Be choosy, even snobby – close read just the good stuff

Do you ever look at a text and think, “Ugh. Poorly written!”? Or “OMG that’s WAY TOO MUCH information in one paragraph!”? And yet you’re doomed because you’re required to use the text or it’s what you have access to in the heat of planning a million other lessons?

We know that close reading or any kind of careful reading that leads to thoughtful conversations or written responses only works when the text is worthy of this kind of reading and thinking. There has to be enough content to work with, chew on, grapple with. When I’m in this situation, I go back to the “ugh” text and look for the golden nuggets–a sentence or a paragraph or a few paragraphs or a page even. When I begin the lesson, I let the kids read the “whole text” to get the gist and then engage them in rereading just that golden nugget section. (BTW-sometimes I just don’t use the text for close reading…it has to be worthy 😉

Last week I gave a lesson with the golden nuggets in the text–a two page article in the Treasures supplemental anthology, “California’s First People.” The students previewed the text and made predictions. I posed the purpose for reading–How did the first people in California use natural resources? Then I gave them time to read the whole two pages in the supplemental Treasures anthology.

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After they read the whole text and briefly discussed with a partner what they’d learned, we did a close read of the second page of text. It’s not that there wasn’t important information in the first page–there was just a LOT of information–too much to chew on and think about. Each sentence was a sub-topic to itself, you know? The second page provided more details on a few particular subtopics. Below are my notes from planning. (Another BTW – the text was at their instructional level for the most part and while I want to “guide” them in understanding this text, intermediate/middle grade students can at least get the gist on their own or develop some understanding before I teach. So I don’t sweat, “Will they comprehend it all easily?” because I know I’m going back in to coach and guide them in a productive struggle with a section of the text.)


In another blog entry, I wrote about doing with a NEWSELA article for a lesson I taught.

My point is –be choosy about texts and if you’re stuck with “ugh texts,” look for nuggets worthy of your students’ time and energy. If this fails…ugh.

Hope this helps.



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