How Do We Help Students Access Complex Text?

Guided Close Reading
Interestingly, a term that appears again and again in the literature related to teaching complex text does not appear in the CCSS/ELA themselves: close reading. So, why do we hear this term IMG_80401so often?

Close Reading Is Not for Everything Students Read
First, let us be clear that not every text is worthy of or should be used for a guided close-reading lesson. Students should read many, many texts on their own for pleasure or to gain information. However, to help students grow in their ability to tackle ever increasingly complex texts, short worthy texts should be chosen for close reading lessons. Short is important, especially in elementary classrooms, in order to allow students to focus and dig deep. A worthy text contains the literary elements a teacher wants to help students access; e.g., a specific text structure, rich vocabulary and use of language, a specific point of view, a specific genre or purpose, or samples of rich writer’s craft—or some combination of all of these.

Close Reading Requires Rereading
If students are to provide evidence and justification for statements related to a text, as required by the CCSS, they must closely read texts. They’ll need to really understand what the author is trying to convey, what purpose the text is serving, from what perspective it is written, how the piece is structured, and why particular words and phrases were chosen. Since each of these understandings requires attention to a different type of detail, the text will need to be re-read with each purpose in mind.

Students need to learn to question, mark words and passages of importance, and take notes while doing these close readings. They should engage in rich discussions with the teacher and their classmates around the content of the text. Here they learn and practice the speaking, listening, and language skills for showing that they truly understand a text. And, finally, students should be engaged in projects that require them to use writing in some form to present their learning. Notice that within a guided close reading lesson, selected standards from each of the CCSS/ELA domains can and should be covered.

Watch for a future post regarding the development of text-dependent questions as a means to direct a guided close-reading lesson.

For more posts in this series click on the links below:
Post # 2: What Is Text Complexity and Why Do We Care?
Post # 3: Use Text-Dependent Questions to Guide a Close Read