Teaching Beyond the Main Idea: Nonfiction and Author’s Intent (Part II)

Welcome to Part Two of a three-part blog post series on nonfiction reading and the important reading work of determining point of view, exploring author’s intent and engaging in critical reading. If you missed Part One on nonfiction reading and determining point of view, check out the link here

I have been working on a letter of recommendation for a teacher I’ve worked with over the past few years. I’ve admired her work for years and can’t imagine a better candidate for this educational program. As I sat at my computer, I felt an urgency to express her thoughtful and innovative work to the application committee. I wrote and rewrote each sentence a number of times, concentrating on creating a vivid, accurate portrayal of her classroom and teaching. I chose my anecdotes, words, and thoughts on her work with attention and care. My driving intent – to give her the best shot at in getting into this program.

And this driving intent – this author’s intention – fueled the piece of writing. It informed decisions around craft and structure; it influenced word choice and tone. As a writer, the intention comes from within. When reading another’s writing, we imagine the intention. Figuring out an author’s intention reveals the purpose behind the piece and adds a layer of insight to the reading. Now, is it possible to completely determine someone else’s intent without asking him or her? Perhaps not completely. But engaging in analysis of an author’s intention leads to layered reading, as well as going beyond figuring out the main idea.

Now, you might ask, “What’s the difference between an author’s point of view and an author’s intent?” We asked the same question! My colleagues and I muddled in this fog for a bit this past summer, teasing out the differences between an author’s point of view and an author’s intent. It’s a slippery slope, really – one informing the other and visa versa. But we came to a understanding that worked for our learning community and it was this: Author’s intent is the drive behind a piece of nonfiction. It’s the why of the piece, the intention of the author. Like point of view, sometimes it obvious and easy to determine, where other times, more subtle and difficult to discern.

Another way to examine the different between point of view and author’s intent was this:

If a text is a car, then an author’s intention is the driver. Yes, the driver has a point of view, a vantage point of the road, but she also has a plan of where she wants to take the car and how she’s going to drive it.

This exploration in truly defining author’s intent in our learning community provided a fruitful, engaging and dynamic conversation – one that we encourage you to take up with colleagues, as well. As you come to your own understandings around author’s intent, perhaps some of these strategies, language prompts, and instructional charts will help your students access this work when reading nonfiction.

Strategies for Author’s Intent

 Here are some starter strategies to use when exploring author’s intent:

●      Readers read to find out what the author is making us feel, and how. We pay attention to how we feel after reading a text. Then, we step back and ask ourselves, “How did the author get me to feel this way?” (see sample instructional chart for this strategy below.)

●      Readers investigate an author’s intent by paying close attention to words and phrases the author uses. We then use this information to step back and think, “Why is the author using those words and phrases? What is her or his plan?”

●      Readers examine an author’s intent by looking at the information he or she includes, and thinking about the information he or she has left out. What is included or excluded can lead readers to figuring out what the author is trying to do with his or her writing.

●      Readers can examine an author’s intent by analyzing the inclusion of text-features, such as illustrations, photographs, charts, and graphs, to determine how these features make readers feel or what charts/graphs are designed to show.

●      Readers pay attention to whom an author cites as an “expert” or “source of knowledge” on the topic.

●      Readers notice when words or certain phrases are repeated throughout a text. They try to put those words and/or phrases into a larger category to see what an author’s intention might be centered around.

Language Prompts for Author’s Intent

Here are some language prompts to use when exploring author’s intent:

●      This is making me feel…because…

●      The author uses the word(s) _____ because…   This makes me think he or she is trying to…

●      The author doesn’t include…    This makes me wonder if…

●      Because the author is part of _____ organization, his/her intent must be to _____.

●      I noticed that the author repeatedly uses _____ (phrases, theme, setting, etc.) and that makes me realize that the author is trying to show/teach me about _____…

●      The author wants me to know (or do) …

●      I think these images fit/don’t fit with the text because …

●      I think the author is trying to persuade me to think/do … because they he or she says/does … in the text.

A Possible Teaching Chart that Supports Nonfiction and Point of View 

A helpful instructional chart detailing a strategy to access and determine an author's intent. This chart provides a strategy for children to replicate, steps to follow, and an image to engage in guided practice.

A helpful instructional chart detailing a strategy to access and determine an author’s intent. This chart provides a strategy for children to replicate, steps to follow, and an image to engage in guided practice.

This is an example of four model jots or annotations to show determining an author's intent in action. The teacher not only shows the work in action, but names the strategies she used to produce the jots or annotations.

This is an example of four model jots or annotations to show determining an author’s intent in action. The teacher not only shows the work in action, but names the strategies she used to produce the jots or annotations.

Teachers trying this work shared that one of the mantra’s around this work is asking why. Why do you think the author wrote this piece? Why do you think the author chose to use these types of words? Why did the author include this evidence, this image, the fact box? This mantra of why positioned students to embrace a more critical stance when reading nonfiction and fostered a conversation between reader and text. Please continue sharing your journey with this work!

-Kate & Maggie

Big Idea = Nonfiction Reading      Tiny Detail = Practical Strategies for Analyzing Author’s Intent of Nonfiction Texts

Teaching Beyond the Main Idea: Nonfiction and Point of View (Part I)

I’ve had ‘organize the file cabinet on my household to-do list for about two years now. And I’m proud to say, I now have the satisfaction of crossing that off the list

I noticed some trends as I came face-to-face with these files:

  1. Early on in my teaching, I had a quick obsession with graphic organizers that looked like food.
  2. I have a knack for keeping multiple copies of the exact same thing.
  3. Transparencies were a thing – I mean, they were THE thing.

I came across my Nonfiction Reading folder, began organizing it, and was struck by a huge trend. Upwards of 80% of what was in that file had to do with determining the main idea. I had prompts to coach kids on figuring out the main idea, strategies to teach main idea, proficient examples of student writing illustrating the main idea, nonfiction articles that were main idea-friendly with supportive sub-headings.

And there is good reason for all of this main idea support. Determining the main idea is one of those reading skills that’s tricky, takes a lot of practice to get really good at it, and requires synthesis work across swaths of text with a hearty dash of interpretative thinking: What IS this text mostly about? The overall message of idea of this piece is…? What is the author teaching me about this topic? We also find ourselves continuously teaching into this skill because as nonfiction texts get harder and more complicated, one could argue figuring out the main idea is, then, harder. Just imagine reading this article on string theory and then being asked to talk about the main idea (no pressure:).

