We interviewed Kathy Sage, a teacher at Harold S. Winograd K-8 Public School in Greeley, Colorado on how she implements close reading in her classroom. Kathy has over 27 years of experience as a classroom teacher and technology educator. She is the author of a number of handbooks about reading, writing, and technology instruction. Kathy is also the author of Making the Best Use of Blogs, Wikis, Webcasts, and Other Web 2.0 Tools to Enrich Student Learning (Grades K-6).
Kathy: I have been using close reading strategies for the past four years in my core replacement reading group. This group is comprised of students who are above grade level in fluency, phonics decoding, and comprehension. When I first stumbled across the initial close reading methodology, I knew it was a great match. At that time, the only examples I could find were for high school and college-level students. Finding appropriate text, identifying the skill, strategy, or author’s craft to which the text lends itself, and developing the plan for the text is quite time-consuming.
Initially, I was using exemplar text from http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_B.pdf. These are a collection of text leveled by grades that are excerpts taken from larger articles, poems, fiction, and nonfiction pieces. My students would do the first two reads on their own: 1. Read through to get the gist of the piece, and 2. Read through and highlight any text for which they do not know the meaning and/or pronunciation. The Third Read is usually an inquiry discussion where students try to “guess” the skill, strategy, or author’s craft that is modeled in the piece. As we progress through the various pieces, my students have gotten really good at figuring out what the text demonstrates.
After struggling through a few years of seeking text and developing my own close reading plans, I stumbled upon SnapLearning. My students use SnapLearning in a variety of settings including their after school program and various targeted instruction groups. I like that I can find text that ties in with science and social studies content, so the text supports the content-learning for those areas, too. In addition, the format for highlighting, answering questions, and identifying main ideas, supporting statements, and more, match our state online testing format. The SnapLearning Close Reading Program is a perfect match for my student and me.
SNAP: How do you choose texts for close reading? Where do you find texts for close reading?
Kathy: As I mentioned earlier, I found a source of exemplar text that had been leveled by grade levels. However, now, I use the filter tool in SnapLearning to more closely match text to each child’s abilities and interests. I can sort by Lexile Level, grade level, and fiction or non-fiction. I can assign identified text to an individual student or a group of students. When the students login, they have available the pieces I have pre-selected for their instructional needs.
SNAP: What kinds of annotation marks do you have students use?
Kathy: I have been a “Postit Queen” for years, so I tend to use the annotation strategies that involved using sticky notes. I am a big fan of Laura Randazzo ideas: http://laurarandazzo.com/2014/08/16/close-reading-reinforcement-idea/.
SNAP: How do you assess students’ close reading skills? Do you follow up with a constructed response after a close reading activity? If so, how do you plan the question?
Kathy: I assess students’ close reading skills at least once a week. I can look at the reports from SnapLearning or I can collect a short constructed response to evaluate the students’ level of understanding of the skill, strategy, or author’s craft on which a close reading excerpt focused. The short constructed response is always a question that asks about the text and the identified focus. The students must cite text from the excerpt to support their answers and prove the identified focus’ strength or weakness in the piece.
SNAP: How often do you close read?
Kathy: My students are involved in a close reading activity every day. Sometimes it is a short text I have pulled, sometimes they are excerpts I have pulled and typed up from chapters in the novel we are using for study, and sometimes they are using SnapLearning.co and working through their assigned pieces.
SNAP: What are the benefits of close reading?
Kathy: In my view, the largest benefit of close reading is the inquiry used to analyze the text to find evidence of particular skill, strategy, and especially, author’s craft. This deep interaction with the text strengthens both my students’ understanding of the text and their own writing abilities. My students love close reading, so they are motivated and engaged throughout the lessons as well. I love close reading because not only do my students understand what they read more fully, they then move those skills, strategies, and author’s craft ideas to their own written pieces.
You can follow Kathy on Twitter @kasage.