“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m Ready for My Close-up”

Close Reading
As educators across the country continue to implement the Common Core State Standards, they have undoubtedly searched for and encountered a myriad of resources that promise “silver bullet” solutions for close reading. As we teachers are wont to do, we have a knack for compartmentalizing or converting glamour-free processes into “Make and Take” or “Easy as 1-2-3” formulas that might miss the mark. That is NOT to say that there is anything wrong with trying to simplify or condense something great or large into bite-sized chunks that are manageable given all that crosses teachers’ plates. However, there are times when a closer look, or deeper learning is needed.
Close reading, as Timothy Shanahan states, is “an outcome or a goal,” and is not a teaching technique. As I continue to deepen my understanding of close reading, I have discovered that definition of what close reading is, as well as when close reading is supposed to take place and for whom it is appropriate dot a wide spectrum.

“Is it ‘close’ reading or ‘cloze’ reading?”
So what is close \ˈklōs\ reading? Shanahan asserts that, “Close reading is an intensive analysis of a text in order to come to terms with what it says, how it says it, and what it means.” His blog, “Shanahan on Literacy,” is a wonderful resource for teachers on reading and literacy.
Cloze \ˈklōz\ reading, on the other hand, is formally known as oral cloze reading, and is a strategy that supports striving readers in developing accuracy, prosody, and fluency in reading. In her teacher training sessions, my mentor, Dr. Kate Kinsella, beautifully details step-by-step, how to incorporate this strategy utilizing a gradual release approach that solidly engages and supports under-prepared and struggling readers in developing fluency, accuracy, and prosody.

Does CCSS say that all text requires close reading?
The CCSS makes no mention of close reading. However, it focuses extensively on students accessing text to provide evidence and justification for their responses, as well requires them to be able to deeply understand a reading selection. It is true that the instructional shifts will demand that students read more closely and repeatedly, but not every text!

What does close reading “look like” at the elementary level?
Close reading has heretofore been a “tool of choice” for secondary and post-secondary teachers of literature and history, but the CCSS has created opportunities for its use at the elementary level. Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey embarked on an investigative action research project with 14 elementary teachers. This article, Close Reading in Elementary Schools, details this project and provides steps to implementing a modified approach for close reading at the elementary level.
So even though the CCSS may present opportunities and challenges that at times can feel overwhelming, one does not need to feel as deluded as poor Norma Desmond of Sunset Blvd. became when she was ready for her close-up with Mr. DeMille. With patience, learning, reading, and practice, one can improve and enhance their teaching practices to continue to support our students’ reading abilities.

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  1. Jennifer,
    As always, I found this post to be both informative and thought-provoking. Approaching CCSS implementation from I special education perspective, I’m continually surprised at the similarities between strategies and outcomes for EL and special education…not to mention EL students with special needs. I also (9 times out of 10) return to the importance of Universal Design for Learning in that we must “know” our students, their needs and plan from the onset accordingly. High quality first instruction anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  2. Kevin,
    As you stated, there are many similarities between strategies and outcomes for ELs and students who have identified special education needs. I have found that our most successful colleagues (wittingly or unwittingly) have always approached their instructional planning with the “whole” student in mind, and recognized and supported abilities, needs, and proficiencies by endeavoring to make learning accessible for all from the onset. They tend to be the teacher that nearly every student (and parent) loves as well! I’m going to hazard a guess that it isn’t mere coincidence…
    Thank you for your comment!

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