Falling in Love With Close Reading: Chapters 1/2

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After seeing tweet after tweet, comment after comment, and picture after picture about the book “Falling in Love With Close Reading,” I decided I should follow the trend and purchase my own copy as well. I wanted to be included with all this twitter talk about the book! It arrived from Amazon quickly, and as I began to read, I’ve been thrilled by the ideas in this book. However, I often find when I read things they easily escape from my mind. I’m not the type to highlight a book, so I thought that perhaps blogging about it would give me a reference point, something to refer back to, for others to learn from as well, and maybe even start a conversation. So here we go…a summary beginning with chapters one and two.

What is close reading? (pg. 4)
Close reading is an interaction between the person reading the text and the text itself, that happens when one makes observations about what he/she has read and then interprets and develops a deeper understanding. It involves reading a section of a text over again, thinking about what was written and looking at it through several lenses. This knowledge can then be used throughout the whole text. In other words, looking at the little details to develop an understanding of the bigger picture.

Students need to be taught these skills and how to read through a critical lens. It is important that teachers show students these steps, and teach close reading instruction in a meaningful way. Instruction based on close reading should (pg. 5):
– be engaging
– promote student independence
– fit within other aspects of reading instruction, it isn’t the be all end all
– allow for time for students to reread sections and practice the skills learned
– be designed in a way that integrates easily with students needs and abilities

When students read books or a piece of text and then respond (whether it be written, oral, or through questioning), they have an idea or question to answer and then look for information or evidence to support their belief. This limits their thinking and simplifies it. Close reading instead, encourages students to gather and organize all that information and then develop their idea from the evidence they have (pg. 12). Here is how that looks through a chart the others present in the appendix of their book.

Picture taken from pg. 126, Falling in Love With Close Reading

Picture taken from pg. 126, Falling in Love With Close Reading

In the book they provide a fantastic example of what this would look like, through the story Out of My Mind. Through this example it was demonstrated how a student’s initial, simple idea about a character has now become deeper, much more complex, and allows students to have a better understanding.

Step 2 in the chart is the key area, where students look for patterns and connect ideas together. This is where the understanding begins, and as students reread, look back, and develop new ideas via using patterning, it allows the student to develop a much clearer understanding of the story or text. Below is an example from the book as to what this could look like.

Figure 2.8: Ways to Revise Our Thinking, from Falling in Love With Close Reading, pg. 28

Figure 2.8: Ways to Revise Our Thinking, from Falling in Love With Close Reading, pg. 28

The ideas covered in these two chapters are a teachers dream. This appears to be an incredible way for students to develop a deep understanding of characters and things happening in a text they are reading. It causing them to think critically, go back and examine their initial thoughts, and develop new ideas. Although this seems like an easy task, I wonder how much modeling and “rehearsing” is needed in order to prepare students to take on such a task. At what point would the level of independence wanted, be gained? How does a teacher observe and encourage students without taking that independence away? How do you teach the skills for students to look for these connections and patterns on their own?

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Literacy in the Modern World

Recently, my mind has been bombarded with ideas and thoughts around literacy. How is it defined in a modern, technology-based world? How do current changes affect the way literacy should be taught in the classroom?

I was lucky enough to find a twitter chat, #ntchat, focusing on literacy this week. It was a great opportunity to share ideas and collaborate with other educators to discuss what literacy looks like in the classroom today. Below is a brief summary of the chat.

Question #1: How do you define literacy? Being well-read, being able to read, or something else?

Question #2: How do we support students to acquire it – literacy?

https://twitter.com/mscdeguzman/status/436313798048096256

Question #3: What about writing? Should reading and writing be taught together? How do we accomplish that?

Question #4: What web 2.0 tools or digital tools do you use to promote literacy?

https://twitter.com/mscdeguzman/status/436316834430586882

From this chat it became clearer to me that yes, the definition of literacy is changing. Although the core values still exist, the meaning is evolving and changing because of the implications of technology, and also the need to adapt to today’s world. The overall arching theme that stuck out to me from this chat is the importance of modeling and being involved with reading and writing, the need for students to make connections to the things they are reading, the things happening in their lives, and across the curriculum, and the opportunities and abilities that we have in a technology-based school system to use incredible tools to create literate students.

Has Literacy Been Redefined?

