I am actually not going to go back over Question 5 (What is the Role of Talk?) because you can head HERE to read a blog post I did a while ago about student-led discourse. I actually based it on this portion of the book, so I hope you will head on over to read all about it! Feel free to leave a comment or question on that post or on this one. I will simply say that I FIRMLY believe in more discussion AMONG and BETWEEN students and less BY the teacher :)
Question 6: What is Close Reading?This is certainly a loaded question, isn't it?! I get asked this question A LOT, and I find myself asking this question A LOT. Honestly, I don't think there is a simple, clear cut answer. And I have found my own definition of Close Reading evolving over time. I can tell you that when I first started doing Close Reads, I was all about "the four corners of the text" meaning that I asked questions that could be answered ONLY by reading the words on the page. Questions that would not allow students to reflect on making personal connections to answer the questions. However, when I read this book, I realized why I was wrong to do this! Now, I am not saying that text dependent questions are wrong, because they are most certainly right! We want our students to go back and find evidence in the text for their answers. However, when this is the only type of interaction our students are having with the text, we are missing out on a golden opportunity to have our students feel the text, understand the author's point at an emotional level.
We all know that we can make a personal connection with a text, that book leaves a far greater footprint on us. How often have we read a book and afterwards we couldn't stop thinking about what happened? Or maybe we even cried? Why is that? Not because we analyzed every aspect of the text staying within the four corners. It was because something in that text struck a chord with us. We could relate to what was happening in the text or what was happening to someone in the book. We could feel those emotions as though they were our own. If we had removed our own experiences from the text, we wouldn't have been so moved by it. Do we want our students to have this same relationship with a text? Absolutely! So while I do agree that we need to ask students text dependent questions that require them to find evidence in the text, we also need to allow them the opportunity to relate to the text. And this means we have to model how to relate to a text for them.
I LOVE the example the authors of this book use with Anne Frank's diary. Our students can read this text and tell us how scared and lonely she was. But will they feel her loneliness? Will they feel her fear? If students are able to reflect back on and pull in a personal experience of when they felt alone or felt fear, then they will be able to better understand Anne, and they will read the text with the emotion that Anne felt while writing it.
Sorry about rambling on about this topic, but it is something that I just had an "AHA" moment with, and I wanted to share why I realized I was doing my students a disservice by not allowing them to bring in past experiences ever.
Another point in this section that I totally agree with is the length of the text you select to read with students. If we want our students to pay close attention to the text, to read it deeply, then we need to select a text that is not too long. Otherwise it becomes very taxing on the student and they are not going to be enjoying reading it. Not to say they will enjoy reading every text we give them, but to expect them to read an entire novel closely will most likely backfire in our students not wanting to read because closely reading a text takes time. And how often do we want to stop reading a book to analyze every aspect of it? Yes, we must teach our students how to do this, but not with every book, and not with an entire book.
This brings up text selection, and the portion of the text you want to focus on with students. You have to have a set purpose before you select the text. If you want to focus on character development, then choose a portion of text that showcases character development. You want your purpose to be clearly in the portion of text you are using. I referenced Appendix B a lot when I first began using Close Reads for the text exemplars. It helped me see the length of text I could be using as well as specific portions of books. I would highly suggest looking at this resource if you haven't seen it before. One big takeaway I had with Appendix B is that is it OK to not have your students read the entire book from which you take the selection. You can have your students read a portion of a book and that be all.
The last point the authors bring up is rereading the text. Students need to be able to reread a text to understand it at a deeper level. Skilled readers do this all the time. We want our students to do this on their own. As we read, if there is something we don't understand, we ask a question in our head and then we reread to find the answer. We have to model this skill for our students. A lot. And then some more. Focusing on the "asking questions" part. Less skilled readers will reread a text, but they have no focus for rereading and, therefore, they will walk away with nothing more than they did the first time they read it. Some teachers like to have students read the same text all week, choosing a different focus each day. Using the text differently each day. That is fine. I don't personally do this because to me it is going back to the basal idea of a "story of the week" which I never agreed with. I want my students to participate in authentic reading. How many times do we as adults pick up a book and reread the same part every day for several days? We don't. And some might debate that kids need to do this so they become better readers when they are adults, but I still disagree. I might have my students visit the same text selection for 2 days, but not multiple days in a row or all week long. I can't think of very many text selections that are an amazing example of several characteristics we would want to focus on with our students for several days. I might use the same book for several days, but not the exact same selection from the book. I may get tomatoes thrown at my head for saying this, but even with my low kiddos, I saw no benefit from reading the exact same selection over and over again with a different focus each day. Yes, my kids would do great on the reading comprehension quiz, but, honestly, they should because we have focused on it all week long. I would rather be intent with my purpose and choose text selections that are prime examples of what I want my students to look for. It takes more time because you have to have multiple selections ready, but I believe it is worth it.
I would love to hear your thoughts/questions on this portion of our book study! Also feel free to link up below if you have a post to share :)
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)