But here’s the thing. When we study the Common Core Standards, when we tap into the conversations of all that kids can talk and think about when reading nonfiction, when we study the questions on high-stakes exams, kids need to be able to think about way more than just the main idea. And, they should! There is a whole wide world of great things to think and talk about when reading nonfiction:

What’s the point of view of this text? Why did the author choose these words or use this language here? What’s the shape and structure of this text and how does that impact how I receive the information? Is there bias here? What information is left out?

We can also  put this conversation in the context of the Common Core Standards. Specifically, when studying the reading anchor standards, you’ll notice how the craft and structure reading standards guide students to engage in work beyond the main idea: interpreting words to figure out their connotative meaning; analyzing word choice and how it creates tone; analyzing text structure and how specific sentences or paragraphs relate to each other; assessing the point of view and how it shapes the content of a text.

So. This blog post is part 1 of a 3-part series on additional ways to support the reading of nonfiction beyond teaching into the main idea. We’ll give air time to lesser-explored nonfiction reading skills – well, they were were lesser-explored for me and some educators I worked with over the summer in an advanced course at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Annual Summer Institute. We spent a week pushing ourselves to develop curriculum, charts and examples of other important areas of nonfiction work:

  • Part One: Nonfiction and Point of View
  • Part Two: Nonfiction and Author’s Intent
  • Part Three: Nonfiction and Critical Reading

Nonfiction and Point of View

Many argue that all texts, nonfiction & fiction, carry a point of view and perspective. Stephanie Jones, in her book, Girls, Social Class, and Literacy, argues

All texts (i.e., spoken, written, performed and multimodal) are constructed by people who are informed by particular ideologies – they are entrenched with perspective.

Exploring point of view and perspective inside nonfiction is a layered journey, where some texts carry a more obvious POV, whereas other texts are more subtle. The Common Core Standards devote one anchor reading standard to this work:

Reading Standard #6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

We can wrap additional words around this standard, exploring and teaching point of view of nonfiction as a viewpoint, a stance the author takes on the topic, or a perspective.

Strategies for Teaching Determining the Point of View of Nonfiction

Here are some starter strategies to use when exploring point of view of nonfiction:

  • Readers notice the words the author uses to help determine how the author might feel about the topic and then use that feeling to determine a possible point of view.
  • Readers determine the author’s point of view by imagining which side the author would take in a debate on the topic.
  • Readers read more than one text on the same topic in order to be able to recognize different viewpoints about the topic.
  • Readers determine what information is missing from a text. Then readers can wonder why the information may have been left out. That reason for omission can help determine the author’s point of view.
  • Readers pay attention to numbers, facts or statistics that are used in a text.  By analyzing what the numbers, facts or statistics are showing, a reader can help determine the author’s point of view.

Language Prompts for Determining the Point of View of Nonfiction

Here are some language prompts to use when exploring point of view of nonfiction:

  • When the author says ___ it makes me think he/she may believe…
  • The author seems to be making the point that … The sentence or words giving evidence of that point is ___
  • The author doesn’t say anything about ___, so I wonder if he/she thinks…
  • If the author was debating this topic, his or her side might be ___.  I think this because…
  • The visual images in the article (photographs, illustrations, diagrams) are included to maybe make the reader think or feel ___. Therefore, the point of view might be…
  • When the author uses words like ___, ___, and ___, this tells me he/she might feel ___ about the subject.
  • If the central idea of the text is ____, then the author’s point of view might be ___ because….

A Possible Teaching Chart that Supports Nonfiction and Point of View 

NF Reading and POV

A helpful instructional chart detailing a strategy to determine an author’s point of view. This chart provides hints & steps for students to follow, as well as a demonstration & a guided practice section.

Teachers trying this work with colleagues and their students found an instant boost in student engagement, as it sets up an investigative stance when reading nonfiction (versus a passive, hands-off stance that sometimes infects students when reading nonfiction). Teachers also found a jump in students’ overall meaning making and critical thinking practices. We’d love to hear how this goes for your and your students!

-Kate and Maggie

Big Idea = Nonfiction Reading         Tiny Detail = Practical Strategies for Exploring Point of View of Nonfiction

Edublog Awards, #Nerdlutions, and NCTE13: It’s About Community, Silly.

     Right before the start of 4th grade, we moved to a new town. One summer night, the neighborhood kids invited me out to play Kick the Can. This was great, except for two things:
          1. I was extremely shy and scared of people.
          2. I had no idea how to play Kick the Can.
     I went and hid. And, not knowing the rules, I stayed hidden. While others snuck out to kick the proverbial can, I stayed hidden. While my peers laughed and ran and shouted, I stayed hidden. When they became concerned because they hadn’t seen me for a long time – hidden. Even as they yelled out my name I stayed crouched under the bush I was hiding under. I also cried.
     See, I didn’t know the rules of this community, this game. And I was so, so scared of people.
     Now I am a grown woman with friends and a relationship and a career. I like to think that I have developed a whole host of social skills across the years. And yet when faced with a new community, a new game, I feel that familiar fear: What if I do the wrong thing? What if I embarrass myself? What if no one likes me?
     Luckily, the communities I have found in the past two years, both online and IRL, have been supportive and wonderful and warm. They have allowed me my hiding-under-the-bush-moments, and they have coaxed me out gently. This post is devoted to three such communities: The blogosphere, Twitter, and conferences.

1. Edublog Awards:

Awards make me feel like hiding under a bush. And there are so many blogs I love. But here are a few I would love to shout out:
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  • Best individual blog: Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension.I love Pernille Ripp’s ability to waltz between hope, critique, humor and warmth. I find at least two of these qualities at home in every post.
  • Best group blog: The Nerdy Book Club. What else can I say about this crew? Oh I know, they have rekindled my dormant reading life and warmed my heart more times than I can mention. Perhaps more than any other group of people online, N.B.C. has helped my teaching and my life.
  • Best new blog: KinderConfidential. Kristi Mraz has just begun her blogging career, but her posts are insightful, mind-bendingly brilliant and, well, funny.
  • Best class blog: Books Upon Books. Here is the thing about Kristen Robbin’s class blog – it is not so much the classroom blog, though she uses it masterfully to model for kids what she hopes they will achieve. It is the work that her kids do off of this class blog that is transformational. Check out the student links on the side. Boom. Also, Kristen’s personal blog- A Kind of Library- is a beautiful testament to books and the power of reading.
  • Best administrator blog: Practical Theory The other Chris Lehmann in my life is a former mentor but more than that he is a true visionary in education. His blog is a testament to his beliefs about education – namely that without engaging and listening to kids, we are lost.
  • Best individual tweeter: @iChrisLehman. Chris is admittedly my compatriot and my friend. But his influence on twitter is palpable and widespread. What I love about Chris as a tweeter is his range – he is able to in the course of 24 hours offer helpful advice to teachers, critique the state of high stakes testing, and comment on popular culture or current events. Chris is also an incredible Twitter friend – he supports and guides and converses.
  • Best twitter hashtag: #Nerdlution. Brand new. But helping countless teachers already to set goals for their life and their teaching.

