Tag Archives: Close Reading

Helping Students Read Between the Lines: Graphic Novels, Inferences, & Close Reading

Students have been reading three specific graphic novels this month that are historically based on people who dedicated their life work to speak out against injustice. The three titles are The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix, They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, and Run by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Now students might be thinking, how cool, what an easy book to read, and there is so little words but really this is a deeper reading unit that others.

Graphic novels have depth of plot, character development, theme, and lots of literary elements found in a prose text. It also has the elements of film we study with students, allowing them to develop literacy in the interpretation of image for meaning. When students combine both aspects to investigate a text’s effect on readers, they develop varied insights into how meaning is communicated and interpreted. It makes for a very rich literature study.

What started as a mini lesson on inferring, because a rich discussion about the messages the authors and illustrators made balancing the words and images to help convey a particular message.

Looking closer at the page from Faithful Spy together the students were able to recognize the double-page spread symbolically represents Germany’s decline from the stability of the early 20th century through the disaster of the Great War, then into the postwar years when Germany tried to gain her feet and reassert herself on the world stage.  It gives the reader a literal picture of how an opportunist like Hitler was able to take advantage of his country’s instability to seize power. Both Germany and Hitler are represented by the wolf which is ripping off its collar to represent Germany would no longer be following the key provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. History.com cites Article 231, commonly called the war guilt clause, which required Germany to accept responsibility for causing “all the loss and damage” inflicted on the Allies in WWI.

Additionally, students pointed out how the wolf’s eyes are white providing a lifeless, vicious animal that is driven by aggression. It is eating its prey represents Hitler’s desire to eat up all surrounding countries to accumulate power and anyone getting in his way.

To encourage students to go back into their graphic novels and look closer at specific panels and sections, I created task cards to help direct them to specific parts of the book and begin developing theories about their reading. This was followed up with a lesson on symbolism and possible theme ideas in the text. You can grab a copy of these materials here.

*They Called Us Enemy Questions are not my own but were found on this website.
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Literacy Call to Action

This week I started reading Forged by Reading by Kyleen Beers & Bob Probst.  

These authors are mentors to me and all of their book have shaped my teaching and learning. Kylene Beers, author and educator, is a past-President of the National Council of Teachers of English. She received an NCTE Leadership Award, held a reading research position in the Comer School Development Program at Yale University School of Medicine, and has most recently served as the Senior Reading Advisor to the Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College, Columbia University. Robert E. Probst is an author and consultant to schools nationally and internationally. He speaks to administrators and teachers on literacy improvement, particularly issues surrounding struggling readers and meeting standards. Bob is Professor Emeritus of English Education at Georgia State University and has served as a research fellow for Florida International University.  

In their newest book, Forged by Reading they explore historic and timely topics through the context of literacy— literacy is the gateway to power and privilege. The book serves as  a call to action. Educators have a critical role empowering readers to think; to seek curiosity and skepticism; to shape themselves and their ideas through evidence and reason, vision, and imagination and; in doing so, to forge themselves and our world through reading.

As more and more students lose interest in reading visual and print text, there is space for misinformation and manipulation. In PART II of the text Beers and Probst explore power and how throughout history, reading and writing was used as a form of control and suppression. Discussing slavery, first nations people, Latino-Americans and education the reader looks throughout history to see how literacy was used as a tool to control and oppress.

Kylene and Bob help us understand that reading is a transaction between the author and the reader (Rosenblatt, 1995). Every time we enter a text, there is always the possibility that we will emerge somewhat changed by the encounter—with new insights, ideas, and understandings. And this is as true of fiction as it is of nonfiction. We want our children to read with open minds and hearts, alert to the possibility of learning something new that might sharpen and deepen their understanding—leading, perhaps, to questions that might, in turn, show the way to additional learning.

What does this look like in the classroom? Kylene and Bob (2021) suggest that the ideal reading environment for our children would reflect the following:

• “A rich diversity of literature that acts as the ‘mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors’ that scholar Rudine Sims Bishop wrote of decades ago.

• A rich diversity of response that promotes questioning more than answering and leads to a sharper understanding of ourselves, our students, and of the text itself.

• The acceptance of the student’s uniqueness, to allow each student to feel welcomed in the classroom, to be more fully present and, perhaps more fully engaged.

