I don't know about your district, but in mine we have a leading contender for Buzzword of the Year: close reading.
So what is this mystical act? And, like too many buzzwords, is it mere hogwash? Or could there be awesomeness contained within it?
[Please note that, contrary to journalistic common sense, I am saving the most awesome part of this post for the very end.]
Close reading and the Common Core State Standards
First of all, let's look at one reason close reading is getting press: it's the first two words of the first set of anchor standards in the Common Core. Check out R.CCR.1:
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
But wait, there's more!
David Coleman + close reading = love
[By teaching close reading] you are empowering [students] to independently read and gain knowledge… . [By emphasizing close reading] I'm trying… to rehabilitate a world in which the text plays a central role, where we acknowledge its confusions and gradually work through them, taking the time and care to linger, particularly where the author chooses to linger, letting [the author] be our guide as to what questions are most interesting because that, of course, was their fundamental work.
But for all of you who naturally despise standards, David Coleman and the CCSS are not unique in their high valuation of close reading. Other advocates, many of which praised close reading before the advent of the CCSS, are rockstars like Mike Schmoker, Patricia Kain, Cris Tovani, Doug Fisher, Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, and more.
Oh, and I like close reading, too, mainly because my students struggle a lot with complex texts and because my driving passion is for them to flourish after high school and because part of post-secondary flourishing involves being able to read like a life-dominating warrior poet.
Erica Beaton's close reading Prezi
So what, exactly, is close reading according to a regular, everyday teacher? Here's a blog post in which my colleague Erica Beaton writes about a close reading presentation she gave.
Update: For a variety of reasons, Erica has removed the Prezi from public view. The primary reason is that Erica is trying to fund a trip to NCTE, where she will be presenting in the Fall. If you've ever presented at NCTE, you'll know that this is a pay-for-the-privilege opportunity — not only do you have to pay the conference registration costs, but you also need to cover any additional costs you might incur (e.g., travel, lodging).
With all that being said, if you'd like access to the Prezi and to support Erica's trip, head over to her blog and let her know in the comments or on Twitter. The Prezi is excellent (6,000 views to date), and she'd love to talk with you more about it.
In this presentation, Erica leads teachers on a journey from her days of teaching that “all thoughts about texts are great” to her current days of “I want you guys to legitimately understand and interact with complex texts for the sake of entering the argumentative conversation of which they are a part.” Although it's hard to choose, my favorite part of this presentation is a tie between her interviews with students about close reading and her numerous artifacts of close reading in the classroom.
I hope you'll enjoy it, and, please, give Erica Beaton a shout out in the Twitterverse.