Close Reading: An Interview With Dave Stuart Jr

We interviewed Dave Stuart Jr, a full-time teacher at Cedar Springs High School on how he implements close reading in his classroom. Dave Stuart Jr is a full-time teacher at Cedar Springs High School and founder of Teaching the Core. He advocates a non-freaked out, focused approach to literacy and character, and his approach perfectly aligns with everything from the Common Core to, well… common sense.

dave-stuart-jr-headshot-300x300SNAP: How do you incorporate close reading into your instruction?

Dave: I teach my students to read closely for a purpose — that’s the key. For example, if they’ll be writing an open-ended response to a text, they should closely read for things the author says that they have something to say about.

SNAP: How do you choose texts for close reading?

Dave: I look for texts that connect to what we’re currently studying in class. My goal is texts that are appropriately complex for 9th graders — I then scaffold as needed for my struggling readers.

SNAP: Where do you find texts for close reading?

Dave: Kelly Gallagher’s articles of the week page, Newsela.com, TheWeek.com, my short story anthologies from college, our world history textbook — it depends on the kind of text I’m looking for.

SNAP: What kinds of annotation marks do you have students use?

Dave: I tell my students to give 1-2 thoughtful annotations per page, and those annotations should align with their purpose for reading. I explain the “purposeful annotation” concept, in-depth, right here. So I guess my answer to the question is that I don’t give specific marks; instead, I want intelligible thoughts that students can expand upon in post-reading writing or discussion.

SNAP: How do you assess students’ close reading skills?

Dave: I quickly skim their annotations while walking around and checking to ensure they are understanding the assignment and the text.

SNAP: Do you follow up with a constructed response after a close reading activity? If so, how do you plan the question?

Dave: I often do — I try to pick questions that can be dealt with in 1-2 paragraphs and that are provocative. The ideal question engages my students and is informed by a careful reading of the text.

SNAP: How often do you close read?

Dave: Several times per week.

SNAP: What are the benefits of close reading?  

Dave: Having students read a text closely helps them to have something to say about a text and to based conclusions drawn from the text on textual evidence.

My goal is and always will be to have kids reading as much as possible. Reading a variety of shorter texts closely is one way that we do that.

You can follow Dave on Twitter @davestuartjr

Performing in Education: SNAP Close Reading Portfolio Reviewed

My sixth grade students have been using the Snap! learning close reading portfolio for the last few weeks, and they LOVE it. I’m not sure if I can get them to close read using paper or pencil again after using such a fun, interactive program.
Setup for teachers is super easy. I copied & pasted my student’s names into an Excel spreadsheet from my roster, and then I assigned them the same username we use for our school Google accounts. Many programs assign usernames to the students, or make the students sign up individually, but I much prefer this system!
Once you have the students setup, you can assign them one or more books based on their individual reading level. I assigned several at a time so that I don’t have to reassign every time a student is finished.