|Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading|
The term close reading has been popping up everywhere: at school, while talking to other teachers, on the web, etc. With the Common Core State Standards in full swing, I knew that I had to ‘get on with the program’ and educate myself. I did some research online and came across the book Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Beers and Probst which seemed like a good read (thank you Amazon for offering a preview of the book). 4 days later, the book arrived and I began reading it, applying what I had learned in my classroom and experimenting with the techniques presented in the book.
Overall, the book has been an EXCELLENT read (I continue reading and re-reading some parts) – whether you are a new or veteran teacher. You will likely find answers to questions you did not even know you had. So, in this post I will try my best to highlight the things that stuck out and hope that you feel interested enough to give the book a try (no – I am not compensated in any shape or form if you buy the book. If you can borrow it from a friend…go ahead).
What is close reading?
“Close reading occurs when the reader is deeply engaged with the text.” (pg. 36)
Simple enough one must think, but close attention to the text is just one component of what close reading really is. Beers and Probst warn readers about the narrow interpretation many give to close reading and suggest a rather more holistic view: to take into account what the readers already know together with what the text is presenting.
How can students practice close reading effectively?
Beers and Probst suggest:
–Working with short passages (a paragraph or two from a book, a short poem, not an entire novel)
–Intense focus on the passage’s words, sequence of events or ideas, relationships among characters in ‘the passage’
–Extending from one passage to another part of the text (to allow students to make connections among those passages and draw inferences as well)
–Exploratory discussion among students (mostly) but with the teachers working as the lead at times. NOT a question/answer session but rather meaningful discussions.
–Intentional rereading to be able to both really understand the text and to even look at the text from a different lens
What can I expect from Notice and Note?
Notice and Note provides teachers/educators with a good overview of what close reading is and what is not. It gives readers a good overview of the famous TEST DEPENDENT questions and how to handle those in our classroom (since the CCSS are so big on them). Beers and Probst are not afraid of sharing what they think about close reading either. The book offers what it states: Strategies for Close Reading and how to help our students better ‘close read’ texts presented to them (that are ‘hopefully’ carefully selected by the teacher).
What are the strategies discussed in the book?
There are 6 major strategies which the authors call signposts:
- Contrasts and Contradictions
- Aha Moment
- Tough Questions
- Words of the Wiser
- Again and Again
- Memory Moment
Each post has a dedicated chapter together with a suggested lesson and materials included. Honestly, the authors have made it really ‘teacher-friendly’ by including most of what you will need (you will still need some little prep time like making copies or gathering chart paper – not too bad).
Contrast and Contradictions: “This signpost helps students recognize character development, internal conflict, and the relationship of setting to the plot.” (Pg. 114). Learning and using this strategy helps students identify places in the story/plot where a character acts out of character and how this affects the story line overall. In other words, children/students learn to take a very close look at characters and their interactions with other characters as well – hence a way to close read.
Aha Moment: Just as the name states it, this is the post where a characters realizes or discovers something – an AHA moment! It was one of the easiest posts for my students to grasp and apply. It was really great to see many of my students apply the skill on their OWN reading even when ‘close reading’ was not the task. For this post, students grow awareness about a characters or characters and use this info to ‘speculate’ about what may happen next or how things in the story line will change.