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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Close Reading in the Common Core Classroom

Here is my guest blogger Reader Spotlight post from Monday. I was honored to write this post for Kristin while she is on vacation. Be sure to check out here adorable blog at the link below!


Hi everyone! I'm so excited to be guest blogging today for the wonderful Kristin from My Carolina Classroom. Oh how I wish I lived in North Carolina! The change of seasons is good for the soul! But, I'm stuck in South Florida...but that's another blog post.

Let's talk about Close Reading.
What you will need:
Close reading passages
Questions/graphic organizers
Highlighters/colored pencils
Read alouds on the same topic (optional, but recommended)

 (Please keep in mind that I am by no means an expert in this area. I have just invested some time in researching and implementing what I have learned from other teachers.) Here is a little peek into how it works for my classroom.
Close reading passage about one rainforest layer.
This is part of my Rainforest Close Reading Passages. I give this to students on Monday in small group. I quickly introduce the topic and allow them time to read it independently. While reading, they know to circle any difficult or unknown words. After a few minutes, we take turns to share our unknown words, brainstorm definitions, and discuss the true meaning of each.
Vocabulary Builder handout
Students will begin this on Monday after we discuss the unknown words in the text. This handout helps them to dig deeper into the meanings of each word and to find evidence in the text for each definition.
Students ask each other text-dependent questions about the rainforest layers.
These questions are general and can be used for any passages.
(Get those speaking and listening standards in!!!)
Read, Think, & Respond handout
On Tuesday, students reread the text quietly when they first get to small group. Then we answer these questions and discuss. Sometimes, I have students ask each other questions about the text using question stems (see picture above). When answering questions, students know to go back to the story, find their evidence, highlight it, and put the question number next to it in a circle. My high group usually does this independently while I facilitate. However, I normally answer these together with my two other groups.
Pickin' Apart the Paragraphs handout
On Wednesday, students reread again and then we finish any questions that we didn't get to the day before. Then we look at each paragraph alone and find the main idea of EACH paragraph. Of course, students have to show evidence of their main idea.
Informational writing handout
On Thursday, students will be completing work and then moving to write. They will use evidence from the story to support their main idea. Finally, they draw a picture of the layer based on details from the story.
Here is an example of our final day of the week working with a meerkat passage.
Students have done a packet of vocabulary and questions.
Finally, they write about what they have learned.
"You cannot give any background knowledge to students before reading."
  • Think about this for a second. Do you think this is beneficial to students? I have asked my professors about this recently and they said that the myth comes from the beginnings of Common Core. Researchers have found that teachers were providing SO much background knowledge that students didn't even have to read the story to understand! This is why Common Core is known for wanting students to tackle a text without any other information. I get this. However, it does NOT mean that you can't give a sentence or two preview before reading in order to introduce the topic. I work in a Title 1 school where students are not always exposed to certain topics. While working on a close read about rainforest layers, I had to explain where rainforests were and that they were broken into layers. Short and sweet. Sometimes kids just need us to give them a teensy bit of information so that they can connect with the text.

"Students must use difficult texts."
  • Common Core does ask teachers to provide complex texts to students but it also calls for a variety of texts at different levels. While teaching first grade, I have used close reading passages that were at grade level, but also those above grade level. I do not have to provide challenging passages in order for students to work through the close reading steps. Close reading is just a way to help students work through a text and identify important information.

"Close reading is overwhelming because of all the different notations."
  • You are the teacher. You choose which notations you will use. With my first graders, we kept it simple. We numbered each paragraph, circled unknown words, and used highlighters or colored pencils to highlight our evidence in the story. Do not be overwhelmed by the many options you see on Pinterest or Google. Choose what works for your kids and make it your own.

I love close reading because it allows my students to interact with a text multiple times. Not only does this improve their fluency, but it also works to improve comprehension. You would not imagine how many parents learned about the rainforest this year! :) My students read about the emergent layer so much that they knew all about it! I also use the passages as homework. Students complete a different task each night using the same passage. 

Delving into a text, truly understanding it, and enjoying it in the process is what this is all about. Good bye busy work comprehension sheets. Hello Close Reading!

Because I teach high achieving first grade, my products are usually geared to 2nd-4th grade. Check out my store for more close reading packs or click on the links below.

Rainforest Close Reads - 4 passages & more!
All About Dogs Close Reads - 10 passages & more!
Amazing Eyes Close Reads - 4 passages & more!

For great primary (K-2) close reading ideas and products check out Creekside Teacher Tales or A Year of Many Firsts.

Do you use close reading passages in your classroom? 
How do you go about introducing and teaching the passages?

Until next time...Happy Teaching!


  1. You're wonderful!!!! Just thought I would let you know. ;-)

    1. Awww! Thanks Keri! You're wonderful also. Especially, your beautiful cup monogramming skills. :))


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