Over the summer, several online discussions of Who’s Doing the Work? have cropped up, including the #G2Great group’s four week Twitter chat (Storify Links: read aloud, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading) the #HCPSRead group’s Twitter chat, and Lisa Maucione’s Literacy Teacher Book Club group on Facebook. We are very grateful to all of these groups for their enthusiasm and support. Over the course of the next three blog posts, we will address some of the questions that have arisen in these virtual communities. We invite you to continue the conversation in our Who’s Doing the Work Facebook forum, where an active group of readers is connecting with us as they begin the new year experimenting with and implementing Who’s Doing the Work? thinking.
The first question, involves close reading. More specifically, readers have requested some elaboration on where close reading fits into the gradual release of responsibility as we describe it in Who’s Doing the Work?. More specifically, in this post, we explore the trend and focus on close reading and its relationship to our work.
Prior to the Common Core, “close reading,” which grew out of new criticism– “a rigorous, objective method for extracting the correct meaning of a text” (Hinchman & Moore, 2013)–was relegated to high school and college. However, since its widespread introduction to the elementary language arts lexicon, educators have discussed and interpreted it in many ways, leaving the field with a vast array of ideas about how close reading is best taught.
Some teachers have approached close reading in much the same way that they approach teaching vocabulary, fluency, phonics, and comprehension. For all intents and purposes, they treat it is a “subject” that warrants direct, explicit instruction for 30-45 minutes, 3-5 times per week. In this model, the “subject” and the instructional intent are effectively the same thing, i.e. during vocabulary time, the goal is to increase students’ vocabulary and during close reading time, the goal is to teach students to read closely and carefully. Close reading, in this interpretation, may be practiced in any number of ways ranging from doing isolated, skill-based exercises on short passages of text to selecting a picture book to read and reread repeatedly over the course of two weeks to mine for its every detail, inference, and understanding.
A Who’s Doing the Work? approach, conversely, places its instructional focus on creating independent and proficient readers, which includes teaching students to read closely in each instructional context and giving them many opportunities to practice close reading in integrated, authentic ways. So the difference in many interpretations of close reading and close reading as it works within a WDTW framework, is that close reading is part of what they need to be independent and proficient. For example, Kim’s sons have “Close Reading Workbooks,” in which they are supposed to practice close reading every night. For Kim’s sons, and for many of the students we see in classrooms, such practices do not translate to meaningful application with authentic text. As is often the case in literacy education, it is easy to lose sight of the end goal (independence and proficiency) and focus of isolated, measurable pieces. Of course, as we discuss in WDTW, the learning is the measure of the teaching.
When students practice close reading over the course of each of four instructional contexts–read aloud, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading–they integrate skills and strategies in ways that are authentic. So, rather than spending two weeks dissecting a picture book in read aloud, we might practice reading closely on a second reread of the picture book and celebrate when our reread reveals a new idea or understanding about the text. Rather than return to the same read aloud to mine it still further for new understandings, we might instead revisit a shared reading text from a previous lesson and reread to see what other things we might learn from looking at it a second, and possibly, a third, time. Ultimately, we want students to practice reading closely in ways that allow them to do it independently when the need arises. Giving students regular practice with lots of texts across the gradual release of responsibility enables them to be able to do this.
Close reading is a topic about which we have written extensively over the years. If you’re interested in learning still more about our thoughts about close reading, you might check out the following posts: