Recently, a group of middle school teachers and I engaged in close reading of a short excerpt of text from Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners From 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert (2011). I’ve reviewed this book in a previous blog and discussed the strong 21st century theme of how people have to come together and collaborate in solving problems we’ve never faced in the past. I returned to this book recently to look for an excerpt of text that gets at the weight of the problem the world faced when these miners were trapped.
The excerpt I chose is about 900 words from near the beginning of the text – pp. 8-13 – five paragraphs. In this excerpt Aronson sets the tone – the feel of mines and working in mines. Phrases like “the darkness of the mine seems to have its own weight” create this overwhelming since of mining as serious business, a delicate partnership with the earth, the earth a mighty force in itself. I’ve attached the excerpt thinking that if you have copies of the book in your classroom or you’ve been reading aloud this book to students, sharing this excerpt with students falls under “fair use.” I’ve attached the excerpt – it’s single spaced and would need to be made more student-friendly (double spaced, etc.) depending on your purposes.
The group of middle school teachers had just done a close reading of an excerpt from The Invincible Microbe (see a previous blog for more details) where they read and then reread the excerpt. During rereading, they underlined key words and phrases to identify the theme of the excerpt. For this exercise with the excerpt from Trapped, I asked them to read the excerpt, talk about the big ideas and then return to the text specifically to look for evidence. So they didn’t go through and underline key phrases and words in the whole excerpt – just looked for quotes that served as evidence of the Aronson’s development of theme. Below are images of the charts they created to document their thinking.
Does this give you some ideas for what you can do with your students? To engage in close reading of an excerpt of text? An excerpt that reveals the author’s theme?