2. #Nerdlution

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Recently Colby Sharp and friends kicked off a new hashtag – one that encompasses the absolute best of twitter. #Nerdlution is a way for all of us to stay motivated. All you have to do is name something that you would like to do every day from the next 50 days – and then join the community online to help you stay motivated. Here are my Nerdlutions:

1. Break a sweat every day. If it’s good enough for Matthew McConaughey it’s good enough for me.

2. Write every day.

Twitter has helped e to stay connected no mater what – now it will help me stay connected to my goals, to what I truly want out of life. Thanks, Twitter.

3. NCTE13

I never used to go to conferences. My introverted self struggles to stay present, to stay engaged with all of the people and stimulus. As those who know me well know – there is a point in every large gathering where I kind of shut down, Tin Man style. But what I have found out this year is that despite my limitations, I LOVE conferences. I love the people that I meet, the rich conversations I have, the way my thinking is always pushed and my heart full when I leave. I may need some strategies for survival (like I blogged last year here) but going to conferences has fed my professional and personal life in ways I did not expect.

So – while there are times that I still may want to hide under the bushes and stay there until every one goes home, I am indebted to the new communities I have found in the past two years.

Don’t Get Off the Bus, and Other Holiday Advice

One time, twenty years ago now, I was returning to college on a Greyhound bus after a perfectly fine Thanksgiving with my family. It was raining, my head against the glass watching the rain trail down the windows. As we pulled into the Albany station – still a good three hour drive from my college in Hartford, CT – a thought came to me:

Get off the bus.

Of course, it made no sense to get off of the bus. I was three hours away from my destination and had little money. I was perfectly safe on the bus and had mandatory classes to attend the next day.

But I did. I got off the bus. I left my duffle bag behind thinking I could recover it in Hartford later. I took my Sony Walkman, a handful of cassette tapes, my nearly empty wallet, and hit the road.

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It was, of course, a colossally stupid thing to do. In the hours that followed, I hitchhiked on I-90 singing “Old Man” by Neil Young at the top of my lungs, fought my way out of one tractor trailer when the driver decided I owed him more than my gratitude, got another ride from some gas station guys smoking something illegal as they drove, and accepted a final ride from another truck driver, who remarkably resembled Charles Manson, but wound up being a kind father of three girls. After he dropped me off at my dorm and I waved goodbye, my body turned to liquid with the realization of the danger I had faced. I was terrified.

But earlier in the day, when I was safe and warm on the bus, the idea to get off the bus felt so right, so compelling, that I didn’t have a choice but to listen. I craved an experience, I craved a risk – something much more vital than rows of plush seats, the steady drive of 55 miles per hour, and the classes I was to attend. It seemed at the time like there was nothing for me on the bus – like I had been there, I had done that.

There are kids in our classrooms who feel like I did twenty years ago – kids who suddenly wake up one day (usually in middle school) and notice the plush seats and steady pace of their school life and think, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’ For them, it seems as though there is nothing for them in school. We want to be on the lookout for the kids who want to “get off the bus” and examine why. Can we make our schools a place where kids want to stay, a place that feels safe and secure, but also provides adventures and risk – real things that many students (and many of us) crave?

When students want to get off of the bus of their school careers, they make it perfectly clear. It may look like disengagement, it may look like disruption, or it may look like dropping out. Whatever the outer sign, we have a choice as their teachers of how to respond. We may not be able to convince all of our kids to get back onto the bus at every moment, but we can find ways not to push them further away.

Of course, the safety record and comfortable seats of school are not going to be viable selling points for students who are craving something faster. We need to change in order to stay relevant to younger generations. To help kids stay on the bus, we need not so much strategies as mindsets that can help them to see the worth in keeping the faith, even staying on the road of school. Here are a few mindsets that have worked for me with my kids:

1. Understand.

When we have lost faith in something, whether it be Greyhound or graduating, it does not help to have someone tell you that you are wrong or dumb to feel that way. The feeling is real. It even makes sense. School is weird. If you grow up not seeing educated adults around you happy and fulfilled, or if your deepest interests have absolutely nothing to do with school, it’s tough to stay motivated to do your homework and show up for math class. When talking to kids who are getting off the bus, you may not want to say, “I get it, school stinks,” but it is important to communicate that their perspective is understandable. Try letting them vent their frustrations with school without you editing or clucking in disapproval. Many of us have said that teachers are teachers, parents, coaches….and therapists. For our students who need us, let’s embrace that role a bit more actively and show our students that we are listening.

2. Shift.

As educators, it is in our nature to get wrapped up in our own rules, our own guidelines. Don’t get me wrong, I love rules. I am an avid rule follower. I also get kind of persnickety when others don’t follow the rules. But in my classroom, I had to understand that if I wanted to reach my kids who were getting off the bus, I might have to bend the rules a bit. Not that Jimmy should be allowed to do whatever he wants with no consequences. But perhaps there are some kids who might write a literary essay on a movie they love, or a video game, and not always on a text, especially if the skill I’m most hoping kids practice is the skill of essay writing. Or perhaps my kids could choose what book they will read on book club. Or I could let some kids listen to the book on tape while they work.

There are countless opportunities to find individualized ways to get to the same destination in our classrooms – in fact Universal Design for Learning (UDL) pushes us all to think more about what it is we want kids to learn or be able to do, and then to consider all of the ways that we may invite them to get there. The choice of pathway, according to UDL, should be theirs to make, not ours.(Future blog posts on UDL forthcoming, especially if we can convince Colleen Cruz to guest post!)

