Close reading of text is becoming more important to teachers as we prepare our students for the Common Core State Standards. Throughout the standards, students must cite evidence from the text in support of their answers. Text-dependent questions require students to read the text multiple times. These multiple, analytical readings of text combined with questions that drive students back to the text for their answers are an important means for improving students’ ability to read and understand challenging, content-rich text.
Close Reading in Social Studies
We were studying economics during Social Studies when I started this endeavor. My school district has a reading series and the stories are excellent, but rather long. I didn’t think that would be a good place to begin with close reading, so I chose a short, nonfiction text about the difference between saving and investing money. By doing our close reading during Social Studies, I was able to maximize my instructional time and weave together reading and social studies standards together.
Sequence of Instruction
- Read text aloud to students in short “chunks” – no more than a few words and phrases at a time. Use gestures to clarify the ideas in the text.
- Students read text with a partner, using gestures.
- Ask literal-level questions that help students understand the main ideas/details in the text.
- Read text in short chunks and paraphrase the text. Model this process as needed for your students. Then release them to do it with a partner.
- Highlight important information in the text, or code the text such as drawing a star next to the main idea and underlining supporting details.
- Identify the text structure, author’s purpose and any words that may need further clarification.
- Read text with partner again, using gestures.
- Paraphrase and summarize the text orally.
- Complete a graphic organizer or some other version of a note-taking template.
- Ask questions that require students to make inferences and/or form opinions using evidence from the text to support their statements.
The Best of Both
I wanted to find a way to weave the techniques from Whole Brain Teaching with the practice of close reading that took advantage of the best ideas from both approaches. That’s why I have my students do so much gesturing. It’s a major piece of Whole Brain Teaching and engages the kinesthetic learners in your classroom. It doesn’t hurt that it also generates higher levels of participation with all students, which is great since I teach Social Studies at the end of the day!
Outcomes and Considerations
My students definitely understood the content of the text more thoroughly. That much was evident in their answers to questions by our second and third days of reading. Also, they were able to incorporate the main ideas about saving and investing in a writing prompt at the conclusion of the lesson. Overall, I was quite pleased with their learning outcomes. As a teacher, involving students in a close reading will force me to re-structure my instructional time to allow for multiple readings. Also, choosing text that is both complex enough to warrant such readings while at the same time not being too lengthy is another important factor to consider.