Close Reading with Arctic Animals

A little over a week ago, I shared this post over at Adventures in Literacy Land, and I thought I’d expand on the topic just a bit by walking through one of my latest products, a Close Reading set about penguins.  This one is an informational text, but really, any type of text can be used.  In fact, since students are less likely to pick up a biography or poetry text, it is wise to explore these genres more.  

I mentioned in my post that Chris Lehman, author of the book, Falling in Love with Close Reading, presented at the Virginia State Reading Association conference which I attended, and his session was jam packed with teachers wanting to know more.  He modeled a Close Reading lesson using a song lyrics, so the presentation was quite engaging and lively.  If you haven’t read his book, you can check it out here.  It’s a great resource for getting started, especially for the Middle School and High School levels since he gives examples of texts that would be appealing to the “mature” reader.  

The typical Close Reading lesson is divided up into three reading sessions, each digging deeper into the meaning and use of the information in the text.  Chris calls this using different lenses to select specific information you need as a reader.  The initial read scratches the surface and gives the gist of the reading. It familiarizes the student with the actual words on the page and introduces the organization of the text. 
slide2-6500729The penguin set I put together includes a prereading activity to build schema and a copy of the article.  I set the article up with plans for my students annotate as they read.  If you notice, the students are given a specific purpose (or reading lens) to use. They are asked to identify the main topics and big ideas.
Now, I just read a blog post a few days ago from Performing in Education that advised calling the note-taking process, “Important Points to Remember” versus “Annotations” because students may get more hung up on the terminology instead of focusing on the task.  I do have to agree that that may be an issue for some, so keep that in mind as you work on annotating.  Certainly, that post is one to save and reread over and over again.  

slide3-6389296In the second reading, students begin connecting ideas and focus on using the information they’ve read.  They’re making inferences, comparisons, and thinking about author’s message, theme, and ways to use the new information.  They’re looking for the text evidence to support their thinking.  


slide4-5722413The third reading of the text is used to gather information that will be used in deep discussion or expanded writing.  Students need to see the connection between reading and writing, how writing is organized (structure and purpose), and how we can use what we learn to support our thinking and opinions.  For this Close Read, I asked that students to find adaptations that help protect it from predators and describe what they’d do to protect the penguin, so the reader has to work at the upper level of Blooms to use the information and create something based upon their learning.


Chris makes several other important points in the reading. Students need to be strategic and read with a specific purpose in mind.  They also need to share.  They need to do most of the talking (which I am working hard to learn and practice).  It is a difficult thing to release that role to the students, but it does give the teacher the opportunity to assess understanding.

Remember to use a variety to texts.  I know with my students, 80-90% of their reading is fiction, so using other genres in instruction increases the likelihood that students will select other genres.  Plus, we work with genres differently.  We need to show our students how structures change.  

If your interested in looking at the other Close Reading sets I’ve completed, here are the preview files. Each is linked to the listing on TPT.  The structure of the sets are like the penguin freebie, but they do include an additional vocabulary page.  I also thought to have students color code information in the second reading, so that’s a slight difference.


Let me know if you have any questions.  I hope you’ll take the plunge and dive into Close Reading.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Fantastic set. I'm wading through the Close Reading procedure as well. I can definitely see the benefits. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You are welcome. I still have kinks to work out with my kids when they work independently, but I do see the long term benefits, especially since my oldest is in college now. I sure wish he'd learned these strategies. Thanks for dropping by Gary.

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