Showing posts with label Videos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Videos. Show all posts

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Close Reading: A Video Replay

Last week, I provided a link to a video that a reader sent me Close Reading Video . The link purported to present a model “close reading” lesson.

Although, there was much to like about the lesson, I complained that it wasn't close reading. Close reading is not a synonym for reading comprehension (or even "really good reading comprehension"). 

This is happening a lot. A company says their anthologies include “complex text,” but it isn’t clear what teachers are supposed to do with it, or why it's there at all since the instructional procedures still seem to favor the idea of protecting kids from complex text.

Last week I dinged that video for claiming that close reading is a teaching technique (it's an approach to reading). I was critical of the idea that close reading helps students “conquer complex text,” if that includes language complexity as measured by Lexiles. I didn’t like the idea of reading the book to the kids; I’m a fan of reading texts to kids (see recent NewYork Times article on this), but not the texts the kids are supposed to be reading. Finally, I didn’t like how rereading was being approached. 

Here is the rest of my thinking about this lesson. Hope it’s useful to you.

1.   Confusion of story and exposition.
A big issue with the standards is the shift to informational text. Unfortunately, teachers lack experience teaching informational text, and they haven’t developed a language for it yet. In the video the teacher repeatedly refers to the “story” that the students are reading. Better choices: “informational text,” “book,” “article,” “science selection,” and so on. 

Our language cues kids as to which strategies to use and what text features to rely on. Stories have different characteristics than science articles do. They are organized differently and use language in different ways.

1    2.     The terrific teaching strategies are irrelevant to close reading.
Many teachers who watch the video are going to be impressed with the clever way the teacher had kids sharing information (the back-to-back arrangement, the whip around). Those are clever techniques and I’m all for them. They're the kind of thing that allows effective teachers to reap the benefits of small group instruction even when teaching a whole class. As a teacher educator, I’d be very pleased if my students walked away from this viewing with those techniques.

However, those techniques have nothing to do with close reading. A lesson will involve students in close reading whether or not those techniques are used. (That's why this can be a "good lesson"--because of the high engagement level of the students--but a poor lesson, if the goal was to engage them in close reading.  

2    3.     Close reading focuses on the text, not the reading strategies.
A major purpose of close reading was to shift readers' attention from authors’ biographies, the historical period from which the text emerged, or from past critical response. It aimed to shift this attention to the text itself.  
          
One of the biggest problems with the presentation is its heavy emphasis on main idea and key detail detection, annotation techniques, rereading procedures. What the author had to say and how the author said it is getting lost here. That’s why I see this lesson as no different from what was common in schools in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and the Oughts. This isn’t an advance; it is just a new set of labels for what we were doing before.

I do believe that, as teachers, we need to teach the reading process to kids, and having some lessons that focus on how to summarize or question a text makes great sense. Similarly, I’m all for explicitly teaching kids some of the common ways that texts are organized and to have them practice reading texts to use those strategies or to figure out a text’s structure. But, as useful as such lessons can be, they are different than the lessons in which the emphasis should be entirely upon the content and approach of a particular text.

One can’t really tell from the video when certain things happened (is this what the teacher started with or did she tell the kids this after they had read the text once or twice?). One example is purpose. She stresses that the purpose is to get the main idea and details and then tells students to look for the main ideas (she even helps this along by asking them what they know about adaptation). The problem is that her purposes are more about the reading process than the text. 
            
A model lesson on close reading should stress the text, not the reading strategies. And, it should focus attention on not just what the text said, but how the author expressed, reinforced, or extended the meaning through his/her choices of language and structure. This lesson ignored tone, the role of illustrations, why the author chose particular words, or why information was sequenced in particular ways. Kids will likely come away with some of the facts (and that is good), but there is more to it.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Close Read of a Close Reading Video

            My daughters are Erin and Meagan. When they were little, Meagan would get upset because we always “ran Erins,” but never “ran Meagans.”

            That’s cute when a little one doesn’t know the meaning of a word. But such miscommunication can be a real problem in Common Core State Standards implementation.

