The Common Core Call to Close Reading
Close reading is the new buzzword. The call to teach for close reading is being sounded in professional journals, blog posts, and across the twitterverse. Reading scholars from Timothy Shanahan to Doug Fisher are offering valuable and timely advice to teachers as they ramp up their efforts to implement the Common Core Call to Close Reading.
The call for close reading is indeed a call to intentional teaching. It is more than following a core reading program script. It requires responsive teaching where students and teachers interact through dialogic thinking. Teachers have to know the students and know the text. Effective reading instruction requires teacher knowledge of how reader factors, text factors, text structures and teacher questioning impacts the ability of students to read closely.
In recent years teaching reading has been likened to teaching rocket science ( Moats, AFT ). Teaching Close Reading can be likened to teaching so you can understand the rocket science.
Close reading instruction requires teachers to know and understand the reader, or reader factors. Knowing the reader means that teachers have gauged a readers background knowledge, prior knowledge and hierarchical knowledge. It also means that the teacher has a sense of a students vocabulary knowledge ( Tier 1, 2 and 3). Additionally, teachers need to know and understand the repetoire of comprehension skills and strategies that their student has control over.
Now, add to that the text factors that teachers need to understand as they engage in teaching students how to read closely. Enter the other new buzzword, text complexity. In order to effectively teach close reading, teachers need to choose a mentor text paying careful attention to genre, text structures, and text features. Understanding the role of text complexity in teaching for close reading means teachers have to understand the features of text complexity. It means understanding the knowledge demands of the text as well as the language features, structure and layout.
The Common Core standards call for all students to engage with grade level exemplar texts. The challenge for all of us is how to do that with those students who are not at grade level. Scaffolding text for these students means teachers have to further develop expert knowledge in understanding how to effectively choose text, scaffold instruction, promote metacognitive strategy use, and foster interactive discussion through thoughtful questioning.
This is no small task. Its more than understanding those other buzzwords: quantitative measures, qualitative measures, readability formulas, lexiles, etc. The rush to heed the call to teach for close reading demands some slow thinking.