Close Reading…Multiple Choice Style!

“Close Reading” has entered the world of modern education, and boy, am I happy it has! Most educators out there know the drill…

Close Reading is generally comprised of 3 “reads”. And although there are many versions out there; here is a classic example:

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Read #1- Students read the text as independently as possible in order to get the “gist” (or capture the main idea along with any key details included by the author).

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Read #2 – The teacher selects a portion or chunk of the text that is “close read” worthy. The students reread the assigned portion in order to explore its complexity, and in turn, arrive at a deeper understanding.

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Read #3 – The students “dig deeper” and are required to synthesize and analyze information from several texts or media, and then share their findings by citing evidence.

What is “close reading” to Elsie’s Corner?

Close reading” is simply educational jargon that has put one of the most important reading strategy in the spotlight…..the strategy of REREADING.

In my opinion, rereading is the “unsung hero” in the reading strategy arena. Until close reading came along, rereading was not stressed enough in the classroom (possibly because it’s a strategy that seems rather obvious). However, in my personal experience as a student, and after observing readers for 20 years (as an educator), I can assure you that its value is NOT so obvious at all.

Although my elementary school years were many years ago, I can still recall reading and coming across paragraphs, sentences, words, and phrases that I didn’t understand. How did I tackle this complex text? Well, quite simply, I didn’t. Instead, I ignored the text that baffled me and just continued to “read”. Rereading, for me, didn’t start until much later in my schooling career when I was cognizant enough to realize that the text, and my comprehension of it, were askew, and that something needed to be done about it.

Confused girl with pile of old books showing ignorance, isolated on white

I think the most important aspect associated with close reading is our responsibility to teach and model it (in such a way) so that kiddos are inclined to engage in the practice on their own.

In my classroom I often speak about what I call “pretend reading”. The students always get a kick out of me modeling “pretend reading”. I sit in front of the room (trying to look as kid-like as possible), and put on a “pretend reading” skit. This basically consists of me mumbling the words on a page (quickly), and then frivolously turning the pages. During the skit, I’ll periodically hold a poster board over my head that has a drawn thought bubble that reads:

“Hmmm….What does that mean?….Not sure….Oh well . . . I’ll just keep reading”

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Of course, the students know I’m being dramatic to illustrate a point (and to entertain them a bit). But the fact remains, that every day we have students in front of us who are ignoring critical written words that can make or break the comprehension and the enjoyment associated with reading.

Naturally, the “pretend reading” phenomenon is not their fault. The modern educational system has pushed and pushed for periods we call “independent reading”. And while I love the concept of giving the kids an opportunity to delve into a good book of their choice, like anything else, we might be teetering on “too much of a good thing”. Too much independent reading can foster the bad habits associated with “pretend reading”.
So to me, close reading is a lot about developing the “rereading” strategy.

To illustrate the beauty of the reread and what can be discovered in its practice, I’ll ask the kids if they’ve ever watched a movie more than once. As you might expect, the students are all too eager to share on this topic. They love telling me about their favorite movies. And from there the “domino effect” begins….”I’ve seen that movie 10 times….I’ve seen it 20….30 ….40….” and so on. Their responses set the stage for my next set of questions:

“Well, if you will see a movie more than once or twice (or even a hundred times), then why are you hesitant to read a section of a book more than once? Isn’t it true that every time you re-watch a movie, you discover something new and interesting? Don’t you think the same rule applies to reading?”

And so, yes, I will model the rereading strategy (which is the very essence of close reading) “till the cows come home.” I’ll post a sentence or small section of a book (or article, or story) on the board, and I’ll have the kids continually reread and dissect it until we draw every bit of meaning out of it.

And finally, for the sake of my students’ education (and my TpT business!), I will design test prep products where essentially every question requires the student to look back, re-read, and analyze. This way, not only will they arrive at the right answer, but they will also become the conscientious or close readers that we intend for them to be.

Close Reading…..Multiple Choice Style….now there’s some educational jargon to add to your repertoire!

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