Friday, February 6, 2015

Close Reading (more specifically, falling in love with close reading)

This blog is inspired by the wonderful authors of Falling in Love With Close Reading, the brilliant Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts. You see, yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing these two in the flesh, so I am still on a high from their thoroughly engaging and enlightening presentation. While it is not out of character for me to get a little over zealous at professional development sessions, I have to admit that I was like a teenager at a punk rock show. The impossible seemed possible as I listened to Chris and Kate share their brilliant tactics for getting kids to read for new meaning or understanding. They are real people with tried and true ideas that you can apply and not to mention they are extremely funny and clever...but I digress. I did not title this post- Falling in Love With the Authors of Falling in Love With Close Reading, So let's talk about close reading. Here are the cliff notes...

First and foremost, it's important to state what close reading IS NOT:

  • essential to your instruction
  • rereading a text over and over
  • answering text dependent, teacher created questions (this means the teacher does all the thinking and consequently does all the learning) 
This is what close reading IS:
  • rereading for PURPOSE or VALUE
  • process that students internalize and apply to not only reading, but the world around them
Structure to teach close reading:
  1. Reread text with lens in mind (text evidence, word choice, text structure, argument, etc.)
  2. Look for patterns (feeling, emotion, issue, theme, etc.)
  3. Create new thinking (or add to understanding)
This structure really allows the teacher to make it our own. You can identify whatever lens you feel your class or small group needs and create engaging lessons from there. In order to teach close reading and get the students to actually make it a habit, you must engage in repetition of the act BUT be careful not to overkill the act. It is recommended that you teach the technique of close reading 4-6 times per unit. That is all. It's not a topic fit to create a unit around, but merely a method to get kids to create new meaning from texts, media, video, songs, etc. 

As we ready ourselves to begin teaching close reading in our classrooms, we need to think about our students. What will engage them? Lyrics to a pop song? A gross article about the human body? The most wonderful thing I heard yesterday (and I heard a lot of wonderfuls) was that we have to allow our students to take an intellectual risk in order to develop new thinking. Are you allowing your students to take that intellectual risk? 

If you ever have the chance to hear Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts speak, please do yourself a favor and go. They will gladly sign your book and take a picture with you, but most importantly, they will engage you. In the meantime, you should probably go buy their book. 

What a good looking group!


  1. Sounds like I missed a fab day! Glad you guys loved it - and I loved what you shared about allowing our students to take intellectual risk! That is wonderful :-)