Close Reading: Part 1

This blog is Part one of a two-part series. Read part two here.

It is hard to believe that the 2012-2013 school year will be coming to a close in less than two months! It seems like yesterday when I wrote my first blog post of the year, in which I outlined a number of questions related to the Common Core State Standards and my work as a K-2 reading intervention teacher. In my second post, I tackled my questions regarding the role of complex texts in the primary intervention setting. More recently I have been thinking deeply about “close reading.” When first learning about close reading, I wondered how I would infuse this instructional practice within my intervention instruction when I already don’t have a minute to spare! While I valued the potential learning, conversation, and thinking sparked by a “close read,” I honestly had no idea how to do this with students struggling with phonological awareness, sight word knowledge, and decoding. Well after engaging in an extended close-reading cycle with my first-grade Professional Learning Community (PLC), I may finally have some answers!

At my school, we meet weekly with our PLC groups. As the PLC facilitator, one of my personal goals was to nudge us towards the use of video as a tool for reflection and growth. This opportunity presented itself as we engaged in dialogue around the Common Core and specifically the practice of close reading. Over the course of six weeks, we developed a close reading lesson based on an informational read-aloud text titled Life Cycle of a Sea Turtle. Each teacher agreed to implement the lesson with his or her own class and I asked if anyone would be open to videotaping the lessons for use in a later PLC conversation. Mrs. Susan Snode graciously volunteered. Given that I provide intervention instruction to four of Mrs. Snode’s first graders, I jumped at the chance to record the lessons and observe the students in action. I walked away from these three days of lessons with far more than I bargained for! Not only did I learn valuable lessons about the use of close reading lessons within the core reading instruction but I gained new insights about my students receiving intervention instruction. Here is a quick summary of my key take-aways:

Close reading lessons at the K-1 level…

  • Should be anchored in high-quality read aloud texts that are worthy of several reads
  • Are best suited for the classroom setting as part of a rich literacy program
  • Are important for all readers regardless of differences in foundational reading skills (phonological awareness, phonics, and decoding)

Solidifying my thinking about close reading within core literacy instruction was critical to shaping my thinking about the role of close reading within the intervention setting. Be sure to read part two of this post in which I specifically discuss this topic.