Helping Students Read Closely: When to Notice & Note

Close reading is one of the buzz words that is being emphasized with the Common Core Learning Standards. By close reading I am interpreting as the reading, rereading, and analysis of text for the purpose to understand it more deeply.  Close reading doesn’t happen on every page of a text nor is it something that students should be doing with every text they read for school. Rather, close reading happens with particular passages to help students look more closely at specific elements of the text like theme, characterization, and word choice in order to gain an understanding of the complexities of a text. One of my goals with my eighth graders is to get them to read closely and thoughtfully on their own.

I recently read Kylene Beers and Robert Probst’s Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading (2013) along with Christopher Lehman & Kate Rober’s Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts and Life (2014).  These are two wonderful books that offer lots of insight into close reading habits for any classroom.

Close Reading Texts

I have created an interactive foldable for my students with the six “notice and note signposts” described in Beers & Probst’s book.

Notice & Note Foldable 2Notice & Note Foldable 3

The six signposts are:

1. Contrasts and Contradictions – Why would the character act (feel) this way?

When authors show the reader a character acting in a way that contrasts with how one might expect someone to act or contradicts how that character has been acting, the author is showing the reader something important.

2. Aha Moments – How might this change things?

When a character realizes or finally understands something, then the reader wants to pause because the realization means something. It could be related to character development or a new direction in the plot.

3. Tough Questions – What does this question make me wonder about?

When a character pauses to ask him or herself or a friend some really tough questions, then the reader is getting a glimpse of what’s bothering him or her. This might be something the character is struggling with throughout the story.

4. Words of the Wiser – What’s the life lesson and how might it affect the character?

When a wise character shares his or her understanding, insight, or advise on an issue or topic, stop and think about that. These insights could reveal something important about the theme.

5. Again and Again – Why might the author bring this up again and again?

Repetition is important. It gives insight into the setting or character or could even be a symbol of some sort.

6. Memory Moment – Why might this memory be important?

Memories of the past help to explain the present moment. A memory can give insight into what bothers or motivates the character, it can help to understand something happening in the plot, or give information about the theme.

I could teach these signposts one at a time, but I felt it necessary to give my students all the signposts together to help them label and identify them as we begin to read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  Throughout our class discussions of the text I will point out examples of the sign posts to help guide students’ close reading so they might have a new understanding about.

Lehman and Roberts write in their book, “Authors thoughtfully select details, hoping that we, the readers, are listening. When we take the time to do so, as carefully as we listen to the people we love, we see the complexity of ideas that reach beyond the page and impact our lives.” (p. 9)  I want my students to be good listeners as they are reading a text. When listening to a text students are gathering evidence and reflecting on what new information the evidence reveals about the text. Close reading habits help students to develop a clearer understanding of a text they read in school but a clearer understanding of the world they inhabit.

Below is the Notice & Note foldable to use with your students:

Notice and Note Foldable

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