Day 3 was dedicated to Unit 5: Reading Standards: Close Reading of Informational Text
Close reading is just what the name suggests: getting close with the text. "Close reading requires us to go below the surface, analyze, reread, and create a mental model of our learning"... for each sentence, phrase, and paragraph. Sounds heavy. Sounds difficult. Sounds boring.
Let's break Close Reading down. When you think "Close Reading" I want you to think of a cowboy with a lasso.
The lasso is the Magical Lasso of Learning, just waiting to ensnare text and squeeze information out of it. How is the Magical Lasso of Learning able to squeeze information out of the text? Its power is in the weave, my friend. The power's in the weave.
Everyone knows that a good rope is made of different strands woven together to ensure its strength. This lasso is no different. The Magical Lasso of Learning is made of two sets of strands: Language Comprehension and Word Recognition. Each strand is made of different fibers, which we will now look at more in depth.
1. Background Knowledge- learned concepts, facts, and experiences a reader brings to reading
In other words, what has the student already been taught/ shown about the topic he/she is reading? If the passage is about pandas, does the student already have a picture of a panda in his or her head, or should the teacher have one ready to show? Is the panda in a zoo? Has the student ever been to a zoo, or is that a new concept?
Students who have more reading and life experiences tend to have better background knowledge. Teachers should begin lessons activating (and sometimes creating) background knowledge so that students can be on the same page.
2. Vocabulary- words that enable thought and communication
How extensive is your vernacular? Are you comfortable with the word vernacular? Vernacular is your common, everyday language. Language that you are comfortable using. Students who are readers tend to have a more extensive vernacular because of the amount of words with which they are introduced. If a student's vocabulary is only based on what they have heard, that will severely limit their word intake. As teachers, we should keep this in mind and try to incorporate at least 2 read-alouds per day into our lessons. The read-alouds will add vocabulary to the auditory learners, as well as demonstrate proper fluency, diction, and pronunciation of words.
3. Verbal Reasoning- this includes logic, insight, abstraction, classification, and association
When I first saw the definition for this term, my first thought was of those logic puzzles that my little sister used to do. I hated those. I simply didn't have the patience for them, but my sister would sit for hours working out who lives where, had what pet, and wore what color shirt.
Verbal Reasoning is really much simpler. It's so simple that you probably do it without even realizing it. For example, when you read the words broccoli, carrots, and squash, your first thought should be.... ? Right! They are all vegetables. Or your thought might have been things that grow in my garden, things my children won't eat, or things that I need to get at the grocery. At any rate, you were able to put those words into a category in your head. That's Verbal Reasoning.
p.s. You do it in science, social studies, and math too; not just during "reading" time.
4. Language Structure- Word structure, sentence structure, paragraph structure... they all go together.
When I think of Language Structure, I think back to 7th grade English when we had to dissect sentences into their parts. (nouns, verbs, subject, predicate, etc) Language Structure is basically how we put words together in order for them to make a point. Sentences need 5 things in order to be complete: subject, verb, makes sense, capital letter, and a punctuation mark. Language Structure is knowing how to put those things in order properly.
5. Literacy Knowledge- knowledge of text structure and genre
Literacy Knowledge is being able to read a text and know whether it is informational or narrative. Informational text use different text features such as table of contents, captions, index, and glossaries to share information. Narrative text uses point of view, characters, voice, plot, setting, etc. Literacy Knowledge allows students to recognize the difference between Snow White and Queen Elizabeth II.
1. Phonological Awareness- the conscious awareness that words are made up of segments of speech that are represented by letters
Phonological Awareness can be done in the dark. No sight necessary. If you can hear the word, recognize that the word is made of sound, and know that letters make sounds, then you have mastered PA. Congratulations!
2. Decoding (and Spelling)- the act of translating a word from print to speech using sound-letter correspondence and syllable patterns
We discussed decoding and syllabication a lot on Day 2, so I don't want to rehash it here. Basically, decoding is seeing a word and being able to break it into pieces.
3. Sight Recognition- Recognizing words on sight
Otherwise known as Sight Words. With practice, more and more words will become sight words. Hopefully, through practice, most of the words in this blog post are sight words. Sight words don't require the reader to chunk or sound words out. They don't require context clues or the use of a glossary. We start learning sight words in Pre-K, if not already at home. You can find list of beginning sight words just about anywhere. Most schools use the Dolch word list.
With all these strands in our Magic Learning Lasso, we should have no problem Close Reading any text with which we are presented.
In order to help my students with their Close Reading, we have come up with Close Notes.
My students are expected to use Close Notes with any text they are reading. I even let them mark....(shhhh)... in their textbooks (gasp!) on occasion. I simply point out that I am preparing them for college, where buying textbooks that have already been marked is a very wise thing to do.
I start my class using Close Notes from day 1. Anytime we are reading a text whole group, my students had better have a writing utensil in their hands prepared to mark the text within an inch of its life. (You should see our science workbooks.) At the end of the lesson, students compare their notes with the notes of a partner. Did they find the same things interesting? Was there any new learning, or was it all review? Did you catch all the vocabulary words and definitions? Is there anything that needs clarification?
So you see, Close Reading isn't as boring as it might seem. In fact, Close Reading is possibly the most interesting reading you can encounter. When utilized properly, Close Reading can help readers delve into different worlds, different times, and a variety of different genres. Close Reading ensures that readers have an up-close-and-personal relationship with the text; the characters, plot, setting, and solution of a narrative text, and the ins and outs and new learning of informational text.
For those of you who know my personal genre of choice, that makes for a pretty wild ride. :)
So, the next time you find yourself reading, take time to reflect on the text. If you can't place yourself in the text as a character, or turn and talk to a partner about new learning, then you're doing it wrong.