Monday Made It - Incorporating Close Reading

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I'm linking up today with Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics for another edition of Monday Made It!

My first Made It is a unit that I am really proud of.  It is actually a revision of an older unit and is the product of a couple of years of deep thinking and work in the area of close reading.  My district has been advocating for the teaching of close reading and annotating skills for a couple of years and many a staff meeting have been dedicated to the topic.  But as with everything else, I have to figure out how it's going to work for me.  

The expectations were that we would spend 60 minutes of our reading instruction each week in the area of close reading and most of the teachers did this by dedicating one class period to this task.  So maybe Friday was the day that they would work on close reading skills.  I've never really cared for doing things in this way, because I feel it interrupts the flow of the unit I'm working on.  Let's say I'm in the middle of the Wonder unit (one of the MAISA units that we use), and every Friday we do a close reading lesson on some random text.  I feel like that sends the message to the students that it is a separate activity from the reading we are doing on all of the other days.  

I have also struggled with the fact that I don't think the MAISA units are hitting the skills hard enough to prepare them for the district or other assessments that my students will take.  Basically, they have two components, the read aloud mini lesson and the independent reading workshop task.  I finally came to this realization this summer and figured out that what I need to do is insert close reading tasks in between the read aloud mini lesson and reading workshop task.  And I need to do this every day!  My goal for the year was to come up with new reading units of my own that followed this format:  1. Read aloud with modeling  and think alouds of reading skills and strategies, 2. Close reading activities where we practice those same skills and strategies on shared texts, and 3. Reading workshop time where the students then put those same skills and strategies to use with their independent reading books at their own level.  In other words, follow a "To, With, and By" model for instruction.  

So, I hunkered down over Labor Day weekend and cranked out a revised version to my unit on The Kid in the Red Jacket by Barbara Park.  

I have loved starting the year with this book for many reasons.  It's about a boy who has to move schools (perfect for the beginning of the year), it's not too long, and it's hilarious!  The result of my labors over the long weekend was a 17 day unit that covers five Common Core Standards for fourth grade, five Common Core Standards for fifth grade, and four of the Common Core Standards for sixth grade.  

One of the trickiest parts of planning this unit was finding relatively short shared reading texts that would be appropriate for the skills we were working on.  The shared reading texts need to be short so the students can read and interact with them in about 20-25 minutes, and I can make copies of the text.  It was important to get copies of the text into the students' hands so that they can write and highlight directly on them and to make it economically feasible for me.  The book Hey World, Here I Am! by Jean Little was the perfect answer!  The book is told from the perspective of a girl named Kate, but each chapter can be used as a stand alone short story.  

The unit begins with a YouTube video and discussion about why reading is important.  This leads to brainstorming ways to become stronger readers and a review of choosing just right books.  We also generate a list of strategies for what to do when you encounter difficult text, which led to the creation of this anchor chart...

In the process of making this chart, we discussed what it means to read text closely and also what it means to annotate.  I created bookmarks for the students, and it was great to see them actually refer to them as we began our work with close reading.

I also created a bulletin board that hopefully the students will refer to throughout the year to remind them about annotating and providing evidence from the text (one of the big common core focuses of the unit).

Here is an overview of one of the lessons in this unit.  I start out with all the students on the carpet, and I explain to them that one of the things we will be working on in this unit is making inferences about characters, describing them with character traits, and then supporting those inferences with evidence from the text.  I give them a couple examples of character traits, refer them to a page in their packet that has a list of traits, and then talk to them about the types of things we want to pay attention to in the book such as a character's actions, thoughts, and dialogue.   

Next, I read aloud a chapter of the book and model for them my thinking as I encounter evidence from the text that indicates certain character traits about the main character, Howard.  After finishing the chapter, we discuss more evidence of character traits for Howard, and then I refer them to a page in their packet which shows them how to provide evidence from the text when making claims such as saying a character shows a certain character trait.  

Then we move on to the close reading part of the lesson.  We are using a copy of one of the chapters from Hey World, Here I Am! that we have already read once, but today the students are told to reread it closely with the purpose of looking for evidence of character traits for the narrator Kate.  They do this independently but then spend time discussing it with a partner.  

As they are discussing their thoughts with their partner, I walk around and find a student or two that made some insightful annotations and ask if they would be willing to share their notes with the class.  This modeling helps to move more students away from simply highlighting as a coloring activity!  I have also told my students that they may be using symbols to annotate such as the ones on the bookmark, but they all should have some kind of note that explains their thinking.  

Finally, we move on to the reading workshop portion of our reading block.  Now students will be reading their independent books which are just right for them and continuing to practice making inferences about their characters and describing them with character traits.  Since they cannot write directly in their books, they annotate with sticky notes.  At the end of workshop time, students may be asked to record one of their inferences in their packet and/or share it with their partner or the class. Tomorrow's lesson will take the students to the next step by teaching them how to write responses that provide evidence of their claims with direct quotes from the text.  

I truly enjoyed teaching this unit and hope I will be able to transform my other units in the same way! You can find my The Kid in the Red Jacket Core Standards & Close Reading Unit in my TPT Store.  

You can also find my Close Reading Bookmark & Bulletin Board Set in my TPT Store.

The entire unit only requires one copy of each of the following books.  You can find them on Amazon by clicking on the covers below.  

My second Made It is something I have been thinking about trying for quite a while now, my own monthly linky!  I finally came up with an idea, and it's all set to go this month.  It is called Show & Tell Tuesday.

Stop by on January 19 to check it out!  I'd love for you to link up!

Be sure to read about all the other Made Its at 4th Grade Frolics!

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