Follow Explicit Instruction with Close-Reading Experiences

Close reading is one type of reading experience. It serves a different purpose than interactive read-alouds, small-group guided readings, partner readings, independent readings, etc. Consequently, it doesn’t replace any of these strategies. Rather, it is an additional experience that supports the building of strong readers.

Knowing how to guide students through a close reading is important. However, it’s also vital to know when to offer such experiences. The answer is that it follows explicit comprehension instruction.

After teaching multiple comprehension skills/strategies–each in isolation–support students as they attempt to juggle all of those skills while reading a single new text.

  • Teach a single skill (e.g., summarize the highlights) within a whole-class multi-day mini-lesson series. Across multiple days, guide students through the gradual-release process on how to determine the most important information when summarizing a short text.
  • Identify a second comprehension skill to teach in another multi-day mini-lesson series (e.g., utilize outside-the-word context clues). Using the same or different texts from the previous days, teach students how to use nearby words to infer meanings of unfamiliar words.
  • Execute a third whole-class mini-lesson series on a third comprehension skill (e.g., determine new info learned from infographics). This may utilize the same texts as the previous lessons, as long as it has corresponding infographics.

Each of these skills is executed in a whole-class mini-lesson series, but each is taught in isolation from other skills. The next step is for students to bring these skills together when reading a new passage. The key is to select a text that lends itself to all three of those skills (e.g., summarize highlights, utilize context clues, analyze infographics). This will allow the teacher to assess that students not only understand the skills individually but can juggle them all within an authentic reading experience.

  • Read this new text for gist only (e.g., practice summarizing).
  • Reread a couple of key sentences with unfamiliar words (e.g., apply outside-the-word context clues).
  • Read the related infographic to analyze what was learned in the visual that was not revealed in the traditional print text.

Based on this close-reading experience, the teacher can determine what skills students are understanding and where they need additional support. This may include more explicit instruction with the whole class or more focused instruction within small groups.

Build a calendar
Although comprehension skills are initially taught in isolation, student success during this instructional time does not demonstrate they have “mastered” anything. It’s important that students aren’t just learning with blinders on. Consequently, the curriculum calendar should include an appropriate mixture of targeted skill instruction within explicit mini-lessons and opportunities to juggle multiple thoughts and new skills within close readings.

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