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Brainy Apples: Close Read Linky Party!
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Close Read Linky Party!

It has been a couple of months since my last Close Reads linky party…sorry about that! The holidays swooped in and took me off my feet for a bit. Now that the holidays are over and my house is (mostly) in order, I am super excited to host my monthly linky party once again. I hope you have found my previous blog posts and the blog posts of those who have linked up in the past helpful. My purpose with hosting this linky party is to help those of you out there along your journey of implementing Close Reads in your classroom.

I would love it if you linked up a blog post of yours about how you use Close Reads in your classroom. All I ask is that your post be linked back to this one and you keep it mostly product free (meaning that your post should not be product-centered. A small plug is fine, but the intent of this linky party is to give teachers tips, suggestions, ideas, etc. that they can use in their classroom without having to make a purchase). There is a link below that you can use to put the linky party on your blog post, or you can simply just link your blog post back to mine. Be sure to link up your blog post to the linky below, though. Feel free to grab the logo above to put on your blog post!

This month I want to discuss a topic that my colleagues and I debated a bit when we began implementing Close Reads. Everyone has their own thoughts, but I am going to present mine on this topic: student independent reading of a text vs. teacher read aloud of a text.

Independently Read Text vs. Read Aloud Text
I am on the team of balancing both. Some people believe very firmly in students independently reading a text every time during Close Reads, but I respectfully disagree, and I will explain why.

I had a student (several, actually) in my class who did not read on grade level. His independent reading level was a Fountas and Pinnell I. He was in 3rd grade. This reading level placed him on a beginning  2nd grade level. A full year behind where he needed to be. We as teachers must be diagnosticians. Figuring out our students' strengths and weaknesses. I wanted to know if this student's lack of reading ability stemmed from decoding or comprehension. So I chose an exemplar text for 3rd grade according to Appendix B, Tales from the Odyssey: Part One by Mary Pope Osborne. I found this book to be the perfect accompaniment to our ancient Greece unit for my boys while my girls fell in love with the Goddess Girls series. I read aloud the excerpt included in Appendix B (Chapter 5), but I continued reading and ended with the sentence, "But wisdom stopped him." I also gave each student a copy of the excerpt because I didn't have enough copies of the book so they were able to follow along with me and have the text in front of them to refer to when we had our Close Read discussion.

(I prefer discussion instead of questions because I have found that Close Reads involve digging deep, and when students actively discuss a text, they are able to dig deeper and walk away with a greater understanding than when they just answer the questions I pose to them. When one student answers the question, I open the floor for confirmation or debate from other students.)

This portion of text is about how Polyphemus (a cyclops) finds Odysseus and his men shipwrecked on the cyclops' island. and hiding in Polyphemus' cave. Polyphemus is a brutal monster, and keeps the entrance to his cave closed off with a huge boulder. Even though Polyphemus ate 2 of Odysseus' men, Odysseus did not take the opportunity to kill him while he was sleeping. "But wisdom stopped him." I asked my students what that last sentence meant. One of my students, who was an on-grade level reader, said that one of Odysseus' men stopped him and that his name was wisdom…..I asked the other students what they thought. The boy who was a full year below grade level said that it wasn't one of his men. He said that it was a voice inside Odysseus' head telling him not to kill Polyphemus. I asked him why and he said that because if he killed Polyphemus, they would all die, too, because they could never move the boulder by themselves. If I had this student read this portion of text by himself, he never would have gleaned that from the text. He wouldn't have made it past the first paragraph. Clearly he could make inferences on an on-grade level text, so comprehension skills were not his weakness. It was decoding. If I had not read that aloud and had him read it and asked him the same question, he most likely would not have been able to answer it and I would have thought he was not able to make inferences, which he clearly can.

I was able to focus my small group lessons with him on decoding, but I also made sure I read aloud text to him that was on or above grade level to help strengthen his comprehension skills. I did not want to ignore his strengths to focus on his weakness, because eventually his strengths would weaken.

This is just one example of why I balance independently read text with Close Reads and read aloud text with Close Reads. Both have a place in the classroom depending on your purpose. It always depends on your purpose. Close Reads can be used to assess, but they can also be use as a diagnostic tool. I chose texts that would be too difficult for my students to read independently and read these aloud so we could have a Close Read discussion using more difficult text. Students have to encounter difficulty and require support in order to advance their ability. When students struggle (with an appropriate amount of support) is when they can grow.

I love how Close Reads is a flexible strategy depending on how I need to use it. I love how I can have my students read a text independently for practicing fluency and comprehension on their reading level, but also how I can read aloud a more difficult text to stretch their critical thinking skills on what would otherwise be a text that they couldn't get through on their own. And I love how I can use Close Reads as a diagnostic tool to hone in on specific weaknesses and strengths so I can address both for each of my students.

How do you use Close Reads in your classroom? Solely independently read texts or a combo of independently read and read aloud texts?

Be sure to hop to the other blogs below for more tips, suggestions, and experiences with Close Reads!

If you want to put the linky on your blog, get the InLinkz code.
If you just want to link up your post and link back to mine, the link up is below.

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!
Until next time!
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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