• A welcoming of a range of opinion and interpretation, providing an opportunity
to learn how to deal with differences and how to bring evidence and reason to bear upon assumptions and beliefs.

• And, perhaps most important, inviting students to see the act of reading as an opportunity to grow and change.”

Educator Kate Roberts reminds us, “Literacy is an essential element of freedom.” Too often, traditional, mind-numbing instructional practices diminish the robust power of literacy for our students. Too many children experience reading in the classroom as little more than extracting and recording information from the text, rather than a freeing intellectual exploration—reading as an invigorating and deeply satisfying cognitive and empathy workout that makes possible the joy of new learning.

Throughout the book a central idea is that we need to be both Responsive and Responsible Readers. In the simplest of terms, we have to be open to the idea that reading can impact us, lead us to think, create a sense of urgency to act and then we must act. We spend so much time teaching kids to read for information that we inadvertently teach them to ignore the feelings they encounter. Students are focused on completing tasks asking irrelevant questions at time to prepare for a standardized test and not recognizing the thoughts and feelings that we have around a text. I am reminded of a scene in the movie A View From the Top:

This is exactly what teachers have been doing when teaching reading: emphasizing accuracy, lexile levels, classical canon over critical thinking and personal reactions to the text. Bob and Kylene include multiple examples of interactions with readers that make us cringe because the teaching points at that moment ignored the student, what they can do, what they felt, how to support them as readers, thinkers, and someone with feelings.

In Forged by Reading Bob and Kylene expand on a great Framework that they gave us in Disrupting Thinking to increase the role of responsibility in reading. The Book-Head-Heart Framework is an amazing tool to help readers be more responsive, providing a structure to responsibly organize their thinking around a text and reflect on the importance to them. In Forged by Reading it goes a step further asking what we can DO. BHH-D asks us to take that next step and our students are ready for it when the opportunity is provided because our students want to talk about and work to make better the problems of the world.

The revised “BHHD” strategy, first introduced in their book, Disrupting Thinking, where students are asked:

  1. “What’s in the book?
  2. What’s in your head?
  3. What’s in your heart?
  4. What will you do now?” (p. 178)

Beers and Probst end with a call to action: “You, our nation’s teachers, have the power to help students become empowered readers and thinkers. You can help each student forge his or her life through reading. And so again, dear teachers, we turn to you” (p. 193).

As a middle school English teacher in a suburban school 25 minutes outside of New York City, I am seeing more and more parents challenge the work that I am doing in my classroom. Questioning literature choices and my agenda to provide contemporary young adult fiction alongside classical text that raise issues relevant today, so that my students have mirrors, windows, sliding glass doors, and even telescopes in the fictional texts they read. My agenda is to support my students as critical thinkers of information and to promote kindness. When my students read I want them to “to think again and anew about significant issues, so they may see the world and themselves more clearly,” (pg. 16) and have the courage to realize their potential to help make a positive difference in the world.

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Integrated Thematic Hyperdocs

Integrated Thematic Instruction offers students a chance to learn in an environment where lessons in all subjects are woven around compelling themes that are expanded and explored throughout the year. This method of learning helps students connect lessons to real-life experiences. For students to be fully engaged, the content must have an application and be meaningful to their world. The standards are presented in theme-based units that allow for frequent connections.

I am currently teaching a college course titled Literacy in the Content Areas with pre-service teachers and current teachers from all different content areas. ALL content area teachers must play an active role in teaching students disciplinary literacy skills. The purpose of this course is to help teachers and teaching candidates learn how to integrate literacy (reading, writing, viewing, and communication) into content area classrooms so students can construct meaning in discipline-specific ways. Emphasis is on helping candidates acquire an integrated and balanced approach using literacy as a discipline-specific tool –  for supporting reading, writing, speaking and doing – as defined by the New York State Next Generation Learning Standards. 

Helping students to think about supporting students as writers, add history and bring in aspects of sports, I created this hyperdoc to help students learn about the segregated history of baseball and then make connections to athletes as social activists today. Below you can see the different aspects of the hyperdoc to allow for cognitive skills such as reading, thinking and writing in the context of real life connections that also allows for creative exploration.

Integrated thematic units can result in a lot of thoughtful conversations about the interconnectedness of the disciplines we teach.  There are so many reasons why using integrated thematic units can benefit your learners.

