Week in Review: Close Reading

An Experiment in Close Reading | Line upon Line Learning blogRaisin is a very strong reader, and he loves to read anything and everything! This week he has been reading about scabs. And all the other gross things on our bodies. The library books he checked out have real photographs of scabs on the covers. I call them the “icky books” and Strawberry has begun to parrot me when she sees them. “Mom! Icky book!”

At any rate, Raisin likes to read fiction too, and enjoys reading in his free time and before bed. Because he is a strong reader, he breezes through a book and then cannot tell me what it was about, beyond basic plot points or even specific things that happened that stood out to him. I’d love to talk over fine literature with him, but I have not been sure to best methods to use.

So, that said, close reading is my goal with Raisin for the coming months. I have determined that we need to read together more frequently and notice what we read more. We need to talk about it together and predict together.

As I mentioned on Monday, I’ve been thinking I need to learn more about various educational methods. I started with reading about close reading. I reviewed a fantastic book (Notice and Note by Kylene Beers and Robert Probstat my reading blog today. What stood out to me in that text is that students do not necessarily need rigorous texts to read with rigor. Rather, it is the approach that makes the difference.

This week in our writing co-op, we talked about some basic poetic principals, especially metaphors. One of the reading strategies in Notice and Note was contrasts and contradictions. So, to introduce both that concept and the concept of metaphor, we read “O Captain! My Captain!” together.

We talked about what stood out about the poem, and I pointed out some lines. The kids really liked the drum beat. They liked the lines about blood. They liked the morbidity of it.

One boy seemed really distracted as I’d read it aloud. But then he said, “This poem is weird.”

“Why is it weird?” I pressed.

“Because, like, you know, the ship finally made it to shore but the captain is dead and bleeding. Why would he be bleeding and dead?” he responded.

I loved it! I loved seeing the gears working. I loved to hear the same type of question that Beers and Probst prompted in their book! I was so pleased that the most distracted of my students found a question to ask about what we were reading.

I probably did not lead the discussion correctly. I probably should have said different things to get the kids talking to each other instead of to me. But it was my first try in leading a close reading discussion, and for a first try, it was a lot of fun.

I guess I’m officially a nerd to be so excited about this, but I am confident that as I read more about reading strategies and teaching philosophies, I will become a better teacher not just to the kids at co-op but especially with my own son!

Want to learn more about Notice and Note? Get the book at Amazon (note: I am an Amazon affiliate) or download the free bookmarks from the publisher’s website.

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