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Thinking about the definition of literacy, it is easy to find the meaning in the dictionary explained as: “The ability to read and write.” You could think that this is correct, as reading and writing could define someone who is literate, but does literacy encompass more than simply reading and writing? How do you define a literate person?

I believe that literacy is more than being able to read and write fluently, but rather the ability to understand through questioning, making connections, learning new concepts and vocabulary, and applying those skills to writing and other texts that one reads. It’s not only books, but other sources of texts, and for me, technology has played a major role in redefining literacy. I recently came across an online book titled, Learning to Read in the Computer Age, and read a passage that helped to clarify the meaning of literacy. Below is an excerpt from chapter 5 in the book written by Anne Meyer and David H. Rose

Computers are causing us to rethink both our definition of literacy and our approaches to teaching it. We are in a transition period, beginning to move away from print-dominated classrooms where literacy learning focuses almost completely on tasks related to dealing effectively with text — learning to decode text, learning to understanding text, learning to write text. New technologies and new media are broadening our perspective on the goals of teaching literacy, shedding new light on the learners we are trying to reach, what we should teach them, and how they should be taught. Even the ways we talk about the simplest goals and tasks are beginning to change. “Write your name on your paper” no longer covers all the options. Saying to students “identify the piece of work as yours” could result in them typing their names, making a digital recording, pasting a personal logo or a scanned photo of themselves into a document, or creating a link to their home pages.

Some visionaries are already reframing our traditional idea of literacy into a subcategory called “letteracy” to make way for a more expansive definition of literacy in the modern age (Papert, 1993). Our concept of literacy has been based on the assumption that print is the primary carrier of information in our culture and that the most important skills are those that enable students to understand and express themselves in text. The new definition of literacy is based on a different assumption: that digital technology is rapidly becoming a primary carrier of information and that the broader means of expression this technology makes possible are now critical for education. Text literacy is necessary and valuable, but no longer sufficient.

How does a teacher adapt to teach the new literate student? What changes does this create for you in your own teaching practice?

Is Stress Your Enemy or Friend?

There doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by where I don’t feel stressed about something: Deadlines, meetings, marking, planning units, learning new things to make my lessons exciting, family, bills, money. It seems to be endless. Sometimes I think as teachers, we create stress for ourselves. We all have that perfectionism quality or desire to be great weighing on us. We take on students problems as our own. We fill our minds with worries, concerns, doubts, questions, and thoughts.

I believe when it comes to stress that there are two kinds of people:
#1 The one’s who you know are stressed out! It’s apparent, visible all over their face, their reaction, and everything they do.
#2 It isn’t apparent, and instead is kept deep down inside, faking that everything is ok.
How do both of these types of people manage stress? What strategies are place to help us?

I have always thought that you need to find that one thing for you that works. Whether it be reading, listening to music, meditating, something that allows you to let go and relax. But recently, my thoughts have changed slightly. I still believe you need these strategies in place, but perhaps the way you think about stress could change how you react to it.

The other day, a colleague of mine passed on a great video about stress and how to handle it. Not thinking I had enough time (due to all my other stressful situations!), I just watched it this evening. It’s a Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal, who is a health psychologist, and if you can spend the 15 minutes watching it, it is well worth your while. If not, I’ll summarize it here.

We have always been taught that stress is the enemy. It’s the thing that eats away at us, causing mental and physical problems. But what would happen if you change the way you think about stress? After following some studies, Kelly McGonigal summarizes her findings with two main points:

#1: If you rethink your reaction to stress, it can in turn become helpful in creating a biology of courage.
We are always going to experience stress and the signs of stress. Usually these signs are equated with anxiety, but instead think of it as a way that your body is becoming energized and preparing to meet a new challenge. If you change the way you think, your body will believe you and change its reaction as well.
#2: Stress makes you social, and choosing to connect to others via stress is a way to create resilience.
The hormone oxytocin is released when you experience a stressful moment, however, this hormone creates the desire to crave physical interactions and contacts, and increase your empathy through supporting the people you care about. The stress forces you to be surrounded by people who care and motivates you to seek that support you need.

So next time you’re faced with a stress moment, still use those strategies you have for yourself, but maybe reconsider how you think about stress. Have enough faith in yourself and your body that you can handle it, and change that trained way of thinking, but also be willing to seek support and not face it alone.

