Monday, October 28, 2013

a love affair with reading

When a book alludes to having a love affair with reading… I know I have found a new friend.

I just read Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts - and Life by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts. (… bonus, there's a forward by Donalyn Miller)

This book will have a huge, positive impact on reading instruction and the interpretation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

I love how the book is organized, and its near 'fail-safe' explanations of how to use Close Reading in the classroom.

Our ritual for teaching students to read closely developed into three steps, steps that are connected and that help students navigate this complex skill set in more approachable ways:
1. First, read through lenses: Decide what you will be paying attention to while reading and collect those details.
2. Next, use lenses to find patterns: Look across all of the details you have collected and find patterns.
3. Finally, use the patterns to develop a new understanding of the text: Consider these patterns in light of what you have already learned from the text. Put these together to develop a new understanding of the text or a deeper, evidence-based interpretation.

That excerpt may sound a bit  textbookish, but Falling in Love with Close Reading is filled with passion, excitement, and independence. 

It is an exciting time to be young. Our students are growing up surrounded by more text and media than at any other time in human history. By some estimates, in the span of one year, roughly one million books are published and over one trillion web pages of information are accessible ("Did You Know 4.0"). Never before has so much information been so readily available. Global events unfold in real time across social networks, and questions can be researched and answered in mere moments. Our students are growing up in a world where knowledge and experience is just waiting to be harnessed."

Word Choice, Organization, Structure, Perspective, Point of View… there is so much fun to be had in close reading. We can read to understand the ideas of the text, while at the same time revealing the techniques the author uses. Close reading can bring an amazing new awareness of how ideas are shared and how we choose to interact with those ideas.

I want every young adult to read and understand chapter five, Through Your Eyes: A Study of Point of View and Argument. I am in love with a future where students are aware of what the author assumes is true, where students wonder if the author's idea of truth is universal or simply the way he/she sees the world. I adore the idea of students asking themselves, "What does the author value or believe?" Or "What does the author think about certain groups of people?" By reading in a way that tries to understand what someone believes, we can begin to see the sound and not-so-sound ideas that different people operate under.

We want our students to be more aware of the points of view and arguments embedded in most texts. We want them to read these texts closely so that they don't only walk away with a broad sense of the author's argument, but instead are able to examine texts for the subtle points they are trying to make.  And we very much want students to be able to do this in their lives as well. We want them to look around their lives as they become young adults and see other's perspectives, analyze the arguments they and others are making, and critique those arguments and perspectives when they find them wanting. Above all, we want our students to gain insight and wisdom as they engage with and create their own arguments about their world.

Chapter six is my personal favorite, The Family Tree: Closely Reading Across Texts

No one book, article, poem, or play is an island.

I am a fan of collecting and curating characters and settings and themes…. making connections and comparisons across media, for me, is a true pleasure. Nothing exists in isolation - not books, not ideas, not art - no one is ever alone. The interconnections of close reading may, when it belongs to students, help them find their place in a complex world.

The ritual of reading a text closely with a lens, looking for patterns, and then having new understandings is designed so that these structures become ingrained habits, and that these habits then become independent practices for your students.

I loved this book! I think all teachers of reading and writing should get this book, grab a pencil, and begin… 

Follow Chris Lehman on twitter: @ichrislehman

Follow Kate Roberts on twitter: @teachkate

Chat along with others who have read Falling in Love with Close Reading on twitter with  #FILWCloseReading

Still want more? Check out the Close Reading blog-a-thon.

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