3. Expand.

If, when I look out into my classroom, I see a sea of faces in danger of disconnecting to school, I need to rethink my curriculum and stance on how to teach the young people of this generation. Perhaps my kids need more project based learning, or internships in the community. Maybe I could launch an independent writing project unit, where students get to choose what they will make and what their schedule will be. Maybe I need to step back and ask students what they want out of school, what would feel relevant to them. When students don’t see the relevance of school, I need to help them find it. I also need to expand my vision of what school is for my students, especially in these days of high-stakes testing and standards. I may need to use a wider lens at times, pausing to ask: how does this activity fit into my students’ world?  What would help them navigate their world a little better?

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For many of our students, there will come a time when they feel frustrated with school. They will not see the point, beyond following the rules and behaving. Some of these kids will try to get off the bus, like I did (quite literally) twenty years ago coming back from Thanksgiving. How we respond to these kids – to these classes of kids – will determine whether they keep walking down those dangerous highways, or whether they will find a reason to get back on the bus, plush seats and all.

Big Idea: Engagement     Tiny Detail: Trying on different mindsets to reach students

-Kate and Maggie

Thank You.

The book is out today!

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Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts – and Life, my first book and my wonderful co-author Chris Lehman’s fourth, is being put into boxes and shipped out as we speak (at least that is what I am envisioning this morning).

I am not sure what I expected to feel when I got my copy in the mail, but what I have felt from that moment is just rolling waves of gratitude. It seems strange to have only my and Chris’ names on the front – it seems like there should be a scrolling list of people who helped make this project a reality.

I have a daily practice of gratitude – a group of friends and I email each other each day with a “Gratitude List,” where we name things we are thankful for each day, no matter how hard the day. (Hutch and coffee make the list each day.)

So here, on the day our book comes out, is a small portion of my Gratitude List – for the people who have been so foundational, so supportive in the writing of this – my first book. I included some favorite quotes on gratitude along the way.

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”
― Meister Eckhart

Tobey Antao, our editor, has this amazing ability to both fill your sails with wind while also absolutely letting you know what should probably change in your writing or thinking. It is an amazing balance, and one that made all the difference. She is smart as a whip, sweet while embracing sarcasm, and as we say up in Utica, a good egg.

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh,

Heinemann Publishing. I don’t know what I expected from a publishing company, but feeling like they are part of my extended family was certainly not on the list. From marketing to design to editing – this company has what is important in its sights – teachers and students.

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert,

Lucy Calkins has been my boss and mentor for almost a decade now, but she has influenced my thinking and teaching since the moment I stepped into a school. I have had the honor to learn from her, to follow her as she leads a mass of educators through tricky times with thoughtfulness and fortitude, and to enjoy her company.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”

- AA Milne.

Colleen Cruz and Nadine Baldasare are a part of my family, though we met when I was 23. They have supported me through every kind of rough time imaginable, celebrated all the good bits, and passed much of the time in between. While our acknowledgments didn’t leave room for friendships, these two are much more than that, and they deserve all of my thanks. More specifically, thank you Nadine for the beautiful author photo, and thank you Colleen for always being a professional inspiration.

“Po flickered. “Thank you?” it repeated. “What is that?”

Liesl thought. “It means, You were wonderful,” she said. “It means, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
― Lauren Oliver

Maggie. In my life, there is before Maggie, and after Maggie. I am so glad to be in the “AM” years now.

And then there is Chris. I am so glad that we decided to move forward from that first birthday dinner conversation, and not only because we now have this book that I am so proud to have co-written.  Yes, you are a brilliant educator, yes, you are a great writer, but more than all of this you are a fine human being, and I am honored to be your friend. Thank you for writing this book with me. Thank you for showing me the ropes.  I did not find a quote to represent my gratitude for you, so instead, here is this tribute:

Lastly, thank you. Having such a supportive and smart community to bounce ideas off of is a joy and an honor. I am nervous, of course, having my first book out there, but knowing that I am sharing it with you all makes it so much easier. I so hope that it is helpful, that you enjoy it, that it sparks more conversation.

Thank you!

A Day in the Life of a Close Reader

We are almost at the end of our 7-week blog-a-thon on #closereading! We invite YOU to join in! Find more on how-to here. Several selected posts have already been linked to on the Contributors page and we are looking forward to your addition. Let’s closely read the practice of close reading together!

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In our book, (which is coming out next week – October 17th!), Chris Lehman and I offer lessons and ideas for helping students to become more powerful and independent close readers of texts –  both fiction and nonfiction texts, both print text and media. But we also argue that close reading is not just something that we do when reading, it is a basic human skill -  a skill we link to the ability to love. We encourage you at the end of each chapter to consider not only how the work in this book challenges us to think about texts, but how we can use these same moves to reflect upon and “read” our lives more closely. As we write in Chapter One:

We know, in our bones, that loving something or someone involves knowing that thing or person very well. Returning to it repeatedly, gazing at it for hours, considering each angle, each word, and thinking about its meaning.

Hence the title: Falling in Love with Close Reading. In order to love something or someone – whether it be your partner, a poem or your remodeled pantry – you must know the object of your love very well. You must read it closely, paying attention to every detail, letting those details be your teacher. We argue that it goes the other direction as well, that in the process of choosing to look at something or someone closely – by choosing to see the details and by choosing to reflect on them – you can create a love that may not have been there before. Chris and I believe that the skill of reading our world closely allows us to live richer, more beautiful lives.

So I decided to do an experiment: I would spend an entire day as a close reader of life, and share what insights I find. Here are five moments from my day as a close reader:

1. Time – see what’s become of me?

I kicked off my close reading day with coffee, looking at my schedule, feeling the now common tug of stress and excitement when looking ahead to a full, action-packed day. Because it was 5am and because I had not had much coffee yet I almost forgot my purpose – to read everything closely – but I remembered in the nick of time. I thought, ‘Wait. Why would I read my schedule closely? What could I get out of that other than a huge headache?”

