Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Top 5 Tips for Close Reading with Emergent Readers

Hello Readers, I’m Marcie from Sunny and Bright in First Grade and I am so happy to be here today!  I am currently a first grade teacher but I have spent many years teaching kindergarten and pre-k as well.  I am all about the little learners! 

Today, I want to talk about close reading with the little guys.  I LOVE close reading with my students and I hope you do too!  It makes me so sad when I hear primary and/or early childhood teachers complain that close reading isn’t appropriate for emergent readers.  I could not possibly disagree more!  I think the problem is that most of the training on close reading seems to focus on intermediate grades.  So, I’m here today to share my Top 5 Tips for Close Reading with Emergent Readers!

Photo Credit: Fishy Face Photography

Before you jump into close reading with primary students, ask yourself: what’s the point?  Why is this important?  How will this impact my students as readers? 

The primary purpose of close reading with young readers is to teach students how to interact with a text.  We want to teach our students that we are reading with purpose.  Each time the student interacts with the text (usually 3-5 times) there needs to be a specific purpose.  The purpose might be vocabulary investigation, answering text dependent questions or developing higher order thinking skills.

Make sure that the learning goal is clear to both you and your students.  If you are simply “going through the motions” it will be miserable for everyone involved!  The purpose for close reading is to teach students that the text is a resource and that the answers to all of their questions can be found by "digging deeper" into the text.

Please, do not feel like you need to choose a text that matches the reading level of your emergent reader!  You are going to teach your students to “dig in” to complicated texts with your close reading lessons.  That is nearly impossible to do with a basal reader or an emergent guided reading text.

Close reading, in the primary classroom, can easily be done through a read aloud.  (This also solves the “I have 18 students and only 3 copies of the book” problem.)

For beginning readers, close reading is being used to teach students to look closely at rigorous texts. This can easily be done with a text that is read out loud to the student.

Spend some time studying the text before introducing it to students.  This gives you a chance to plan your text dependent questions but, just as importantly, it gives you time to predict how your students will interact with the text and stay ahead of them.

Try to predict the vocabulary that will need to be explored, what questions students will have and what new concepts you can introduce with this particular book.  I wait until students hit a “roadblock” with vocabulary to add the word to our exploration list… If they don’t seem to be hitting the roadblock with a word I know I want them to work on, I “set them up” with my own think aloud or discussion prompt.  When I know what they will have difficulty with, I can better prepare to make the most of our close reading lesson.

I think the reason I love close reading in primary classrooms SO MUCH is probably because of the deep discussions that these young students are capable of having about literature.  It gives me goose bumps every time!

I build lots and lots of conversation into my close reading plans.  Over the course of a week, I usually have my students “turn and talk”, talk in small groups, and participate in whole class conversation circles.  These discussions are so rich and give students so many opportunities to interact with the text, while developing their speaking and listening skills.

As with everything you do in your primary classroom, close reading will be more meaningful and enjoyable if you have systems in place.  In my classroom, this includes introducing the learning goal and essential question and reviewing expectations with every. single. lesson.  This sets the stage for learning and saves me more time and frustration that I can measure!
I also give my students a lot of visual support.  This includes learning goals on our focus wall, pictures of conversation “talk moves”, visual sentence starters, “talking turn” cards and much, much more.  These systems keep our learning (and my sanity) on  track.

The most important thing to remember about close reading with emergent readers is that it should be FUN!  Choose rich, engaging books that you love!  Share your excitement about the “special book” and teach your students to be text detectives.  Plan your lessons carefully, but don’t forget the magic!  Close reading with primary students should be exciting.  It should nurture the curiosity of your young students while giving them the tools to find answers to their questions. 

I hope some of these tips will help you and your little learners to fall in love with close reading!  I have developed some products that may support your close reading lessons.  These items dig in much deeper to the tips that were shared here today and give you ALL the resources you need to get started with close reading in your primary classroom RIGHT AWAY!  These products are all available in my TPT store: Sunny and Bright in First Grade. 
Conversation Circles in Primary Classrooms HERE
 Text Dependent Questions for Close Reading ANY BOOK - Kindergarten & First Grade HERE
Thank you so much for reading! 


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