Close Reading Lessons Learned From Star Wars & Game of Thrones Diehards


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My colleague has seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens four times over the past three weeks since opening night. During our daily lunch duty we have been talking about our interpretations and thoughts on the movie. Intrigued by his diehard interest in seeing the movie four times, I asked him what he looks for with each viewing. Here is what he told me:

First Viewing – Get the Gist of the Story, Make Connections, Ask Questions

Second Viewing – Dig Deeper, Make Inferences and Predictions

Third Viewing – Pay attention to Editing, Color, Symbolism, Foreshadowing

Fourth Viewing – Listen closely to music for more symbolism, foreshadowing, and confirm predictions for the next film.

The more he talked about his different viewings I realized I do the same thing with Game of Thrones. I watch the episode the night it first airs for understanding, making connections from previous episodes and the books, and posing questions. The next day I talk about my first viewing with all my colleagues, and then between the night the show airs and the next episode, I might watch again or even twice for a reread. In my second and third reading I pay closer attention to match on match edits, colors, and catching events and mannerisms I might have missed in the first read. I guess I can credit HBO with helping me to hone my close reading skills.

Close reading is a buzz word that has bombarded every English teacher since the introduction of the Common Core Learning Standards. The reality is that many Star Wars and Game of Thrones diehard fans are close reading experts who our students can model and mentor.

In Grant Wiggins’ blog post on close reading (May 17, 2013) he defines close reading as a “disciplined re-reading of inherently complex and worthy texts.” Wiggins goes on to includes Nancy Boyles’ definition, “Essentially, close reading means reading to uncover layers of meaning that lead to deep comprehension.” He includes a quote from Tim Shanahan why close reading is necessary, “Because challenging texts do not give up their meanings easily, it is essential that readers re-read such texts.”

So here ELA teachers are trying to get students to peel back to the layers of the texts utilized in classrooms and many students might already be doing this with their fan favorite texts whether it be The Regular Show on Cartoon Network or the entire Star Wars collection. We must tap into our student’s fan favorites and identify the close reading habits already mastered. Then, teachers can introduce additional thinking habits that will uncover new information, inspire the desire to learn more, and allow students to become Jedi Knights of interrogating texts.




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