Content Literacy

Attack Story Problems with the 3 Phases of Close Reading

Posted on August 22, 2014
Attack Story Problems with the 3 Phases of Close Reading

Attack Story Problems with the 3 Phases of Close Reading

Posted on August 22, 2014

Attack Story Problems with the 3 Phases of Close Reading

Technical-text reading requires more than simply comprehending the information. There is an expectation that the reader will also use or apply the information. These passages may ask the reader to make something (directions/instructions), bake something (recipe), perform something (sheet music), build something (blue print), interpret something (chart/graph), etc. Math story problems fall into this category. They require the reader to solve something.

Because story problems--and all other technical text--are complex, they demand the reader to progress carefully, attending to precision and accuracy. However, many student-readers don't recognize this mandates a slower reading rate and multiple readings. Instead, they often embrace the git-r-done attitude. Just read the problem, push it to the side, and start solving.

For that reason, students need explicit instruction on how to read story problems utilizing the three phases of close reading.

The purpose of the first reading is to get the gist, the main idea--to determine what they are solving for. In a story problem, this will be written as a command or a question and usually resides within the final sentence of the problem. All the sentences before the last one are supporting details. Students first read to get their arms around the context.

TIP: This first reading should be done without a pencil in hand. If students are holding a writing utensil, they are tempted to start making notes and calculating. But until they reach the end of the problem, they don't know what they are to be calculating for.

The second reading focuses on specific details. Now students read with a pencil, underlining, circling, and highlighting the important information within the problem. Knowing what they are solving for (from the first reading), they can determine the relevant information and strike through the irrelevant.

Within this second reading, the purpose becomes how the author wrote the text. Model how to read slowly, deliberately, and notice the small words in the problem. In technical text, precision and accuracy are essential. Close isn't good enough. A single word can change the entire meaning.

For example, there is a big difference between salt and sugar in a recipe--although they look a lot alike. Just like there is a big difference between the percentage of something or the percentage off something.

In addition, during this second reading, students should take note of the author's choice of order or sequence for the information.

Often story problems require multiple steps. The organization of the problem offers clues for how it is to be solved. Students must make note of important words and information, yes, but they also need to attend to how those words are being presented in the overall context. Read the sample problem below.

The math students who see the word "total" in the sample problem and assume they are going to add all the numbers, will calculate the wrong answer. There is a bigger context to this problem that requires multiple steps and multiple operations. Taking note of how the problem is crafted and structured is part of the second reading.

Now, students are ready to integrate what they learned from the text (e.g., What am I solving for? What is the relevant information provided?) with their background knowledge (e.g., What operation/formula should I use? What should I sketch?).

Phase 3 includes working the problem with a pencil in hand and scratch paper nearby. Students attack the problem while reading it...again! This follows the mantra--Read a little; do a little.

Rereading the problem from the beginning, students should jot down the relevant information as it is presented (Read a little), performing each task/step as they go (Do a little). Let's apply this mantra to the sample problem.

26 students - 2 students = 24 students

24 students - 4 students = 20 students

20 students + 3 students = 23 students

Read a little; do a little requires students to constantly refer to the original problem--which is essential! We don't want students to "remember" the details in the problem; we want them to "refer" to them. Precision and accuracy are essentials. Great care must be taken...because there are no "little" mistakes. Any mistake is an error and causes an incorrect outcome.


Good and helpful!

Posted by JGwin on January 15, 2018 @ 4:54 pm