How to Model Close Reading Using Text Sets

By Char Shryock, Dir. of Curriculum for Bay Village Schools, with collaboration from Karen Schneider, gr 5 ELA teacher, Bay Middle School

Karen Schneider, one of our Bay Middle School English teachers, reached out to me asking for some ideas on how to help students really get at the central or main idea of a text.  That question lead to a planning period spent brainstorming a co-taught lesson based on two articles from the Amelia Earhart Text Set on NEWSELA.com. ( Find the text set here ) We decided to take advantage of the digital 4 color highlighter and annotation features in NEWSELA as part of our lesson.   

We selected Amelia Earhart’s speech, “A Woman’s Place Is In Science”, as the text we would begin our lesson with. Karen and I played the role of two 5th grade students sitting down to close read the speech together.  We modeled looking at the title and making predictions about the speech’s context. Then we talked together about pictures and captions.  We chose the yellow highlighter to use on words that were important to the main idea or words we didn’t know. We used the blue highlighter for phrases we felt pointed toward the main idea or were evidence of the author’s argument. Karen and I took turns reading paragraphs out loud. After each paragraph we talked together about what to highlight, then made digital annotations in the margin.   We went through 4 paragraphs of modeling, then paused to actually play a recording of Amelia Earhart reading the speech  (Find it here).  

We facilitated a discussion around what steps the student partners should follow when doing the same kind of paired close reading with their article from the text set.  Students were able to identify the strategies and the steps in the process we had modeled.  Students then worked with their partners to close read a second Amelia Earhart article, “The Lady Vanishes, Debate About Amelia Earhart Continues.” As the students worked together reading the passage out loud and annotating, Karen and I “fishbowled” partners who were having good discussion around highlights and annotations. Students who were “fishbowled” froze until their classmates could gather around, then resumed their conversation with their peers listening in. We also used the “spotlight” to emphasize partners who had made an interesting annotation or, in one case, opened a second tab in their browser to Google search additional information about the island mentioned in their article.

What we found by the end of the lesson was that students were having rich conversations about the text. When asked, students were able to share additional questions or “wonders” that they had as a starting point for their conversations and reading the following day.  We felt that the students’ writing about the paired text sets would also contain better evidence to support their thinking when the students had the chance to pull from their annotations. Students also were engaged in the text, rather than skimming to just answer the questions on the quiz.

I was able to take this same co-teaching paired text model and apply it in a 7th grade classroom as well. In that lesson, we planned to use the Hurricane text set in NEWSELA, since it complemented the 7th grade science learning standards.

Here is our grade 5 standard focus as well as our learning targets for the lesson:

CCR: RL.5.1.The students will 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.  

BIG idea:Effective readers use a variety of strategies to make sense of key ideas and details presented in text.

EQ: What do good readers do?

Learning Targets:

LT#1: I can read closely and find information explicitly (right there) and find information that requires an inference (what the author is hinting at)

LT#2: I can analyze an author’s words and find evidence to support explicit and explicit information.

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