  • Helps students engage with the content being taught
  • Allows students to apply content throughout curricula
  • Learners are able to make connections
  • Draws from past experiences and prior knowledge
  • Develops vocabulary and comprehension skills

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Reading Guides to Support Reading Comprehension

Reading guides help develop students’ comprehension. Teacher-created reading guides provide prompts as students read an assigned text. These Guides help students to comprehend the main points of the reading and understand the structure of a text. Reading guides do not just have to be questions about the events in the book but can incorporate reading strategies to help students practice the habits of proficient readers. For example, reading strategies include visualizing, activating schema, questioning, inferring, determining importance, monitoring for meaning and synthesizing. A student might stop and sketch a vivid image from a scene in the text or make an inference or prediction of what is going to happen next. Students can benefit from close reading strategies (involving slowing down and re-reading difficult passages) to help monitor comprehension.

Reading Rockets provides ways to differentiate reading guides for second language learners or students with disabilities:

  • Vary the difficulty of questions on the reading guide. Modify the quantity of questions.
  • If the student struggles as a reader, allow access to an audio copy of the text.
  • If the student has trouble with working memory, provide a note-catcher to highlight and or record the key information in the text, so they can refer back.
Ransom of the Red Chief Reading Guide
Reading Guide for O’Henry’s Short Story Ransom of the Red Chief

Reading guides are a strategy that allows students to read a text independently but with coaching that does not require the teacher to read alongside the student. Students can work with a peer to read and complete the steps in the reading guide.

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Teaching with Graphic Novels

I love reading graphic novels. They are visually appealing, engaging, entertaining, and a rich teaching tools. They are a doorway for struggling and reluctant readersGraphic novels provide rich teaching experiences for critical thinking, inferring, visual literacy, and close reading. Here are five different ways utilize graphic novels with students.

  1. Graphic novels are Text. Teach these novels as a text for an all class read or in book clubs. You might consider having a genre study in graphic novels. Graphic novels come in all different genres and many are award winning texts. Here is a copy of a graphic novel reading unit I created for middle school students and a choice board with rubric for follow up activities.
  2. Close Reading of a Scene. Just like we chunk the text of a piece of literature, students can read closely a particular scene or chapter of the novel to analyze the key ideas and details, then focus on text structure, and integration of knowledge and ideas. Professor of English, Dr. Michelle Falter states, “The tasks and thinking skills required to read a multimodal text are actually higher level than if reading a print-based text alone. You have to see images and words work together, and when and why authors chose to put them together in a frame.” When I was teaching Shakespeare, I would pair a scene with the graphic novel scene for students to work in small groups to analyze and interpret how the scene and characters are portrayed, what is emphasized and what is left out. These close reads help students observe and analyze for a deeper meaning in the text.
  3. Build Visual Literacy Skills & Vocabulary. Graphic novels are visual texts and there is a vocabulary to talking about the structure and details of the text. Panel, frame, speech bubble, close up, long shot, wide shot, aerial shot are all terms used to discuss the visual elements of the text. Provide students with the vocabulary and they are able to talk about the structure and details of the visual text. Students can consider the impact of the artistry to covey meaning of the text. How does this close up image affect our understanding of the character? What did the author choose to say in this frame that the illustrator left out? What did the illustrator choose to showcase in this panel? What is not said and inferred “in the gutters” (the spaces between the panels)?
  4. Caption This. Graphic novels are both visual and print texts. Both stand alone and yet work seamlessly together. When we take away the words, what are our inferences and understanding? Matt Miller describes one of my favorite activities on his website Ditch That Textbook called “Caption This.” You can omit the dialogue and speech bubbles in the frame or panel and ask students to write their own. He describes four ways to utilize this activity with students on his blog.
Shaun Tan’s The Arrival has no words. Students can write the dialogue and story after closely reading the text.

5. Parallel Texts. So many graphic novels have been adapted from contemporary and classic literature, students can read both texts. Then, compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.5). How does reading Lois Lowry’s The Giver in print and graphic novel form impact the meaning and messages in the text?

Graphic novels are not just for English class and readings for pleasure, they can be utilized across the curriculum. My students reading of George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy was an entry point to introduce and discuss Japanese Internment during World War II. Additionally, I have amassed a collection of graphic novels to teach about the Holocaust beyond the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus I and Maus II.

What information can you learn from this image/text?

Why do you think the author included this image?