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Then I remembered a blog post Chris wrote awhile back about how what we spend time doing reveals what we value, and that we should spend more time doing what matters most to us. And so I read my schedule a little more closely, looking for the details of how I spent my time. I noticed that my time was mostly spent doing one of three things:

1. Working.               2. Writing.             3. Seeing friends.

Now, each of these things matter to me. I care about my job, the schools I work in, the teachers and kids. Writing has become a huge part of my life, and my friends fill up my life and give me the energy to do the rest of it. But as I looked more closely, I saw that there were some things not on the list – some things that matter too, or in some cases, matter more that what I was spending all of my time doing:

1. Marriage/Romance.           2. Exercise.             3. Tending to my spiritual life.

Of course, my intention is always to fit these things in – to find an hour here and there to go work out, to wake up early and meditate, to remember to bring home flowers, or be sweet, or have an impromptu dinner date. But isn’t it true that these are the first things to go when we are faced with a busy week?

As I sat in my living room at 5am, now fully caffeinated (thank you, Lord Coffee), I realized that when you look closely at the way I structure my time, it doesn’t seem like I care as much about the things that actually mean the most to me – my partner, my health and my spirit. That has to change, I thought, and I went to work balancing my schedule – erasing a writing night and putting “date night” in its place, writing a quick email to cancel dinner with a friend so I could have one quiet night at home, writing in the times I would exercise so I would be sure to do it.

In our book, Chris and I focus a chapter on reading closely for the structure of a text. In this moment, I read my life closely for how I structured my time, and found that some important changes could be made to live more of the life I want to live.

2. Look for the signs.

One of the joys (and hardships) of my job is that I go to a different school every day. Today I was walking to a school 30 minutes from my house. I have walked this path at least a hundred times over the years. But today I was reading closely. All of a sudden my walk was a journey of inside jokes, absurd truths and beautiful details. I could not possibly write everything I noticed, but here is one example: I walk through a neighborhood that is in between two fancier neighborhoods. Over the years people have tried to make this neighborhood fancy too, but it just hasn’t stuck. As I walked through the streets reading my surroundings closely, I saw signs like these:

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The word choice struck me all of a sudden as both inviting a certain demographic while also gently mocking them. The Yuppy Puppy is more obvious – yuppy is not really a compliment, but signals to people that perhaps here you will find the organic dog biscuits you are looking for (says the girl who buys her cat organic cat food). But it was the choice of the word “haven” that fascinated me. “Haven” means a place of safety and refuge. I started to laugh. Is the store a haven for juice in a land of pizza parlors and bodegas? Is it a haven for the aforementioned yuppies? What exactly is the danger surrounding this “haven for juice and yuppies?” High calorie count? Non-organic juices and dog biscuits? (Says the girl who buys organic peppers.) I began to see this neighborhood as advertising the tension of store owners who want the business that comes with gentrifying but who also resent, even slightly, what comes along with that influx of “yuppies.”

In our book, we focus a chapter on studying the word choice in texts. Of course, words are all around us. Reading the language we use closely can help us to be in on the joke.

3. Reading Between the Lines.

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I mean. . . really? I like having 5 trees, but do you really need a plaque for that? And I kind of think a trash receptacle is actually an expectation, not an add-on. Ahem, anyways, moving on. . .

4. Speak Softly…

So I’m at work, talking to some teachers I like and respect and feel comfortable with. We got talking about testing. All of a sudden, I realized that almost every other word I uttered was the F-bomb. Just a torrent of filth, really. Now, I am sure this has happened before and I haven’t noticed it (please don’t tell me if this is true). But today I was reading my life closely and I noticed. And stopped. And said to my colleagues, “I am so sorry that I am cursing like a sailor. Please forgive me.” (I think they may have been disappointed that I stopped.)

The words we speak matter. Reflecting on the language we use, how we describe things, the tone in our voice helps us to be the best part of ourselves, but it takes a whole lot of close reading to notice and to change.

5. Embrace the Moment.

When I got home from work, our 17 year old cat, Hutch, was in a state. His thyroid issue, his deafness, his general age has made it so that he becomes delirious at times, meowing what we call his “rage meow,” running through the apartment like wildfire, and, most charmingly, vomiting. I wasn’t in the mood. (A few more F-bombs may have escaped my lips.) But then I looked at him – my faithful friend. My cat who puts those articles about the aloofness of felines to shame. My pet who feels like a part of my heart.

He is thin now. I call him ‘my bag of bones.’ His muzzle is gray, his teeth starting to decay. He kind of smells funny, and his rage meowing literally wakes me up four times a night.

But I put these details next to the past 17 years of his companionship – the way he ran to greet me at the door every day like a dog. How he liked to jump up into my arms and rub his face against mine. How he used to follow me from room to room before his hearing went. How he sleeps on a pillow above my head and in the night I can feel his paws patting me from time to time. How he is this perfect balance of wanting to be near you but not wanting to be on you like some cats.

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The closely read details of now – rage meow, vomiting, no sleep – can only live truly next to the legacy of my time with him. When I read something closely, I don’t want to only focus myopically on what is in front of my face, I want to place that close reading next to something – in this case the other moments I have spent with my sweet Hutch.

Chris and I spend some time in our book thinking about how we can closely read a text in the company of other texts, and how that comparative work helps us to see the bigger picture of each. My time with Hutch is in the last chapter. I owe him not only his present tense. I owe him the perspective of his whole life.  After all, he has been reading me closely for 17 years.

Closely Reading Texts, Closely Reading Lives.

There are many more examples – moments I spent with kids and read their expressions differently because I was paying closer attention, a time noticing the way a teacher spoke dismissively of her kids and challenging her language, an evening with my partner where I listened more deeply to her stories from the day. There were more signs on the way home, more things I saw in myself and in my life that I could change or appreciate.

It was wonderful. It was exhausting. I don’t think I will do it again. For just as no one can closely read a whole novel, our entire lives are not meant to be so closely examined. However, the ability to zoom in on special moments, either from the texts we read or the lives we lead, is an important one. Chris and I hope that our book helps you to teach your students to read texts more carefully, more analytically, but we also hope that it will help them – and perhaps you – to see their own lives differently. To find the moments that deserve a closer look, and to focus in on the details, seeing what wisdom they have to offer. Like this graffiti outside of my supermarket suggests, the future is ours to make what we want of it, but we might have to start paying closer attention to the little things in order to help it shine bright:

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Big Idea: Life                                       Tiny Detail: Reading Life Closely

Kate and Maggie

Losing Facebook Friends and Other Tragedies: Close Reading Nonfiction for Point of View

I recently lost a Facebook friend.

