As I mentioned before, over the summer I read the book, Notice and Note (Beers & Probst), and I decided that I am going to use their strategies for getting kids to dig deeper into text, or “close reading.” (Just an aside, I can’t be the only teacher who is slightly offended that “close reading” has suddenly become a “thing,” can I? I mean seriously!? All this recent hubbub surrounding “close reading” seems to imply that the powers that be who make up school stuff – like standards, and tests, and rules, and what not – think they invented something brand new called “close reading.” I get the feeling that they really think that for infinity years, teachers haven’t been working their tails off to teach kids to read deeply, reaching further and further for all the meaning behind the writing! Seriously!? Teachers have been teaching “close reading” basically since teaching was invented… we just called it “reading.” We felt no reason to fancy it up by adding a “close” before it! Sorry, rant over!)
Anyway, the premise behind the book is that there are six signposts that readers should be on the look out for when reading (but really, it could be when watching a movie or a TV show, as well. Once you learn the signposts, you will literally see them everywhere!!). When you see a signpost, you need to stop and ask yourself the anchor question for that signpost and think about your answer. And, in thinking about the answer, and all the other wonderings the answer makes you think about, you will be digging deeper into the text.
I decided that I was going to teach the first three signposts at the start of our first unit (I use the Holt Literature series) and then we would practice those throughout all the reading we do in the unit. My plan is to teach the next three at the start of unit two, and then for the duration of the year, practice looking for all six every time we read something.
Over the course of three days, I had my students glue notes about each of the signposts into their ISNs. (As I said in this post, taking notes is a pretty new concept to 6th graders, so in the beginning, I give my students the notes I want in their ISNs and they cut them out and glue them in.)
Then, we practiced looking for and discussing our latest signpost in a short story.
After teaching the first three signposts, I gave the kids a little quiz. I gave them a short story (I used an excerpt from Esperanza Rising that is in our Holt books) that I knew contained one example of each of the signposts taught. They had to read and annotate it, writing down where they saw each signpost and the thinking they did when they answered the signpost’s anchor question.
So, I just started to look through the quizzes the other day and I have to say, I was super stoked at what I saw! The kids found lots of signposts and did some really cool thinking… but the kicker is that many of them didn’t annotate where I did. They found signposts in other parts (that I TOTALLY missed!) and came up with some really awesome predictions and inferences that NEVER EVEN OCCURRED TO ME! Don’t you just love it when that happens? When the kids come through big time and teach you a thing or two?! It’s my most favorite thing ever when that happens!
So, long story longer, I’m loving this book and its approach to close reading. I’m eager to teach the rest of the signposts and see what kinds of discussions arise! I’ll certainly keep you posted.