What are some possible themes in the text? What evidence led you to that?

How do the illustrations impact the meaning of the text?
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Movie Mondays for Close Reading Practice

In my book Personalized Reading (ISTE, 2018) I write about supporting reluctant readers with visual texts as an entryway for close reading practice. Reluctant readers can may be struggling readers or they might be simply students who have had negative experiences with reading.

If Readicide as Kelly Gallagher (2010) coined the term – to kill the love of reading – in his book by the same name should not be a right of passage for young people when the wealth of wonderful words is infinite. Seven years after Gallagher’s text, many students would agree that schools are killing the love of reading the way teachers are teaching text. Still, many students post graduation boast of never reading a book throughout their secondary school career. reluctant readers need aren’tto be hooked on the first page of the a book. If they are not, they are quick to abandon a bookit like I was. Motivation and choice is are the key with reluctant readers. To help them, we educators must stop inadvertently committing “readicide” (Gallagher, 2010) and focus on what Steven Wolk (2009) describes as a “living curriculum,” a place where students and teachers use books and other resources and experience to drive classroom inquiry. One of our goals as educators is developing critical thinking, stamina, and life life-long readers among our students. 

Personalized Reading describes, “To accomplish these goals for teaching reading takes all forms and activities to tap into all the diverse readers in our classrooms, we must look up from the printed page and tap into all forms of text. Since we live in a visually rich environment, teachers can use visual texts—photographs, movies, and animated shorts— to first pique a reluctant reader’s interests, Using animated shorts, photographs, and movies, enables students to build visual literacy, and to practice the skills strategies of what proficient readers do. Images and movies serve as a bridge for to print texts when it comes to reluctant readers. Once students are reading, honing in on the “during reading” skills of making predictions and inferences helps keeps students active as readers. Students also need practice discerning the important parts of what they read in order to more effectively write or create responses to their reading.”

This year I am instituting Movie Mondays to practice these close reading skills using short feature film. At the beginning of the week students watch a short film: TED Talk, animation, documentary and then we discuss, write, and reflect on the story presented in the visual texts. Using graphic organizers and scaffolded notes help to guide students viewing/reading of these texts.

Below are a few of the movies we are starting off with and the follow up questions to guide student’s close reading.

Take note of the beginning of the film. What is the setting? What things do you observe in the setting that are important to Zuri? – What does the director’s plant in the beginning of the scene that provide details for the character and plot?

How does Zuri’s Dad feel about trying to get her hair to look like she wants? How do you know this is how he feels, even though there is no dialogue?

In the “battle” scene, why do you think Zuri’s hair becomes a character? How does this “fantasy” or personification help to emphasize his character and reactions?

The act of braiding means bringing things, like hair parts, together in order to unify them. What are three parts of the film that seem like they are weaving together components of the relationship for the family?

Hair love first seems like a light hearted film about a father helping his daughter with her hair but then suddenly shows there are deeper meanings in this short. How does the film tug on the viewer’s heartstrings? What does the director do to get an emotional response from the viewers?

How doe the color choices impact the film’s deeper messages? (You might want to research the meaning of the color choices in the film)

What elements of irony exist in the story? How do they serve to move the story forward and how do they assist in illuminating the story’s theme?

Get a Copy of this Organizer HERE

As students are listening to Gillette’s TED Talk they can take notes and pull out a central idea from his speech. Students are asked to find specific evidence that supports the central idea selected. This graphic organizer can be used as a note catcher and help students track Gillette’s presentation.

Films are a text and the way we teach them in our class should be taught in a way that mirror the way we teach close reading and critical thinking. Just as print text is layered with words, images, inferences, and evidence, so is film. When teaching with videos as or printed text, teacher and author, Kristin Ziemke (2016) calls on teachers to model and scaffold to support your students so that they can, as teacher and author Kristin Ziemke (2016) says, “interact, respond, and think to read the world differently.” If students are to develop deep understanding of texts, teachers need to model close reading skills to film too.

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Close Reading Stranger Things

What are the elements of gothic fiction and how can the Netflix series Stranger Things help to teach gothic fiction and close reading? This is the inquiry project my students are currently working on in our film elective.

