Sunday, September 15, 2013

Close Reading

If you've been around long enough in education it seems that everything comes back eventually.  But it always comes back with a new little twist to it. Close reading reminds me of the work that we did when we read Mosaic of Thought and Strategies that Work.  When we learned about that back- what over 10 years ago- we went through the book looking for what skill we should use to teach that book.  Then we would post-it note our ideas and thoughts. Then when we were reading the book we would stop at our post-it notes and examine the text closely and talk about the skill or strategy we wanted to focus on that day.  Close reading reminds me a lot of that- but with a different common core twist.

 I've been hearing about Close Reading for a while now and our district finally decided we needed some training on it.  So they selected trainers, gave them some basic training and information on close reading and then presented the information district wide to us.  Well,  I still don't know how to really do close reading in Kindergarten, but we've been asked to implement it this month and then meet back at the end of September and share what we've done with it. So, like everything we're trained on and expected to implement, we go into it not really knowing what we're doing.  But, one of the trainers, who happens to be my teammate, suggested that we read this article. Reading Rocket's Read Aloud  It's a really easy read and it talks about reading a book aloud multiple times with a different focus each time.  So, I've begun using this model, or my variation of it, to do my close reading with my kindergarteners.  For my first session, I chose a book called Apple Trouble.
It's a cute little book about a hedgehog who's building a nest for the winter.  Unfortunately, an apple falls onto her back and she can't get into her nest.  So she asks for help from her animal friends.  Most of them don't help her, but a goat finally solves her problem.
So, I decided to read this book on three different occasions.  I went through it and put post-it notes on specific places that I wanted to ask questions, check for understanding, explain vocabulary or make predictions.  Then I gave students a little summary of the story- basically what I just wrote above about the goat.  I explained to them that stories have problems and the hedgehog certainly has her share.  I explained that sometimes the problem in the story gets worse, and I asked them to listen carefully for how the problem gets worse for hedgehog.  Then we read the story- stopping at my post-it notes to talk.  We pair shared a couple of things and stopped to talk about the word murky- making guesses about what it means.  Then when we finished the story we talked about goat and how he solved all of her problems.
As I was reading the book and putting on post-it notes, I noticed that there were lots of really good action words.  So I decided that my second reading would focus on action words.  I did the second reading the next day.  I introduced action words to the students by giving them examples and non-examples of action words.  Then I set their purpose for reading by writing the sentence stem "Hedgehog can" multiple times on chart paper.  I asked them to listen carefully for things in the story that hedgehog did.  We stopped every two pages or so and I asked student to find the action words.  We had to reread the page carefully to find an action word and I asked students to give me a thumbs-up when they found one.  Once we found an action word we wrote the rest of the sentence.  For example, we wrote "Hedgehog can roll on her back."  or "Hedgehog can dive in the water."  When we finished the book this time, I asked students to give me an idea of something that Hedgehog would do when she woke up from her winter nap.  We talked about the action words in their sentences they shared.
The third reading I decided to retell the story with the students.  So I made these Retell cards to help with the process.  I put Hedgehog on the board and we taped the items to her back as it happened in the story.  Some students received the animals cards and they were in charge of telling Hedgehog what she should do to get the items off her back.  I read the story, but stopped and asked student to tell what should happen.  They told me, we talked about if they were correct or not and then we read the story.
All in all, it was a very successful sequence of lessons.  I feel like the students were very engaged in the text and that they learned different things each time we read the story.  I don't think I really did close reading the way you are supposed to, but I guess that's what happens when you don't really get trained on how to do it at your grade level.  I really don't see my kinders right now making annotations on the text like we were taught in our training!  I feel like this was much more powerful for them.  But was it close reading?  I don't know...  If anyone has any thought on it or knows how to do close reading in Kindergarten, I would love to hear from you.

Next week our theme is "Family" and I am planning for close reading lessons using When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant and My Rotten Red-Headed Older Brother by Patricia Polacco.  Great stories- and they should lend themselves well toward multiple close reads.


  1. Great post Karla! With my county's new series we are definitely rereading one book throughout the week. The teacher manual has too many focuses and I feel I am all over the place. I think I need to remember to focus on one main skill when reading and finding it throughout the book. Thanks for the freebie!


  2. Thank you for this post! I appreciate the lesson format. I too have been teaching as long as you and have been the literacy coach in a public NYC Elementary school for the past 9 years. With all the hoopla about the implementation of the Common Core standards and the recommendation of using close reads, there are still some things that need to be clarified. For example, how often should one use close reads as a technique and which grades would benefit from it the most? (you should read Timothy Shanahan's blog According to Professor Shanahan, close reads are not recommended for students in PreK-1st grade. Reason is they need to have a strong foundation on reading in order to analyze why an author would choose a specific word or structure within their text. However, he does state that Early Childhood Literacy should provide a balance in literacy where students are exposed to all types of reading. Therefor if you want to do a close read in Kindergarten, you can do this as a Shared Close Read or Close Listening (read-aloud) activity. Your focus should be about the text and limit on building schema (which is what David Coleman states on the Common Core website. He feels teachers spend too much time on building prior knowledge and less focus on the text itself). So your approach to this book seems on target and very much age appropriate. IF Kindergarten teachers are supposed to use close reads, then it would be wise to say to choose rich literature on topics that students can relate to such as the book you mention and Cynthia Rylant books too! Thanks again, and I look forward to future posts!