Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Teacher's First Close Reading Lesson and What She Learned

"Saying a textbook will meet #ccss is like saying holding a Weight Watchers box 
will make you thin."
quoted from a tweet found on Christopher Lehman's website

               Thanks to the source from where I found the above quote I now have my first legitimate reason why I must tweet: Another reading world lies out there. Who knew. During the last six weeks I have blogged about Close Reading. I switched the blog's focus to other topics, but somehow got pulled back in by readers and friends...not that I minded :) The close reading blog-a-thon with Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts continues but the end is in sight. Like a great book, I dread saying goodbye. Fortunately, their book will be propped up against my front door courtesy of UPS next week. The blog-a-thon contributor's postings are equally as insightful. I urge you to check them out here. There is a growing critical mass of very intelligent, tech savvy, take-charge  teachers out there.

               In almost a eulogizing effort last night I reread some of Kate's blogs. I still have a couple I haven't read so what I am about to say may already have been expressed. As I was reading last night, two big ideas bounced around in my brain. First, through our efforts with close reading we now have the power, i.e. skills and knowledge, to take our students' writing to higher levels than we've seen. Ever...or at least in my lifetime. Perhaps, from teaching and coaching our students to read closely and helping them transfer that same depth and detail to their writing they will go where no student has gone before.

               Second, in Kate's post yesterday she linked close reading to close living. In other words, wake up and truly notice the details in life. We are oblivious to the details and are missing opportunities to create special moments from those visible yet invisible details. Perhaps all the multitasking, the hurrying to get more done, faster, quicker, perhaps the evolving loss of a sixth sense, that of being aware of your surroundings for basic survival, has resulted in a deadened ability to observe what is right before our eyes. We have lost the ability to look closely at life. Have you noticed people don't even look--and we're not even talking both ways--when they cross the street?

              The glass I am drinking from is more than half full when it comes to close reading. I fret about the publishers that are coming out with programs to teach close reading. Their promises for easy to deliver lessons that produce successful learning outcomes are as compelling as losing weight easily and successfully and without giving up the dessert food group. Where's the disconnect? Back in my former Reading Recovery days, three lifetimes ago, we were adamant, outspoken, and clear that programs do not teach students. Teachers teach students. We can't let this opportunity pass. We can't mess it up this time with mass marketed materials coming from publishers that don't know our kids. Instead, we must put on our big-boy or big-girl pants and use our close reading lessons as opportunities to explore the possibilities of how deeply we can take our students whether it be in reading, writing, or in their ability to look at life with fresh, open and awakened eyes. Our first steps are the hardest.

Meet Kelly Villalobos, 2nd Grade Teacher Turlock, CA

               Kelly's district has just begun CCSS. Many of us have been through the initiation and understand the daily confusion and stress. I am guessing they are in week 7. Kelly agreed to share her very first attempt at teaching close reading. I know many of you will be interested, inspired, and willing to take that first step after Kelly's reflection. Please watch the video. It served as the catalyst for Kelly's lesson. The teacher's language is so precise and clear. My interview with Kelly was done through Facebook. Thank you, Kelly. I am so proud of your sharing and also to call you a longtime friend.

How much prep time?

The actual prep time for the lesson wasn’t all that long.  The biggest challenge I faced was really understanding what close reading is and trying to figure out how I would implement it in the classroom with my second graders.  I didn’t know where to start.  Finding the text and CCSS based questions and activities were pretty easy. 

              My principal sent me several videos to watch and gather ideas from. Once I saw this video, I decided to focus primarily on annotations in text.  I found a great sheet with annotations:  I printed out a full sized page poster for me to use whole group.  I then copied, pasted, and shrunk the poster so I could fit 4 on a page.  These I printed out for each student to use.  The last bit of prep was to mark up my own text to prepare for the lesson.  I wanted to have a guide to use to make sure that I hit on important concepts with the kids.
                One more thing…I referenced my WONDERFUL standards sheets from Tulare County Office of Education.  (INCREDIBLY AWESOME) I focused on RI 2.1 and RI 2.2 to guide my lesson and my content and language objectives for the lesson.  

Lesson Sequence

  1. Pass out text, we numbered the paragraphs, and I read to students the first time.
  2. Second reading was a shared reading with students.   Pass out annotation marks sheet and discussed what each meant.
  3. Third read: The first paragraph I read and modeled making annotations.  I “thought out loud” to show them what my thought process was as I made the annotations.  The second paragraph they read with me and helped me with annotations.  The third paragraph I asked them to do it alone.  This was a mistake. They needed more guidance.  I roped them back in and we did the 3rd and 4th paragraph together. Somewhere in the third paragraph, a low reader (EL) timidly raised his hand and asked "What does government mean?That was the turning point in the lesson.  I was amazed that he spoke up.  I was so gratefu
  4. Discuss what a president is.  What are the jobs of a president? Who is our current president?( the kids couldn’t answer this).
  5. l too.  He prompted the others to come out of their shells and discuss and ask questions.  It was great.  I had to d
  6. Introduce and define close reading as well as the terms expository, annotations, and text.
  7. I gave some side bar definitions of Congress and the SupremeCourt but the kids got it.  
  8.  I concluded that portion of the lesson with the students using post its to write two facts that they learned about the president.  No one had a hard time coming up with ideas. 
What worked with the lesson?                                                          

               I had a very narrow focus for the first lesson.  I only focused on teaching the annotation marks and applying those to the text.  Because of the fact that I didn’t introduce too much at one time, the students were able to interact with the text. The other thing that surprised me was that all of the students could access the text this way. I read the text many times, as did their peers.  The low readers were able to participate in the class discussions regarding vocabulary and commentary on each paragraph because they had access to the content.  I was afraid of using the text because I thought it was too complex.  It ended up working very well. 

What would you change?

               The next time around, I want to use text where the content is of high interest to the students.  I will probably pick text about an animal.  While the students were able to do great things with this text, I think the process could have been easier for them, especially for the first time, had it been on a subject they were familiar with.

How was student engagement?

               Super! Second graders are naturally squirrelly.  To make it even more challenging, I have 9 students reading below grade level.  Four of those are significantly below grade level, reading at a level 2.  That being said, all students were engaged.  The fact that I read the text to them helped. The annotation sheet was also a gem.  It was an easy to use tool that kept the students busy but also brought meaning to the text.

               There was so much information I wanted to share this week. Somehow it all seemed insignificant compared to celebrating a teacher's first attempt at close reading. As teachers we are always trying something new. It keeps us fresh and moving toward becoming better at our craft. I strongly encourage you, beg you, to click and listen to the poem on close reading: When the Key Clicks by Kevin Hodgson. It is beautiful and would serve as the most poignant conclusion to any PD on close reading. 

               Until next time keep your eyes wide open, be sure and look both ways, and look closely at the world. Happy Saturday.

1 comment:

  1. This was extremely helpful to me! My second graders and I thank you for putting this post together!