There was a controversial issue in the news, and emotions were hot. I posted an article or two, and a discussion was  sparked. Some people disagreed with me, and we managed to be respectful and interested in what the other had to say (which feels like a minor miracle in this day and age). And then, when referring to a peaceful protest in NYC, my now ex-Facebook friend said, “there is no justice like mob justice.” I pushed back on his language, saying that the protest was hardly a mob. It was peaceful (Jay-Z and Beyonce were there for Pete’s sake!)  and when he repeated the word, I said that I did object to people using language that insinuates that I, or like-mined people, are somehow violent rioters, or dumb and misguided.

He de-friended me.

This post is not about my ex-Facebook friend, who I like very much. Nor is it about the specific Facebook exchange. What strikes me about this moment is how easy it is to infuse the reporting of facts – and all informational texts – with a strong bias or point of view, and how closely we have to read sometimes to see the author behind the supposed reality of nonfiction, whether it be on social media or the front page of the New York Times.

The words we use when we report, retell, and argue, matter. The details we choose to include, and the ones we choose to exclude, matter. The comparisons we make, the anecdotes we include, matter. Nonfiction writers always have a point of view on their topic, and I believe that it is virtually impossible to keep that point of view out of the writing entirely. As readers, there is great power in being able to discern what exactly the author is implying and assuming about the government shutdown, or education, or cats. (It always comes back to cats.) There is great power in being able to step back and pay close attention to the point of view being presented in a nonfiction text.

Closely reading to uncover the point of view of the text is about naming the implications of the language and examples the author uses in their writing. It is less about the central ideas of the text – although sometimes these are one and the same, and more about what this author, or this text, wants you to believe about the topic. What the text wants you to feel. It is the work of uncovering the assumptions the author is making, by paying close attention s/he uses.

Not all nonfiction texts will reward this work equally. This excerpt from the Animal Planet’s webpage on Starfish, for example, does not exactly invite a close reading for point of view:

Starfish, or Sea Star, a bottom-dwelling marine animal. Despite its name, the starfish is not a fish; it is an echinoderm, a type of marine animal that is spiny-skinned. There are about 2,000 species, found in all seas, and most often near rocky shores. Starfish typically have five or more tapering arms radiating from a central point. The mouth is in the center on the underside. 

Not exactly rippling with nuance. But while not every text invites a close read for point of view, some seem to almost beg for this work. Like this commercial for Barbie dolls:

When we read this text closely, we pull out phrases like “be who you wanna be” and we pull out the evidence of the text – that being who you wanna be includes having the choice of blue, purple or red hair. We can step back and ask ourselves: what does the author want us to believe? What do they want us to feel? Maybe that the author of this text wants us to believe that fashion is fun, which is true.  But it also seems like there is more than that, that it is also implying that fashion is the way you can be who you are. It seems with a close read that this text’s point of view is that the the pathway to a girl’s self actualization is through her appearance.

It’s easy to pick on Barbie. But all social commentary aside – it is not that I have to disagree with the point of view in the text to recognize that it is there, and even that it is heavy handed. Having a point of view is not a bad thing – we all have them, like thumbs, or underwear. But it is our job as readers – it is our privilege as literate people – to see the point of view in the text when it arises, to nod to it, like you would an allusive neighbor in the morning. Doing this helps our students see the world around them more clearly, and helps to position themselves on firmer ground in their lives as young citizens. For when I read the Barbie commercial closely, when I identify what the point of view of that text is, I get to ask myself: Do I agree with that? And if I don’t identify the points of view in the nonfiction around me, I am in danger of being unwittingly manipulated by subtle messages that float by us all day long. And who wants to be unwittingly manipulated?

To help our kids read nonfiction more closely, and to help them uncover the points of view in those texts, try first having them pull out the words and phrases they see the author using in the text – the language that sticks out (more on how to see this language in our upcoming book). Then, you can lean on some thought prompts and sentence frames to help kids think about what they are seeing:

Sentence Frames for Point of View:

I think the author wants me to think that . . .

If the author was debating this topic, they would say . . .

The author doesn’t say anything about . . . which makes me think . . .

Some feeling words the author uses are __________, _____________, and __________, which tells me that the author probably feels . . . about the topic.

The author seems to believe that . . .

Helping students to notice the point of view in nonfiction texts helps them to not only hear the points of view of others, but to develop their own. While they may need some coaching at first, soon you will be surrounded by powerful critical readers.

(Try this work on this article from the wonderful magazine for kids, Upfront: http://upfront.scholastic.com/News/Is-the-Arab-Spring-Dead, and share what you find in the comments below!)

Big Idea: Close Reading  Tiny Detail: Closely reading nonfiction with sentence frames to uncover point of view

Take a Peek at “Falling in Love with Close Reading!”

Welcome to the eighth post in our 7-week blog-a-thon on #closereading. Each week posts are added to the Contributors page and we are looking forward to your addition. Let’s closely read the practice of close reading together!

 Chris and I will be presenting on Close Reading together in Amherst, NY on December 9. Registration as well as the number to call for lodging information or other questions can be found here. Chris has other dates you can sign up for as well here. We look forward to working with you IN PERSON!

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It is fitting that my 40th birthday is tomorrow for two reasons: first, I get the gift of offering you a sneak peek at some sample pages from Falling in Love with Close Reading. Secondly, it was at a birthday celebration a few years ago that Chris and I first talked about working on this book together. I am feeling like a pretty lucky girl today, and a big part of that is being able to share these pages with you.

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Here is the link to the rest of the sample pages: http://heinemann.sites.hubspot.com/falling-in-love-with-close-reading-sample. The book comes out October 17th through Heinemann. You can pre-order here if you like.

We cannot wait to hear what you think, to hear how your lessons go, to see photos of the beautiful work you do with your kids. One of the joys of the past few months has been the Blog-a-Thon, reading your thoughts on close reading, and on how to make this work meaningful and engaging to kids (as well as to ourselves). If you haven’t checked out our contributer’s page, please do!

Here are just a few of the fantastic posts that you’ll find on the page:

Sarah Picard Taylor shares smart ideas about ways to rethink book shopping, organization and read aloud in primary classrooms to support emergent close reading habits.

Fran McVeigh makes an argument for the use of nonfiction texts in close reading and offers some beginning thinking about just when that might happen and what sorts of texts could be involved.

Jerry Blumengarten (the ever popular @Cybraryman) shares his internet-librarian page on Close Reading. (This resource is amaz-o!)

Kristi Mraz describes her view of “emergent close reading” in primary grades as being teaching stances.

