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Close Reading, the Common Core, and a Freaking Awesome Prezi

By Dave Stuart Jr.

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

David Coleman, the architect of the CCSS and current president of the College Board, loves close reading. (If you don't believe me, watch this video.) In reference to this skill, he says,

[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.

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16 Responses to Close Reading, the Common Core, and a Freaking Awesome Prezi

  1. Erica Beaton November 25, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    Once again, a BIG THANKS for sharing my Close Reading Prezi. I appreciate your rock-star support in extending the conversation. If your readers are interested in more about close reading in my classroom, they can visit my blog http://www.B10LovesBooks.wordpress.com for more resources. 😉

    • davestuartjr November 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

      Erica, it’s a pleasure to be able to share your work!

    • David December 9, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

      Erica –

      How do I access – Erica Beaton’s close reading Prezi? The graphic says that “You are forbidden …



  2. sippingreenteaJ. Clark November 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    This was absolutley amazing. Struggled for so long with this explanation and your prezi just brought it together in an excellent and well thought out package. Students comments were great! Thank You (Hope I am spelling correctly, words blocking my view!)

    • davestuartjr January 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      Thank you for the kind comments — I’m glad it helped and I’ll be sure to let Erica know!

  3. Ruth Hunter January 10, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    I teach special ed., but I don’t see why they can’t learn to do this to a certain extent. I have spent on class showing parts of the prezi to them and then having them practice on an article of the week.

    • davestuartjr January 10, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      Ruth, I’m really glad to hear that. I agree with you — this is a great strategy for all learners, as it slows down the reading process and allows time for processing, interpreting, and more. I’m also glad that you’re using articles of the week — since there are so many different levels of articles out there, that routine is applicable to many settings.

      Thanks for sharing that, Ruth!

  4. Christina Gray January 18, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    This is fantastic.Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing it with us.

  5. Lindsey January 18, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    You two are inspirations in the educational world!! Keep up the great work! You have a big fan at Northview!

    • Erica Beaton January 18, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      Thanks, Linds! I love having you as an awesome out-of-district resource, too! 🙂

    • davestuartjr January 18, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

      Thanks Lindsey! I saw you at the Penny Kittle workshop but didn’t get a chance to say hi — it was good to see you and I wish you the best with the adventure of the coming months!

  6. Tanya April 7, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    The prezi is forbidden. What happened?

    • davestuartjr April 9, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      Hi Tanya,
      I just spoke with Erica and added an update to the post above. Thanks for bringing this up, Tanya!

  7. Jennifer Clark February 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    I want access to the Prezi. Help!!!

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