Close Reading? Nah, Not Today!

As most of you know, I am a math teacher at heart. I just love teaching my students how to tackle a problem, fit all the pieces together, and make sense of numbers. When the math light goes on, it's a wonderful thing!

But alas, I must still teach reading. Not that I don't LOVE to read. A good book is actually one of my favorite things. What I do NOT love, however, is close reading. What?!! Did I just say that? Will the School Board Gods strike me down for uttering such blasphemy? Cover your eyes, don't look!

The main reason I dislike close reading is because my students dislike it. Our reading lessons used to be fun, full of personal connections and enjoying the author's words. Close reading often feels like pulling teeth. I fully understand the need to dive deep into the text but can't it be a little bit fun...sometimes? I'm really not sure where they got the idea that close reading means 3 separate reads of the same long, tedious text. Who really reads like that? Here's a great article on the effective use of close reading:

The big problem I'm seeing is that we spend so much time dissecting text and looking at minute details (like why the author's choice of this one word could change the course of history) that the children are forgetting the big ideas... main idea, theme, moral, and personally connecting to what you've read. Summarizing and retelling? Forget it.

So this week I've broken the shackles of close reading! That's right... I'm not doing it. I feel like a crazy rebel, a lunatic who escaped the loony bin. Instead, we are SUMMARIZING!

This is a skill my students really struggle with. They want to give every single detail or include minor points instead of the most important ones. I tried using index cards and post-its, telling them they could only write what would fit on the card. They just wrote really small. So today I gave them a graphic organizer with guiding questions along with a passage about the Puritans. I had them read it to themselves...once. Then we worked on answering the questions using phrases and words rather than complete sentences (as in taking notes). Finally, they used those notes to write a summary in paragraph form. Here is what we used...

You can download a copy for yourself HERE.

Guess what... Their summaries were beautiful. They got the main point of the text. They understood why the Puritans needed to leave England. Who cares that the text wasn't the most complex? Next time, I'll make it a little harder. Today reading wasn't something to moan and groan about. Today they felt successful. 
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday


  1. I think short texts can be just as useful for kids this age. A lot of kids don't like to read any more, and that is really sad. I'm glad your lesson worked out so well, and thanks for the freebie!

  2. I've nominated you for a Leibster Award! Copy and paste the link to find out what to do.



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