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Close Reading: Teacher Actions

I've seen amazing posts about close reading all over my Bloglovin' feed. Phenomenal educators are sharing best practices, resources, and personal opinions about close reading in posts like this, this, and this. I've even dabbled {here} in the topic too. While I am no expert, I love sharing what I know and hearing the opinions of others. This post will focus on the actions that teachers can take before and during a close reading lesson with students. It is my personal philosophy that teachers should engage with the text at least four times before the lesson: 
       1) For fun 
       2) To determine the literal meaning 
       3) To focus on the author's craft  
       4) To identity places where students might be confused
These steps are important because teachers need to be experts on the text before expecting students to be experts on it. 

Below is a non-exhaustive list of teacher and student actions that assist students with grasping the literal meaning of the text. Please note that many scholars and educators refer to this as "Key Ideas and Details" which aligns to the Common Core Standards. For the sake of brevity, I call this literal comprehension where students identify the big idea of the text. 

As students demonstrate an understanding of the literal meaning of the text, move forward with the "meat and potatoes" which is the deeper meaning. A pitfall to avoid is spending too much time on the literal meaning of the text. I've fallen into this pit by trying to ensure that students understand every little part of the text, and this takes away from the pacing of the lesson and may disengage students. In the sample text that I am using in this post, there are a number of words (i.e. pantaloons, pard, capon) that are not critical in terms of students understanding the larger theme or deeper meaning within the text. Therefore, once students state the big ideas and concepts, I move the class forward in order to focus on the richer themes. This doesn't mean that students skip over parts of the text, which is contrary to the point of close reading. That said, I move the class forward recognizing that we will reread the text and push our analysis in a manner that bridges gaps for students.   

Engaging in conversations around the deeper meaning of the text in a non-leading way is challenging. PERIOD. That said, the most important role that teachers play when engaging with students around the deeper meaning of the text is that of a LISTENER. Teachers must listen and respond to what students are saying and use their expertise of the text to guide student thinking. This underscores the importance of teachers being an expert of the text. 

As a final note, when I think about close reading, it's all about student thinking and analysis. In my humble opinion there is not a "no prep' way to do it. Teacher knowledge of the the text allows for clarification of misunderstandings and for teachers to guide students through and to the deeper meaning. The lesson I am sharing is focused on students annotating and engaging in a robust conversation about the text. That said, there are times when using a different approach with different tasks is appropriate. For example, teachers may have students write responses to multiple text dependent questions during a lesson, or complete a graphic organizer.  This lesson that I am sharing was completed in a small group (8-10) in order to ensure that every student was contributing.The resources for this lesson are {here} for teachers who would like to complete it with their students. Enjoy!
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