Gothic Films contain the following elements:

● Dark & gloomy
● Supernatural beings, monsters and the paranormal
● Heroes, villains, damsels in distress and sometimes, romance
● Feelings of suspense, mystery and fear
● Settings of unease such as dark forests, storms and unnerving
places

I first polled my students to see who had access to Netflix.  As students are watching Season One of Stranger Things we have been focusing on why this film series is so popular and the elements of great storytelling and filming.

To help building background knowledge, students read an article about the Stranger Things creators, Matt and Ross Duffer in the New York Times. Students then completed a graphic organizer based on their reading and understanding.

Reading Response Graphic Organizer

As students watched Season One we focused on color, lighting, sound, and music to build suspense. Students learn film terminology to help better understand the ways filmmakers manipulate these elements for emotional responses from the audience. For example, Diegetic sound is a noise which has a source on-screen. They are noises which have not been edited in, like dialogue between characters or footsteps. Another term for diegetic sound is actual sound. Non-diegetic sound is a noise which does not have a source on-screen, they have been added in like the music interludes. I asked students what are some of the ways the film directors use non-diegetic sounds to build tension and suspense in the series.

Additionally, students have studied the character archetypes presented in the film series and mapped out the hero’s journey based on Joseph Campbell’s mono-myth.

I do not only want students to be consuming the show, but also use the show as a catalyst for their own creativity and movie-making. Students have had two film challenges, courtesy of The Jacob Burns Film Center.

Film Challenge No. 1 – Taking inspiration from Stranger Things and what you learned about match cuts. Create a short film about someone or something in your house that is not what they seem to be. Your film should use at least one graphic match, a way to connect two shots by having similar composition. Also consider sound, color, and lighting to help tell your story.

Check out this film posted on the JBFC website:

Film Challenge No. 2 – Think about Stranger Things and the moments when the characters were introduced to the Upside-Down (the Lab Scenes, When the wall in Joyce’s home reveals another world, when Nancy and Jonathan go into the Upside-Down.

Your second film challenge is to use some new camera moves and create a story about a mysterious room in your home.

IMAGE: Revealing a character’s reaction or a new piece of information at just the right moment can add the perfect amount of tension to your zombie love story or get a big laugh in your action-comedy.

A whip pan is a quick turn of the camera that can be a stylish way to make that big reveal. You must use a whip pan to reveal something to the audience. Check out the video about the Whip Pan Shot below for more information.

SOUND: What’s the sound of a sword made of light? What about a monster made of cosmic gas and time particles? Deep questions like these are the realm of the Sound Effect Designer and her team. They create all the sounds in a film from the common (footsteps), to the uncommon (Chewbacca). Create at least 3 sound effects for your film.

STORY: A new room has just appeared in your house! Nobody has ever seen it before. Was it there all along? How could you miss it?! Maybe it just appeared. However it happened, now it’s here and there’s a problem.
A few tips:

Every scene in your film should move the story forward in some way, big or small, and every scene should have conflict.

A character wants/needs something, and the story can’t move forward until they get it. Remember, the scene is only interesting if there is something in the way of your character and their goal.

Using frames from Stranger Things I created weekly check-ins with my students, like this  “Meme” Check-ins in a Google Forms and ask how students are doing under the current pandemic.

Stranger Things Meme Check In

Here were a few student responses:

I love creating films but I like watching and breaking down shows/movies better.

I enjoy when we watch little videos about something related to film making.

I like creating more than watching.

Class online school is has been good so far! The lessons and everything have been nice.

Class has been really good during this online school period. The amount of work is really good and the assignments can be fun.

Lastly, students are comparing what is real and what is fiction in the show. Students researched more about What Was Going on in the Hawkins Laboratory in Stranger Things? From the 1950s to 1970sProject MKUltra, also called the CIA mind control program, is the code name given to a program of experiments on human subjects that were designed and undertaken by the United States Central Intelligence Agency—and which were, at times, illegal. Experiments on humans were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations in order to weaken the individual and force confessions through mind control. The project was organized through the Office of Scientific Intelligence of the CIA and coordinated with the U.S. Army Biological Warfare Laboratories.

For a creative writing activity, student wrote out the dialogue for the scene between Dr. Brenner and Hopper in Episode 7 at the Lab. What did they say to each other that allowed Hopper to go into the Upside Down with Joyce. Having students write out edited scenes sheds light on inferential knowledge and understanding.

Television shows and movies are great visual texts to help students practice close reading skills and showcase their understanding in creative ways like movie making projects.

