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Brainy Apples: Close Read Linky Party #4: Student-Led Discourse
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Close Read Linky Party #4: Student-Led Discourse

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. It's a time for new beginnings, a time to get past the standardized tests, and a time to wind down the school year (unless you are unfortunate and your school year goes through June). So, if you haven't tried out Close Reads yet. maybe now is the time to give 'em a whirl!

**Be sure to visit the other blogs in the link-up below for additional tips and strategies on Close Reads. And if you have a blog post on Close Reads, feel free to link up yourself! The more the merrier!**

I hope that you have been finding these Close Read posts helpful during your journey of implementing Close Reads. In case this is your first visit, I encourage you to check out previous posts from the Close Read Linky Parties before or after you read this one:
Close Read overviewgetting started with Close Readsindependently read text vs. read aloud text, what do you do when your students give you the "deer in headlights" look, and should you do leveled reading groups or Close Reads.
Each one is focused on a different aspect of Close Reads, but all are beneficial in understanding how and why to use Close Reads.

And don't forget to check out my Close Read Tip of the Day that I post on my Facebook page. Click on the photos tab, then albums, then Close Read Tip of the Day to see all my previous ones. I don't post every day, but I try to at least once a week.

Close Reading certainly isn't a "new" thing. It has been around for decades, and, honestly, a lot of strong reading teachers have been doing Close Reads all along. Choosing a text based on a specific purpose, having students read for a deeper understanding, and asking probing questions while encouraging student-led discussion. I know for me, the more I read about Close Reads, the more affirmation I am given for what I have been doing for years.

Student-led Discourse
The post I am writing today is going to focus on your Close Read discussions. I say discussions because one huge goal for any Close Read should be an engaging and thoughtful discussion that takes place among your students, and your students should be responsible for leading and continuing the discussion. You shouldn't be in charge of keeping the dialogue going. Your students should be so engaged in the discussion and thinking about the text, that they are responding to one another with their own question or thought. What shouldn't happen is a Q&A session where you ask a question, one student responds and provides evidence for his/her answer, and then you move on to the next question. You should asia question, a student responds, and then you open the floor for the other students to agree, disagree, give their own thoughts, etc. Students need to feel comfortable enough to question each other and add their own thoughts.

We want the student who answers, the speaker, to become the listener, and we want the listener, the other students, to become a speaker. This becomes more of a give-and-take conversation where multiple students offer new ideas. These new ideas may change another student's mind, or a new idea that combines old ideas might emerge.

Why do we want student-led discourse? Because when a teacher asks the questions, students become passive. They are simply providing information. But when students begin asking questions and/or commenting on other students' responses, they become active. Their minds start churning on comprehending the text because they begin thinking about if another student's answer is correct, partially correct, or incorrect, and they begin to ask questions so other students can clarify their answers.  Thus, true engagement occurs, the teacher steps back, and the students become responsible for continuing the conversation.

Yes, teachers want to provide the initial questions that students will answer, but the question should require higher-level thinking to answer, so that it prompts students to engage in a discussion.

Silence- What Do I Do Now?! Well, Prompts, of Course!
There will come times where the classroom falls silent (you can read my earlier post here about how silence isn't always a bad thing). Last summer I read "Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading" by Beers and Probst. I am now rereading it because it is a gold mine for anyone wanting to begin implementing Close Reads or those who want to sharpen their skills. It's OK when the room falls silent to give prompts to students. An interesting spin that Beers and Probst offer is instead of the teacher verbally giving prompts to jumpstart the discussion, ahead of time write prompts on index cards and pass them out to a handful of students. Let students know when there is a lull in the discussion, that they can read the prompt on their index card. Yes, the prompt is your prompt, but because a student is reading it, when another students answers he/she will be speaking to the student who asked the prompt, not you. You can write generic prompts on the cards such as "Which character changed the most in this portion of text?" or "Tell me more about the problem in this section of the text" These are very generic, but you could also write prompts that are more specific to the text your students will be discussing. Another tip is to give your quietest students the prompts. This way they will interact, but they will feel safe to do so because they have something that came from you to read.

Student-led discourse isn't something that will happen overnight. You will need to model. A LOT. So when one student offers an answer, pause, and, even if the answer is correct, call on another student and ask his/her opinion or thoughts. If Bob says that Tuck doesn't want Winnie to drink from the spring, I might say, "Sally, why do YOU think Tuck doesn't want Winnie to drink from the spring?" I am calling on another student to elaborate on the given answer. If the initial answer was wrong, I might ask, "Does anyone else have an opinion?" Usually someone will not hesitate to share what they think is correct. I never tell a student that he/she is wrong. I always ask if someone else would like to add to the response or if anyone has a different thought. This helps students feel safe. When a teacher tells them they are wrong in front of everyone, that student will be more hesitant to answer in the future. But, if a student is wrong and they realize they are wrong because another student gives the correct response plus the reasons, all of a sudden the student is more focused on understanding the text instead of being embarrassed. By asking other students for their thoughts, they will begin to learn that it is expected during Close Reads, and soon you won't have to ask them to join in the conversation. They will begin to do so on their own.

What About Lower Grades?
Even lower grade students can have student-led dialogue. Yes, it will look and sound a lot different from older students, you may have to give more prompts, but I taught K and 1st grade reading and even those kiddos learned how to respond to each other. Now, we had to work a LOT on respectfully disagreeing and not shouting out, "You're wrong!" But, once we got past that, I found that my younger students were less hesitant to share their own opinions and thoughts than my older students were. I also did a lot more scribing and doodling of their responses so that they were more focused when they were responding, and when the discussion started to get sidetracked, I had a visual I could point to to get the conversation back on topic.

For me, the most beautiful sound in the world is when students are engaged in a thoughtful discussion of a text, and I can just sit, listen, record anecdotal notes, and enjoy knowing that they are authentically engaged in a text because they are interested in it and not because I am leading the way.

Have your own Close Read experience to share? You can get the InLinkz code here. You don't have to include the linky on your blog post, but be sure to add your own post to the link-up below!

And if you want to read more about how other teachers use Close Reads, be sure to visit their posts from the link-up below :)

Is there something specific you would like to learn more about when it comes to Close Reading? Leave a comment and I might focus my next post on it!

Until next time!

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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 comment:

  1. This is so clearly laid out! :) Great resource for other teachers trying to explore this concept! :) Thanks for hosting! ;) I really loved participating in this link up! :)