            It’s getting so that I hate to hear the term “close reading” because it is misused so often these days. 

            A comment from a reader of last week’s blog entry challenged me to evaluate an online video of a close reading lesson. I gave it a quick review and replied. 

            It’s been bugging me ever since, and I decided to give this 8-minute video a close read of my own. I’m going to be pretty critical, but please don’t take that as an attack on this teacher (these video minutes are all I know or her). She looks to be pretty good teacher. But the close reading espoused here is not especially well connected to the concepts of close reading or Common Core. 

            Because of length of my critique, I'll spread the analysis over two blog entries. Here's the first:

1          1.     The video says close reading is an “instructional strategy.”
It is not. More properly, it is a way of reading text. Viewers should not watch this with the idea that this is how you teach close reading. There are some great teaching techniques here, but a teacher who followed these steps scrupulously would not be teaching kids to be close readers.   

2.  The video indicates close reading helps students “conquer complex text.”
That’s sort of true, but not as demonstrated in this video. Texts are complex in multiple ways, and all approaches to reading can be expected to address some of that complexity. For example, I don’t know of any reading approach that doesn’t require readers to come away with a text’s main points and key details. All past reading standards in the U.S. trumpeted those particular skills already, so a shift to close reading would change nothing in that regard.   No wonder some teachers tell me that they have always taught “close reading.”
The teacher in the video is correct that close reading is useful for dealing with texts that have “layers of meaning.” But she doesn’t demonstrate that in any way in the video (main ideas and key details are not layers of meaning).
In this kind of text, “layers of meaning” might require a consideration of the effects of how the text conveyed the information (how the telling extended or reinforced those main ideas and key details). For example, in his explanation of natural selection, Darwin writes: “The tail of the giraffe looks like a fly-trapper; and it seems at first incredible that this could have been adapted by successive modifications for so trifling an object as to drive away flies.” A close reader should wonder why Darwin focuses on such a “trifling object” in this magnificent argument.
But that, of course, was Darwin’s point. He wanted to show that even the tiniest organs of little apparent importance were affected by natural selection in ways that we could only guess at. Asking students what the giraffe does with its tail or toward what end the adaptation of the tail progressed are fair questions, but they aren’t close reading questions, per se because they don’t include an analysis of those rhetorical considerations.

3          3.     The teacher reads the text to the students.
If this is the “close reading instructional strategy” and its purpose is to teach students to “conquer complex text,” then reading the complex text to the students is going to be many teachers’ takeaway. And it would be a bad one. The kids need to do the reading if they are going to become better readers.
Close reading has nothing to do with whether a text is read aloud to students or whether they read it themselves. Doing the reading for kids will not make them stronger readers. The point of having kids read texts with higher Lexiles estimates is not so teachers can practice their reading skills, it is so kids can do so. I think this teacher makes a big mistake reading the text to the kids instead of giving them a chance to make sense of what it says.
This is not an issue of close reading, but of complex text. Those are two separate, but overlapping, issues in Common Core. Students need to learn to deal with text complexity, including learning to read complex language and dealing with the complex ideas. The teacher here seems to recognize that close reading won’t help the kids to read the challenging language of this text, so she does that part of the work for them (she takes challenging language out of the equation by making sure that no one actually has to deal with it). 

4          4.     Close reading requires multiple readings of a text.
This idea is correct. Going through a complex text more than once is often necessary to figure out what the text says and how it works, or to develop a deeper understanding of it. But, again, there are two ideas operating here. One of them is that reading and rereading is a kind of “try and try again” or “practice makes perfect” idea; if you didn’t get it the first time, maybe you will on a second read. Repeated reading in fluency is kind of like that: a student reads a text aloud making fewer miscues on each rereading.
That’s not a bad thing, and I have no doubt these third-graders will benefit from this kind of thorough attention to the content of this book. This teacher definitely is not just rushing through the text to get it done; it looks to me like these students will come away knowing something about adaptation and that’s a real plus.
However, the rereading that is inherent in close reading requires a bit more than that. It isn’t about doing a better job each time. It’s about doing a different one. Yes, it might take 8-year-olds two or three readings just to come to terms with what a text has to say. But that isn’t the rereading that is central to close reading.
In close reading, now that you understand what a text has to say, you can reread it to determine how it works. For example, how did the illustrations help you to understand what the author meant by adaptation? Or, why do scientists use the term “adaptation” instead of “change”?
The video shows kids rereading to figure out what the main idea and key details of the text were. That’s terrific and this teacher did that well. But that isn’t what we mean by close reading alone isn’t what is meant by close reading, and kids who can only do that with a text will not accomplish the standards.

