to my linky party, I will also be writing additional posts about Close Reads...including this one! So let's get on with it, shall we?!

So my last post was about Close Reads versus leveled reading groups. I firmly believe in incorporating BOTH into my classroom EVERY single day. You will have to make your own decision about where you stand on that line, but I am going to approach this post, and all future posts, from my belief that both should be done every day. And I should have included strategy groups in that post, too, because some days I meet with small groups based on their level, and other days I meet with small groups based on a strategy they need to practice. I should have called it small reading groups instead of leveled to include strategy-based groups. So, in my classroom, Close Reads and small reading groups makes an appearance every single day.

Getting Started
How Often and When?
I suggest begin implementing Close Reads with your entire class. This way you can lay the foundation of expectations and procedures of how you will do Close Reads as a whole group. When I first begin implementing Close Reads, I made my goal of doing Close Reads 3 times a week. I felt like that was manageable, so you will need to figure out how many times a week will be manageable for you. I aimed for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, during my science/social studies time. Why during that time block? I don't have a whole group reading block, and I teach reading skills during my science and social studies block, so it was easy for me to implement Close Reads during this time. You may have a whole group reading block, and that may be when you decide to start implementing Close Reads.

How Much Time Will It Take?
This will depend on the grade level you teach. When I worked with Kindergarten and first grade students, I aimed for about 15-20 minutes. Second grade was able to maintain focus for about 20-25 minutes. Third grade we worked for about 30 minutes. Fourth and fifth grade were able to work for about 40-45 minutes. The first few times we did a Close Read, I marked the start time, the time at which a few began to get squirmy, and then the end time of when I felt like students were ready to end for the day. Close Reading is very taxing! It requires a high level of thinking, and it is very draining on students. I found that when they began to get tired, it was best to wrap up for the day, even if we weren't finished, and then pick up where we left off on the next day a Close Read was scheduled. As we did more Close Reads, I found their stamina increased and we could actually do a Close Read for a longer period of time that we were able to at the beginning of the year. Pay close attention to how long your students are able to maintain their focus, and be sure to wrap up when they begin to show signs of fatigue. At the beginning it was hard to get through a Close Read lesson, and many times we had to wrap up before we were finished. But that is OK! As you do Close Reads with your students, you will begin to know how long you will be able to do a Close Read, and you will be able to plan accordingly. After my students were in the groove of Close Reads, most of the time we were able to finish the lesson I had planned. It just takes some trial and error at first.

What Will My Students Read?
This is something that only you can answer. It will totally depend on the purpose for your Close Read. I like to select a text that goes with our science or social studies topic...remember, I like to multi-task :)
I select texts from the school library, public library, my own personal library, Appendix B, DocsTeach, or another on-line source such as the Smithsonian Archives. Appendix B is a great place to start if you aren't sure what type of text to select. It is full of example text excerpts for a variety of grade levels. I started here until I was able to discern the type of text I wanted my students to read for a Close Read.
Once you are able to select your own texts, you are no longer bound by a reading program or basal series. It is very invigorating! Yes, it takes more time, but you are able to have your students read a text that you know is right for them, for the purpose you selected.

Does Each Student Need a Copy of the Text?
This varies in my classroom. Sometimes all my students have a copy of the actual book. Sometimes I run copies of the excerpt for my students on the copy machine. Sometimes I put a copy on the Smartboard so they can all see it. Sometimes I use a read-aloud. While I do want my students to refer to the text, I don't always make them go back and highlight their evidence. Sometimes I have them use sticky notes to annotate unless they can write on the text itself, sometimes I just make them orally share the evidence. I have found that variety is best because it allows them to share in a multitude of ways.

Quality vs. Quantity
Ah, the age old question of quality versus quantity. I am a quality gal all the way. I believe in using a shorter, meatier text excerpt over an entire book or chapter. I also believe in asking 2-3 deep questions over several shallow questions. You have to have a text excerpt you can really dig into, and you need to be able to have your students elaborate on their answers. If you try to cram too much in, you will rush and neither of these things will occur.

Evidence-Based Responses & Explaining Their Thinking
Notice how I used the word "responses" and not "answers"? You don't want students to answer the question, quote the evidence from the text, and then just move on to the next question. This isn't diving deep. What you want is students to share a well-thought out response citing evidence from the text and explaining how they came to that conclusion. Of course students won't do this automatically, but I have found asking my students simple questions such as, "Why do you think that?" or "How did you come to that conclusion?" probes them to share their thinking out loud with the group. I then invite other students to join in by asking, "Does anyone think differently?" or "Who agrees and why?" You want Close Reading to be a social event. By having students answer, give evidence, and moving on, you are preventing them from discussing the book. You can't discuss a book when you are simply asking questions and receiving answers. By asking students to share their thinking and inviting other students to share their thinking, it opens up a deep discussion of the text. It also shows students that it's OK to disagree because maybe they found evidence that someone else did not. Or perhaps they read the text differently. Students can learn more from each other than from us sometimes. Don't let this opportunity slip away!

I hope I have given you a little food for thought as you begin thinking about how to get started with Close Reads. If you have any questions, feel free to fire away! I love to help others, and I would love to help you out! I also welcome all comments. Feel free to share below!

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I do have some EXCITING news! I am going to be offering a free LIVE webinar next week! I will offer one training on Wednesday, July 27, and one more on Thursday, July 28. Both will be at 8pm EST. You can sign up {here} or the image below to save your seat. I hope to see you there!

Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)
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  1. Thank you for this great post. I am getting ready to try CLOSE reading in my resource classes and will use your suggestions and links as a guide. I really do appreciate the linky, too, Heather

    1. How exciting! I love gearing up to try something new in my classroom. I wish you all the best! Be sure to stop by regularly as more Close Reading posts will be written :)