PLN: Why You Need One

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Being new to twitter this year, I was unfamiliar to the PLN acronym and what exactly it meant and stood for. PLN is a personal/professional learning network. A way in which you can learn from others, share your ideas and thoughts, develop a support system, have your ideas challenged, and continue to expand your growth as an educator.

Today, I participated in #satchatwc and was excited to be a part of the PLN discussion. Here’s some of the amazing thoughts surrounding PLNs.

Question #1: What is a personal learning network?

Question #2: Why are PLN’s beneficial to educators?

Question #3: With social media PLNs, how can we ensure open and honest dialogue in a public forum?

Question #4: With social media PLNs, what are the benefits/cautions of learning with people you have never met?

Question #5: How do you model digital leadership on SM? As educators, should we be concerned about expressing our voice?

Question #6: How can we include more educators in our PLNs (even those skeptical of social media)?

From this chat, my beliefs and understandings of PLNs was further reinforced by the many educators participating. Although at times we may be hesitant, scared, or nervous to try new things, you always need to remember there are people out there to support. Developing or even starting a PLN is an excellent way to share all the great things that you do. It provides an opportunity to learn from others and expand your knowledge. I believe that with the desire to be a great educator, you must also be a life-long learner: willing to be challenged, valued, and to foster new ideas. A PLN is an important aspect in being a life-long learner, expanding your teaching practicing, and being the best teacher you can be.

Digital Learning Day

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Digital Learning Day is a yearly scheduled event to help focus on learning through different technology platforms. It is a great way to get students excited about using technology and to see the abilities that it has to enable their learning.

Twitter was filled with amazing examples around the globe of educators using technology with their students in numerous ways. It was inspiring to see and to participate in the conversations. Here are a few comments that stuck in my mind.

I’m lucky enough at my school to have a variety of technologies to use: ipads, laptops, smartboard, flip cams. Our day was filled with exciting activities that had the students actively learning new things. Close to the end of the day, a student asked me if they could blog about what Digital Learning Day is, so I of course gave everyone some time to type an entry. Here are a few examples.

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Their reflections were great and each varied in meaning and understanding. We are lucky to have such an easy accessibility to technology. I sometimes feel that we forget that we’re even using it. Days like this are a fantastic opportunity to reflect upon how technology can help us leverage teaching and the improvements and ease it allows. Be thankful we have it. Be appreciative of the abilities it grants for us. Be mindful of the possibilities and immense learning opportunities it creates.

What Does Character Education Mean to You?

If you haven’t participated in a twitter chat, it’s a must! I have done two this week and am starting to admit that I am becoming addicted. It is great to connect to other educators and hear about the amazing things that are happening in schools all around the world.

On Monday, I participated in the #cdnedchat which focused this week on character education, one of my passions! We started with defining character education, offered opinions on what it means to us and what it looks like in our school, and shared resources. Here is some of the chat, and the great things that are happening across the country:

I think the major points that I valued from this conversation were:
1) Character education MUST be woven into everything you do. Although some concepts should be explicitly taught, issues constantly come up that allow for discussion to happen. Embrace those times, don’t ignore them.
2) Teachers need to model what character education looks like. It’s one thing to preach it, but if you aren’t acting on it, then what’s the point? Children are more observant then you would know.
3) Develop a school community where all members are involved and can continue to help and develop character within your students. This includes teachers, administrators, board members, parents, and families. Everyone should be a part of the process.

This year, our school has been working with the program, Rachel’s Challenge. Instead of focusing on anti-bullying it embraces pro-kindness. Student’s journal, set goals, and reflect upon the acts of kindness that they observe. It takes the focus away from themselves, and instead gets them to look at the world around them. When they see someone performing a kind act, they write it on a link, and then give it to that person. We been attaching our links together, within our classroom and school, to show that one small act of kindness can create a chain reaction. It has been incredible to observe the differences in our students and school atmosphere.

Here are some of our kindness links attached and displayed in the halls.

Here are some of our kindness links attached and displayed in the halls.

Here are some other great things that I learned educators from around our country are participating in:
Project Thank You
Bucket Fillers
Turning Points – Literacy Program
Me to We, and We Day
Roots of Empathy
WITS
Classroom Meetings/Character Circles
Family Game Nights
Digital Citizenship

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite character quotes, and always think about this: How do you want to be remembered?

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