“One question I would like the group to consider is…”
“I think the author’s tone comes through a little more by the end of the poem when she uses word choices like…”
“If I consider this text from the perspective of…”
Take, for instance, Common Core’s first reading anchor standard, which asks students to read a complex text and to cite textual evidence to support ideas from the text and inferences drawn from it. Several skills are packed into this standard -- determining explicit information, making inferences, citing textual evidence -- all of which students need in order to be successful in reading and responding to texts. To master this standard, students need to “read closely,” or what I call “dissect” a text. They need pull out the explicit details and make logical inferences from them.
Approaching R1 in Mr. Harris’ Class
1: I model how to annotate the text by underlining key details, circling confusing aspects, etc.
2: Students work with a partner or small group to clarify confusing aspects of the text.
3: Groups share out confusing aspects with the class, and I introduce different strategies to tackle and clarify these parts.
4: I model how to answer a text-dependent question using textual evidence.
5: Students answer text-dependent questions. Sometimes they answer these as a group and chart their answers, and other times they create a visual representation to share with the class. Other times, they independently answer the questions. Also, students will eventually write their own text-dependent questions to use in group discussion.
A few semesters ago, one of my former students visited my classroom. He was a graduate who returned to speak to my 11th grade classes about preparing for college. He spoke about how he came into my classroom as a struggling reader, but “learned how to break down a hard reading into something I can understand,” and how he still uses those strategies in college. Not only did his story encourage my students that year to really delve into close reading, but it reassured me that the instructional shifts I’ve made as a result of Common Core implementation are necessary. Likewise, the questions and rich discussions I hear on a day-to-day basis speak to the power of this shift.
Joe Harris teaches AP Language and chairs the English Department at Lawrence County High School in Louisa, KY. He is also a Teacher Leader on Special Assignment for the Kentucky Department of Education, and served as a 2013-2015 Hope Street Group Kentucky Teacher Fellow.