 

 

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X-Ray Reading

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Roy Peter Clark’s X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing is a must read for teachers. Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, has taught for more than 30 years and authored or edited 18 books. In this X-Ray Reading he encourages his readers to “put on their x-ray reading glasses” along with him and undress the text. This experience leads to deeper reading knowledge and deeper writing knowledge. Beginning with The Great Gatsby and working his way through contemporary literature, Clark spends time with the fine details and its literacy effects. He writes, “writing is a game of language connection and meaning.” Let’s play.

George Orwell said, “Good writing is like a window pane, a frame for seeing the world, a boundary that is hardly noticeable.”

What should we stop, notice, and note?  Here are some places to pay special attention:

The Opening Passage & Treasured Endings- These foreshadow the rest of the story. Great beginnings arc and hint at great endings with foreshadowing details. Clark utilizes The Great Gatsby to illustrate the strategic treasures of powerful endings and beginnings.

Lyrical sentences – “Long sentences that take us on a journey” (pg 46) whereas short sentences are the “gospel of truth.”

Intentional elaboration and Cliffhangers that propel the reader.

Symbolism –  Geography, names (“names are a tool to project and overview character”), and common objects with deeper meaning and or religious references. There is so much religious symbolism in literature and Clark tells all his readers to read the Bible to notice and note the religious symbolism.

Repetition or the “echo effect” – Not redundancy, but purposeful repetition and the variation of a word, object, and idea. Clark mentions language clubs and word associations to help be creative with repetition. Similarly, tropes and motifs that show up again and again are significant. Think of the powerful image of the green light in The Great Gatsby that emerges throughout the story with its literal meaning and connotations.

Word Choice, Punctuation, & Diction – “Structural, architectural concerns – the ways in which the patterns of language and imagery create the backbone of a narrative” (pg 22). Then look at “the feel and the effect of the writer’s vocabulary as a whole.” Clark references  American Scholar’s 10 Best Sentences in Literature as a place to begin studying the master craft of authors. The difference between “just the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

Nature, Setting, and Landscape – Places in the text where authors harmonize nature with narrative action and emotion and then places where nature is indifferent. Weather is part of the setting of the story and can be used symbolically. Weather is a character and metaphor that provides tension with the plot. His example of Zora Neale Hurston’s passage under the pear tree in Their Eyes Were Watching God transforms language and images of nature into symbolically rich passages.

Characterization – Clark says that it is important to torture your main character and make them suffer. He gives permission to his writing students to kill someone at the end. Details reveal the complexities of a character’s inner life. What characters are not doing is important, often more than their direction actions. Referring to Kurt Vonnegut’s advice  on the relationship between plot and character in narrative writing, “Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for, every character should want something, and be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them” (pg 126). Harry Potter is one example of this test of character.

Time – Stories are about time in motion but there are moments when time seems to stop. As a writer you can freeze time or slow down time as with To Kill a Mockingbird during the court room scene and again with Atticus shooting the rabid dog. Look for places where the readers is eased into the complex because the author’s purpose is to make us see.

Titles – Clark cites as the most important element of stories

Clark wants us to OVER READ. He writes, “literature is about movie making with your notebook and choreographing a dance.” He is all for reading like a writer. He states, “To grow as a write, you should read the words of the writers you admire and look for ways to imitate that work” (pg. 184). Plus, incorporate the “reading of poetry to examine the beautiful compression of language, meaning, and emotion.”

There are specific chapters in the book that I will be sharing with my students to help them undress and close read the text. His chapter on Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is great to read in conjunction with the short story and when my students begin reading To Kill a Mockingbird, I will share Clark’s x-ray chapter with them. If we expect students to read like writers then we must give them models what that looks like. They need opportunities to trace symbols across a text and see how writers play with words. Starting small with sentences, poems, and then short stories can help students crack open the masterful elements writers design.

Want more? Check out this podcast with Roy Peter Clark on Book Titans

 

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5 Activities for Close Reading, Collaboration, and Discussion

David McCullough, author of John Adams and 1776, said during an interview on NPR, “To teach history, use pictures to fuel students’ curiosity.”

We want students to get into a text (whether a primary source or historical fiction) and get a sense what people experienced during other time periods.  Then, students fill in the text with what isn’t being said by sketching, improvs, writing. 

