Wednesday, March 26, 2014

First Attempt at Close Reading

I've fallen into the trap of the newest "buzzword," and I actually really like it.  I've read about Close Reading on many blogs this year, and I've seen many items for sale on TPT, but I hadn't really investigated it until Spring Break.  Our end of the year state testing is at the end of April, and normally after Spring Break, we start preparing for it.  I've never really liked this, as I think we should be preparing students all year long.  Yes, we need to review some things, but I don't like spending all of reading time on prepping for the test.  So, to do this a little differently, I introduced Close Reading.

The first day back from break, I basically told my kids that 5th grade would normally start prepping for the test now, but I didn't want to do that.  I told them that they've spent the whole school year prepping, and that they should do well on the test if they use all the tools they have.  To review/introduce these tools, we're doing close reads with various science/social studies articles that I found online and put into a word document.  It's super easy to find articles by searching things like, "articles for kids about _______".  You can find a multitude of articles from various sources and at various readabilities.

I introduced close reads slowly over three days.  On the first day, I passed out the Susan B. Anthony article (from Scholastic's $1 eBook sale- these also have comprehension crosswords, which are really good!).

I also had a Close Reading Guide that I made for students to organize their processes and ideas.  This chart includes a spot for the topic, guiding question, 3 vocab words,  annotating symbols, and a paragraph response to the guiding question.

I had made the anchor chart shown below, and we went over the steps verbally, then I modeled with the article on the SmartBoard, then students completed the steps on their own.  Here are my steps for a first read (I think everyone does this differently and modifies it to meet their own preferences and needs):
First Read
  • Vocab. Check- I introduce one or two words that students will need to know 
  • Number the paragraphs
  • Chunk the paragraphs (I was amazed at how well my students did this, they tended to chunk things naturally, based on the flow of the article, but I also gave them some guidelines: if it's less than 5 paragraphs, chunk each paragraph. Otherwise, chunk every 2-4 paragraphs.  Chunking basically means drawing a line to separate the article into smaller pieces.  Every time they get to the line, they stop and think about what they just read.  This has helped TREMENDOUSLY with my lower readers, who can easily become overwhelmed by a full page of text. 
  • Read the article/story/poem on your own
  • Find the gist of each chunk- this is just a short summary of what that chunk was about.  Students write the gist near the chunk.  I tell them it's clues to what that part was about.  They fill this out when they reach each line they drew to chunk the text.

The next day, I introduced the steps of the second read.  I had my first reading class decide (with just a tad bit of guiding suggestions from me) on what symbols they would use when annotating the text.  We needed symbols for: unknown words, key words, important details, parts they don't understand, parts they do understand Here's my steps:

Second Read
  • Annotate the text
  • Discuss the text with a partner or whole class
My students did pretty well with annotating.  They marked up their text quite a bit, but it all had a purpose.  As they came to unknown words, we'd have spontaneous conversations about prefixes, root words, context clues, etc.  If they absolutely could not figure out the word, they could look it up or ask a neighbor.  One word they got stuck on was inequality, but after asking them if they saw any smaller words inside it, they pulled out equal, and knew what that meant.  Then I asked if they remembered what the prefix -in meant, and by knowing both of those, they came to the definition of "not the same."  Not bad, with just a few prompts.  Hopefully, they'll start prompting themselves as they read.

One part I liked was having students underline key words.  We talked about key words being words that are repeated over and over and over and over, words that are defined for you in the reading, and clues to the main idea.  Students underlined these words, and decided, on their own, that the key words for the Susan B. Anthony article were suffrage, vote/voting, and women.   We decided that these words would make a pretty good summary of the entire passage.

We also had a whole class discussion with this first article.  I created a list of discussion starters/frames to use during the discussion, and this was really helpful.  The quality of responses was great.  We also worked through the toughest part of the text, and they were able to get a better grasp of it.  I'll vary our discussions by switching between whole group, small group, and partner talks.

For the third read, students searched for answers to the guiding question.  They said this was so easy, because they already knew what the story was talking about.  Bingo.  Our question was something along the lines of telling what Susan B. Anthony did to change history, and how she did this.  I didn't want to give away any details in the question, as I wanted students to really read the text to figure out what it was talking about.  Students put a star next to anything that could be part of their written answer.  This was then put together into their written response on their Close Reading Guide.

All in all, I think our first attempt went pretty well.  I was impressed with how my lowest students were able to tackle a tough piece of text, and how it made my speedy readers stop and slow down.  I think Close Reading will be here to stay for awhile, and I kind of like that.  I did a lot of research, watched a lot of videos, and even purchased some items from TPT, but I had to tweak it all.  I had to make it work for me.  I had to create a document for my students to keep them accountable (at least for now), while they're reading.  I had to find articles that I was interested in and that I knew my students would be interested in.  Their responses aren't all super fantastic yet, but I think all the practice and work will

be for good.  And, I hope it will be something they can really use on their end of year test!


  1. I love your close reading protocol! It is something I have been thinking about a lot with my 2nd graders. Would you be willing to share the document you created for students to write on (in the picture above)?

  2. I was also hoping you might be willing to share the document in the picture above. I would be more than happy to purchase on TpT if you would make it available. Thank you!

  3. I am very interested in your close reading document. I was wondering if you were going to make it available through TpT ? If not i would love a copy!! PLEASE!!! Thanks !

  4. I am also interested in your close reading document! Are you willing to make it available through your TpT? Thank you so much!