Disclaimer: Publicly critiquing a video lesson is inherently risky. It's possible that the instructional segment is just part of a lesson, and that had the viewer seen the whole thing, the analysis would be quite different. Or, perhaps it is one lesson in a developmental sequence, and in future lessons the teacher would move the reading over to the kids, and would have them dealing with the more analytical and evaluative aspects of close reading as they read additional texts. The point of this critique is not that this is a bad teacher, or even that this is a bad lesson (neither of those conclusions are mine), but that this is not a particularly apt illustration of close reading or close reading preparation.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Common Core Videos and Other Resources

I recently received an excellent letter from a literacy supervisor who is trying to prepare her colleagues to succeed with common core. She sent a copy of her planned approach for my comment. This is the kind of energy and thoughtfulness that the common core is going to require. This plan is bright and thoughtful, so with her permission I'm passing it on.

As literacy supervisor for our district of 450+ teachers, I am responsible for our teachers' professional learning regarding anything literacy. It is quite a responsibility with the implementation of the CCSS, and though I have been in education for over 20 years, this is my first year in this position. I am currently planning professional development for our teachers regarding Standard 10 (text complexity) and would love to get your thoughts on my next steps. 

So far I have provided the K-12 teachers with an introduction to the triangle with the three dimensions of text complexity, and we've read and discussed Appendix A. At the secondary level, we've delved in a little deeper...discussed and used the rubrics to evaluate the qualitative dimensions of text complexity, looked at texts they currently use and tried to decide best placement, etc.

I've read Fisher, Frey and Lapp's Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading, reviewed your posts and power point presentations, ordered the new resources from Guilford Press that are mentioned on your site, and continue to read articles, texts, and refer to Wisconsin's DPI website.

As I move ahead with the teachers I will review and make sure all teachers have a solid understanding of the three dimensions of text complexity. Elementary teachers understand the quantitative dimension, and need to understand the other two. Secondary needs to understand the Reader and Task dimension.  Then I would proceed to share the three types of tasks associated with this, as mentioned in Fisher, Fry and Lapp's book: Teacher-Led Tasks, where the texts can be much more complex with teacher modeling; Peer Tasks, when students collaborate and use texts that are complex but not quite as complex as the texts the teacher uses in modeling; and Individual Tasks, when students are expected to engage with text that is challenging but not frustrating. I plan to offer suggestions of how to do this, what it may look like in their classrooms, etc. Then...I would bring them to close reading and proceed from there.

Any feedback/thoughts/suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I'm anticipating the K-1 teachers asking how this would look for them, especially with poetry at first grade, so any suggestions you may have specific to K-1 would be appreciated. 

Amy Ryan
Literacy Supervisor 
Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools

Amy--- Please remember that the common core does not raise reading difficulty for beginning readers (K-1), so that part won't be very different. I don't think reading comprehension instruction will look that different than it does now either, but I could imagine teachers reading more challenging books to these beginners than is usual these days (I read chapter books to first-graders when I taught); you can ask beginners some pretty probing text-dependent questions of such material and that should help to get them ready for those aspects of the common core.

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People are always asking for common core resources, and today some colleagues put me onto the following sites. I haven't viewed all of the information at these, but there is pretty good stuff on various common core issues like challenging text and close reading. I'm sure you will find these useful.

http://commoncore.americaachieves.org/

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos?categories=subjects_english-language-arts

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Also, I took part, with Maureen McLaughlin, in a written webinar today for Education Week (with (Sarah D. Sparks). They have posted the transcript, and that might have some value to you, too.

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/