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: 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