Vicki Vinton shares a cautionary tale, suggesting we must always look at transference of our teaching to students’ own independent work, not simply kids “doing” close reading in a wrote way that they cannot apply.

Chris and I hope to find many ways to keep the conversation on close reading going in the coming months, so that all of our voices, opinions and experiences are heard. After all, we don’t want our kids to feel like this. And while I thought that writing a book I believed in was a great birthday present, being part of a larger, brilliant community of educators is truly a much greater one. Join in the conversation.

So Much Depends on the Bean Salad: Writing About the Details of a Text

We are at post #6 in our 7-week blog-a-thon on #closereading. We invite YOU to join in! Find more on how-to here. Several selected posts have already been linked to on the Contributors page and we are looking forward to your addition. Let’s closely read the practice of close reading together!

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On a hot day in New Mexico during the summer of 2001, I saw my Dad for the last time. I knew that it might be the final visit. I lived in NYC. He was sick. We were both broke.

I remember all of the details of those last ten minutes. Sitting at the kitchen table with him in his one bedroom apartment on the outskirts of the city. Eating the steak and bean salad he had made me for lunch, the same bean salad he would be buying in the supermarket where he would have his heart attack. The overflowing ashtray, the beat up furniture, the unpacked boxes. The way he asked if I liked the bean salad, like he wanted me to, and the way I said yes. How our voices sounded like the fear of what comes next. His eyes. How I didn’t want to leave. I remember the look on his face when my friends pulled in the driveway to pick me up, and how quickly he pulled those feelings down like a blind. His hug in the driveway and how when my chest moved with the sob that would have started too many, he said with love deep in his voice, “No, kiddo, we can do this. No baby. It’s okay.”

I have doubts telling this story here in this blog post on writing about close reading because who really cares about close reading when placed against the stories that capture the enormity of our lives? But as I held this topic in my mind all week, as I thought about the reason to care about teaching students how to articulate and elaborate and analyze on paper what they have read closely in a text, I kept coming back to this. Because of course I remember every detail, I lived and read that moment closely. But the details, and the fact of the goodbye are not the only reasons why this memory matters so much. It’s the work I did afterwords with friends and family members and perhaps a therapist or two to find meaning in each of those details that has helped me see why this memory is unique and what it shows about me, my Dad, and our relationship.

I wrote a lot in the months after his death. I wrote to try to understand what had happened, what I was feeling. I wrote about the details mostly, and in doing so, I saw so much meaning in the specifics of our goodbye.  I saw how the details of his apartment broke my heart because I wanted to stay and help him, because I wished so deeply that he was doing better. I saw that his pride over the bean salad symbolized how small his life had gotten in the end and also how much he wanted to please me. His words to me as we said goodbye now felt to me like the perfect example of his particular kind of love – he always tried to shield me from his own pain, he always wanted to seem strong, he always wanted to make it better, and of course he never knew how. 

We find real, subtle, poignant, universal meaning when we analyze the details of the moments we live and the texts we read. As Roy Peter Clark urges us to think in his book “Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer,” details are where the true meaning lies. He exhorts non-fiction writers to pay attention to the littlest things, like the bean salad, or the name of the dog. While Clark is talking to writers, when we teach students to read closely, we are asking them to do the same thing in the texts they are reading. To focus on the details in order to see the larger truths of the text. Just noticing the details is not enough for a reader – of life or of texts.

To make true meaning of the little things, we must spend time thinking. This is hard. Writing is a great way to help people linger on a thought, to let it grow. And just like the people who helped me heal had different ways to push me to say what was in my heart and head, we can offer students some prompts or sentence frames to help push their thinking about the details they have closely read in texts. These sentence frames help students to do work that is otherwise overwhelming, they give them stepping stones to get to the bigger ideas that are lurking in their hearts and minds, but don’t have the oompf to rise to the surface. Some of these frames might include:

1. “I noticed that the author…and this makes me think…”

2. “The author is using words like . . . and . . . I think s/he is doing this to show . . .”

3. “When I saw the phrase . . . I realized that the author . . . “

4. “I think that . . . is really a symbol for . . . because . . .”

5. “I think the author is trying to . . . with the . . . s/he is choosing.”

6. “I am seeing a pattern in how  . . . I think this connects to the theme of . . . “

There are so many others, of course, and you will write your own sentence frames that reflect both the teaching in your classroom and the kids at the desks.

Close reading is important, as we see so many of the details of a text race by our young readers’ eyes unnoticed. But simply pulling out the details won’t suffice. When you see that your students need a little help connecting the detail of the text to what it might mean, try using some sentence frames or prompts to help them. Like Soren, a 6th grader, who took to analyzing word choice in his book for homework one night:

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The pages of a text are not as important as the final goodbye between a parent and child. And close reading is not “just like when I said goodbye to my Dad.” But the reasons for why we might teach students to write about their close reading go way beyond state assessments and literary essays and college and career readiness. When we learn to analyze the detail of a text, we also learn ways of thinking about our lives, and vice versa – a beautiful cycle. This work makes our minds sharper and our hearts bigger – sometimes we just need a little help to say what we mean, big or small.

Big idea: Writing About Reading                                                Tiny Detail: Using prompts to help analyze the details of a text

Kate and Maggie

What my mother taught me about close reading.

Welcome to the fourth post in our 7-week blog-a-thon on #closereading. We invite YOU to join in! Find more on how-to here. Several selected posts have already been linked to on the Contributors page and we are looking forward to your addition. Let’s closely read the practice of close reading together!

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There was a kid in my school when I was growing up, let’s call him Harry, who came from a no sugar home. Now, I like these homes, and essentially live in one now (the chocolate treat I am currently stuffing in my face not withstanding). But I’m not just talking about no sugar cereals and organic vegetables – I’m talking about total and complete surveillance around the food that entered Harry’s mouth. I watched his parents inspect every bit of food he ate, steer him furtively away from birthday cake at parties, give him strict instructions not to touch the school food under any circumstances.

Then there was my Dad. When I visited him during the summers, often our pre-dinnertime conversations went something like this:

Me: Hey Dad, what’s for dinner?

Dad: Not sure yet. What do you want?

Me: How about a whole box of popsicles?

Dad: Okay!

It strikes me that these two models of parenting – the newly coined “helicopter parent” vs. a more “run with the wolves and be free” style – could be a (very exaggerated) metaphor of a debate educators are having around how to help kids become powerful close readers.