Creative activities help students walk in a particular time period and ignite student interest in the past. Teachers can bring new life to a unit of study by integrating the tools of creative drama and theatre – tools like pantomime, movement, improvisation, scripted drama, oral interpretation, debating, public speaking, readers theatre, storytelling, and the many other ways we use our body or voice to creatively communicate ideas to others. 

Content is what we teach, but there is also the how, and this is where literacy instruction comes in. There are an endless number of engaging, effective strategies to get students to think about, write about, read about, and talk about the content you teach. The ultimate goal is to build a student’s comprehension, writing skills, and overall skills in communication.

Here are five activities to do with your students to promote deeper comprehension, communication, and close reading.

It Says, I Say, So What? – This  reading strategy from Harvey Daniels helps students by guiding them through the process of drawing inferences from the written text. Also, it provides an opportunity to synthesize the information with prior knowledge. I have adapted this many times to include images for students to read closely and articulate what they see and then what does it make you think.

Image Detectives

Reading Detective

10 Questions – Another reading strategy that I employ with my students was adopted by Kelly Gallagher, author of several books. Students read a chunk of text, the first chapter of a novel, or a passage from a nonfiction text and then brainstorm ten questions they have after reading the text. These questions become a frame for further reading and discussion about the text.

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Speed Networking – This activity provides an opportunity for students to make connections and exchange a variety of ideas with their peers in a productive manner. A student and a partner will discuss a given topic for three minutes, then switch to a new partner and discuss again. The number of rotations will depend upon the time available and the topic. The three rules include: 1. Stay on topic, 2. Keep talking until it is time to switch, and 3. Talk only to the person across from you.

Write Around – Students read a passage or a chapter then write a question at the top of a sheet of paper. Students pass their papers to one another or post them in a gallery for everyone to write a response to the open-ended questions.

Student to Student Dialogue Journal – Rather than creating a T-Chart where students record passages they thought compelling and writing a response, there is space for students to share their responses to the students’ double entry responses. Padlet is a great digital tool to collect student response and summaries in the write around and dialogue journals.

And one more . . .

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Mystery Envelopes – Hand small groups a mystery envelope with an index card inside that has a question for the group to answer. Working collaboratively, students formulate answers with evidence to support the text dependent question(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mash Up March: The Anatomy of a Scene, Booksnaps, Screencasts, and Flipgrid

Each blog post this March I will mash up a few apps and technology tools to with teaching ideas that promote reading and writing. This week I am am blending #Booksnaps, Google Slides, screencasting and Flipgrid for a close reading activity.

The New York Times has a series online, Anatomy of a Scene, where the director of a current film describes and dissects for viewers a scene from his or her movie. A clip from the movie is shown while the a voice over of the director describes the setting, actions, and craft moves. All these elements together convey the story and the director’s purpose. Check out this one Anatomy of a Scene for the Black Panther.

To have the director or writer describe the choices he or she made allows the viewer and reader to learn about craft, structure, and author’s purpose.  Essentially these are videos showcasing a close readings with the director articulating his or her intentions as a storyteller. Similarly, when we ask students to closely read the text, we are asking them to dissect the author’s moves and intentions. Imagine if students were to create their own “anatomy of a scene” from a text like The Great Gatsby or George Orwell’s 1984.

To do this, students first create #BookSnaps – snapshots of reading responses, connections, questions, and reflections using Snapchat or Bitmojis, and Google Drawings. Created by Tara M. Martin, these are great ways for students to synthesize their reading and showcase their thinking while reading. To learn more how to create a #Booksnap, check out Tara’s blog post Snapping for Learning. When my students are creating their #Booksnaps they create a Google Slide Deck to showcase all their snaps documenting their reading.

Then, Tara gave me an awesome idea, what if students Screencast their #BookSnaps and describe highlight’s of their reading using a screen casting tool like Screencast-o-Matic?Check out how Tara uses the Screencast #Booksnaps for Learning in her Flipgrid video. When students are describing their #Booksnaps and close reading they might describe what the scene is about, the setting and the mood, the key characters and symbols. Students can identify the literacy devices, structure and author’s purpose. They might use this Anatomy of a Scene for Harry Potter as a model for their own close reading scenes.

Once the projects are complete students can upload their screencast videos of anatomy of a scene and close reading to Flipgrid for the rest of the class to view and share responses.

I cannot wait to share the Close Reading Scenes my students are currently creating.

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