Teaching Close Reading to Elementary Students
Being able to meet the diverse requirements of pupils can make teaching reading a challenging endeavor. Students are required to have a thorough knowledge of what they have read and to produce responses that are supported by the text. When students read closely, they may engage with the text in a meaningful way. Close reading can be a valuable technique in the classroom for both fiction and nonfiction materials across all grade levels.
SETTING THE STAGE
Each component of close reading is heavily regimented at the beginning of the year, but as the year advances, students can work more independently on each component. Setting a goal for close reading is the first step. “We are going to read to locate the main idea,” I tell the students as I introduce the reading assignment. “The principal idea assists us in determining the subject of an article.” If, for example, we were studying how individual animals adapted to their environments, we could identify the primary notion by using the phrase “how animals adapt.” Students benefit from writing the purpose at the top of the page because it helps them focus their attention on achieving a specific goal.
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Once an objective has been established, students should number each paragraph of the article to make it easier for them to credit their sources and keep track of their reading. Students can use context clues such as the title and illustrations to make educated guesses about what the text will be about as a prereading method.
DEVELOPING THE SKILL
When reading, students can annotate the material by making pencil markings on the page. Color-coding annotations, at least in the beginning, give visual clues for students. A common key for color-coding can be displayed as a visual at the front of the classroom, ensuring that the entire class utilizes the same marks throughout the lesson.
We read the book together at the beginning of the year, first for fluency (or, as I told my students, to “get [their] lips familiar with the words”), and then for comprehension. Then we go back over the material again, this time to identify key phrases such as numbers, dates, and location names. We work together to highlight the relevant terms with a blue box, and I explain why we are doing so.
I create a mini-lesson that emphasizes the significance of each essential term. When we come across a word in bold, we talk about how bold words serve a specific purpose in the text. When we were reading a weathered piece, we talked about how bold print is used in the headlines. This print in bold acts as a hint to the reader, letting them know what the theme of each paragraph is.
Other important terms may be denoted with dates next to them. When we read an article about Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go into space, we used sticky notes to create a timeline of her life, using the dates supplied in the text as a guide. Students made a note of the date and the occurrence that took place. Students gained a better understanding of how text functions to offer a logical flow of information by doing so.
After reading the material aloud, students reread it on their own and circle any unfamiliar words that they come across. I invite students to discuss any unfamiliar words with the rest of the class and to circle them on my text. My response to their criticism helps me determine which terminology to include in a future lecture. The terms that need to be retaught are frequently content-specific and critical for pupils to comprehend. After making a note of the terminology I’d like to review, we’ll determine the overall meaning of the text.
Following the independent reading, we read the chapter aloud as a class, pausing to annotate as we went along. During the reading process, I model my thoughts by halting and remarking, “I have never heard the word extinction before.” “I’m curious as to what it implies.” After that, we inserted a question mark next to the term. Gradually, as the year develops, some of the processes might be integrated, and students may begin to annotate passages at an earlier stage of the process. Strong readers may perform this job on their own or with peers who require assistance, as long as clear expectations are outlined in the beginning. Students who annotate material are more likely to slow down and engage in meaningful dialogues with their classmates. When students are not rushing to find an answer, they are better able to critically explain why their response makes sense in the context of what they are currently reading.
ENCOURAGING CRITICAL QUESTIONS
After then, the students respond to questions I have created concerning the text. If you want to ensure that readers of various skill levels can contribute, the questions should range from simple, such as “What is the title of the article?” to more sophisticated, such as “Who is the intended audience for this article?” I ask specific questions of specific pupils to get their reactions. Students can participate in a debate about what they have read to gain a better understanding of it. Example: In the course of learning about character traits, students were asked to demonstrate what the protagonist thought, said, or felt by providing evidence to support their statements and responses.
In later stages of the year, students might begin to formulate questions that they can then ask their peers. Students should be reminded that their answers must be supported by evidence from the text. Students are more engaged in the questions when they are presented in a trading card format. Students compose a question on an index card and pass it around the table to a partner at their table who will then respond. Students who are hesitant to answer questions aloud can engage in this easy activity because it is so straightforward. Some of the time, I gather the cards at the end of a period and use one of the questions as a “do now” when students enter the classroom for the next period to keep them engaged.