On the one hand, you have a veritable sea of for-profit materials that offer you The Texts for everyone to read,  and The Questions everyone should answer. While perhaps some of these materials (link to a great blog-a-thon post) will be helpful, this strikes us as “helicopter teaching” – it is controlling every “bite” of reading that a kid takes, telling them exactly what to do and when to do it, without really teaching them how to do anything on their own.

On the other hand, there are educators who argue that close reading is not like this at all. That close reading is just good reading, and that really, kids can probably do a lot of this work on their own if we just model it and let them read. (Full disclosure: these are my people, my compatriots, the ones I lean toward and learn from). There is a resistance, for good reason, to the idea that we can break close reading down into a listicle of steps or questions or techniques. Instead, these educators know that the best reading teaching comes from modeling, encouragement, conferences, and, above all, the right books.

I believe that kids can read closely, that modeling will help, and should be the centerpiece of my teaching. I agree that close reading is organic, and should not be reduced to a quick and easy method of teaching, or a long list of questions to make kids read closely without knowing what they are doing.

But.

What if they don’t? What if my modeling doesn’t cut it? If the kids leave the lesson thinking, “Boy, Ms. Roberts sure is good at close reading. Wonder how she did that?” When I picture the classes I taught, when I really imagine teaching them how to read a text closely, to go back with purpose and careful read each bit, I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place: I agree with freedom, and yet it seems like sometimes the kids need some direction.

A Little Bit of Structure Goes a Long Way

In our upcoming book, Chris Lehman and I posit that while the end goal of any curriculum, unit, or lesson must be that kids are independent, innovative and engaged, along the way students may need a little bit of structure to help them make this new skill a habit, so that they can become independent. 

It seems like that is how people often learn new or challenging things. At first, we need someone to explain how it goes, even a few steps to take to get started. Then we practice that thing a whole lot, both with help and independently, and then we make it our own, not needing the structure or steps as much anymore.

Take my mother. Whereas Harry’s family was on him like white on rice, and my Dad left me to my own devices, my Mom struck a beautiful balance. There was a ton of structure at home with very direct instruction, such as:

1. “Stop eating that whole package of  Big League Chew right now.”

2. “Eat your broccoli. Yes, all of it.”

3. “First you eat your dinner and then you can have dessert.”

My Mom knew that I needed some help in my journey to learn good eating habits. But I had freedom as well – I could make my own choices at friend’s houses. I was on my own after school.  And if I really didn’t want to eat what my Mom was telling me to I could make my own decision.  I could ultimately choose how I wanted to eat, and if that meant that once I ate an entire jumbo bag of cheesy Jax and had a stomach ache for two days, well, I learned something.  Mom knew the perfect balance between teaching me the path towards good eating habits – through modeling and independence yes, but also through steps and methods and instructions – without making me feel like I needed her to choose a lunch at school.

Let’s aim for the ideal – for close reading work that is open, independent, and engaged – but let’s plan for those moments when our students don’t quote know what to do, and our modeling isn’t enough. Here are a few ways to walk the line:

1. Start off in the deep end and work your way back. This is, besides “rinse and repeat,” my favorite method of teaching. I start off with the work that I think may be tough for my kids, and then see what they can do. As Vicki Vinton describes in her recent blog post, sometimes our students are able to do way more than we think – sometimes it is us holding them back when we teach them bit by bit, one meager step at a time. That being said, the other great part about starting in the deep end is it becomes real clear real quick which kids need some of those bit by bit strategies. This is helpful to know.

2. Have strategies ready. No matter what, kids are going to need help, and I don’t want to have to resort to “45 questions to ask when close reading” when they do:

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This isn’t going to help anyone.

Instead, have at the ready a few ways, a simple method, for helping students to become a little more independent, a bit more confident, in their close reading. My compatriot, Chris, highlights one way to help here, and we outline more in our upcoming book. I remember a guy in my hometown, Utica, who used to say, “keep it simple, stupid.” This is good advice, I think, when trying to “teach” close reading. (I also have a friend who changed the phrase to “keep it simple, sassy.” To each his own.)

3. Pre-assess to find out what kids can do. It’s always good to know where you are going. Spending a little time at the start of a unit or course of study to assess what your kids are able to do can help you to decide how free or how hands on you will need to be, and with which kids. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing before my teaching starts what small groups I may need to pull. There is nothing LESS satisfying than teaching a whole class lesson and realizing mid-way through that only like five kids need this lesson and that the rest of the class is looking at you in bored desperation. Man I hate that look.

Of course no child ever, ever felt this way in my class. I just heard about this…from a friend…

4. Model not only your brilliance, but the steps you took to be so smart. I may or may not have spent an embarrassing amount of time playing the video game Skyrim last year. At one point, I tried to get my friend, Margaret, into the game. She came over, and I showed off. I shot arrows into dragons from the peaks of mountaintops, I wrestled a bear. She was impressed. But she had no idea what do do when I handed her the controls. So I took them back, and started off more like this: “So if I want to slay a dragon, first I have to level up by doing some quests, next I make sure to be behind cover, see how I am doing that? Then I have to be patient. It takes awhile to bring down a dragon. Watch how I keep jumping out, firing, and then getting back behind my cover.” Modeling is not enough – it can be kind of annoying actually to watch someone be good at something you don’t feel that great about. Name out what you are doing, the steps you are taking, to help kids see the method behind the madness.

5. Use charts to support. No matter how clear my teaching, chances are the kids won’t commit every move to memory. Making sure I hang some charts with strategies or steps or examples can help kids to keep themselves going when they hit a road block. When I chart, I strike a great balance between control – I have listed some of the work I would like you to try –  and freedom – it is still up to you to choose how to get the work done.

Like my mother did when I was growing up, we can teach students that making good choices doesn’t mean not having any fun, and that independence doesn’t mean a free for all.

Big Idea: Close Reading                                                 Tiny Detail: Balancing control and freedom in our teaching

Kate and Maggie

Your Turn!

What are your definitions or what you consider misuses of “close reading”? What have we gotten right in our’s or what would you revise? Have you experienced misapplications of the term? What have you done or are now thinking you could do about these misuses? What new ah-has or questions are you thinking through?

Join us in our blog-a-thon! Add the button to your post and paste the URL in the comments below and boom, you’re along for the ride.