Common Core Essentials

Resources to Guide Common Core Implementation

Close Reading and the Common Core

The evolving perspectives on “close reading” and its place within the common core have started to yield a wide variety of different perspectives and  a set of excellent resources.  The set of resources below is by no means exhaustive, but represents some of what I hold as key thoughts on the topic.  Please use the comments to recommend more!

This post is split among thinkers and resources.  I’ll start with the thinkers, knowing that this distinction is arbitrary-plenty of “resources” to be found in their words too!


Christina Hank

For me it all started with Christina Hank (@ChristinaHank) and her initial reflection on how taking close reading seriously led to shifts in instructional practices within the classroom.  See her great piece ‘Defining “Deep Reading” and Text-Dependent Questions.’  The part that captures her shift in instruction is  below:

“If I were to teach my Butter Battle lesson again, I would start with reading and get rid of all the frontloading.  I would present them with the whole Thanksgiving turkey and have them dig in on their own.  I would then guide their learning by pre-planning questions that make them dig deeper and deeper into the levels of meaning:  How does the use of the phrase “kinks in his soul” define the view the Yooks have of the Zooks?  What causes VanItch to “look quite sickly”?  What is Dr. Seuss saying through the growing intensity of the weapons?  Why does Dr. Seuss end the book with the “Big-Boy Boomeroo” standoff?”

A post written with a great teacher voice and deep respect for the craft of teaching.

Dr. Dea Conrad-Curry

Dr. Dea (@doctordea) has written extensively on close reading both directly as well as embedded within many of her posts.  Here is a link to her posts that include some conversation on close reading on her blog at Partner in Education.  The one that really helped me frame this topic and really changed my perspective was “Common Core & Close Reading: An Outcome not a Reading Strategy.”  Here is the heart of the post that unfolds throughout:

“… close reading is not a simple one-step technique to be taught but the outcome of applying knowledge of language structures and conventions in the analysis of a text in order to discern a subtle message, or understand a complex concept, or to evaluate text efficacy.”

Dave Stuart, Jr.

Teaching the Core (Stuart’s blog) is a wonderful journey of one teacher wrestling with, making sense of, and delivering on the common core in a classroom on a daily basis.  This blog is full of insights and lesson learned, one of which is on “non-freaked out” version of close reading at the end of  three posts on common core implementation:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (Close Reading post!).  He are some of his words on the “why” of close reading:

“why we give our students the opportunity to close read:

  • close reading slows us down and allows us to interpret difficult passages;
  • it keeps us focused on our purpose for reading (e.g., finding a claim to argue with);
  • it leaves us “bread crumbs” with which we can find our way back to our thinking later on, like when we’ve got to write a paper or prepare for a discussion.”

Mary Ann Reilly

A scholar, thinker, wonderer, aesthete, philospher, and coach to all who reads her words, Mary Ann Reilly has many posts on this topic situating it as a construct among many.  Her posts, “Close Reading and the Arts: BE the Body,” provides a fresh look at the topic and links it to both arts and the body.  Here is her articulation of the relationship:

“So what does attending look like?
What does it sound like?
How does it move across a room? How do you stand inside it? Feel it?

(Shh. We mustn’t forget we have bodies and sit about like big heads — [thank you sir ken robinson for such a vital image]).

Again Gee (2011)

         When a person has images, actions, goals, and dialogue to attach to words, they have an embodied understanding of those words. When they can only substitute other words, like definitions, in order to understand words, they have only a verbal understanding (Gee 2004).

So close reading is an embodied reading–it our intention to meet word with the physicality of self and know the first through the former.

The arts open such possibility, yes?”

Make sure to read to the end of this post where modes of embodiment are listed.  A great set for teachers to think through when thinking about making close reading literally come alive in your classroom.

Nancy Boyles

Nancy Boyles provides both a general overview, practical advice, and some reasons for why she sees the emphasis on “close reading” as a good development in her ASCD blogpost, “Closing in on Close Reading.”  Here is one of many great quotes from that post:

“You might identify these ideas: examining meaning thoroughly and analytically; directing attention to the text, central ideas, and supporting details; reflecting on meanings of individual words and sentences; and developing ideas over the course of the text. Notice that reader reflection is still integral to the process. But close reading goes beyond that: The best thinkers do monitor and assess their thinking, but in the context of processing the thinking of others”

If you have limited time, this is a great post that captures the big ideas coupled with practical strategies.

Classroom Resources

(Will grow this list as I am able to!  Please add additional classroom resources on close reading in the comments.)

Odell Education: Reading Closely for Textual Details Units

Odell Education has produced some of the highest quality ELA work of anyone.  Their initial work on Evidence Based Claims was made available by EngageNY and is an exemplary model both in the reading and interpretation of the standards, but also in the quality of the work itself.  Their work has continued and they have released their set of units 6-12, Reading Closely for Textual Details Units.  The units are beautiful in their scope, attention to detail, structure, thoughtfulness, and commitment to the standards.  The units are complete with lesson plans, strategies, handouts, rubrics, etc.  Here is a screenshot of the texts found within a 9th Grade Unit (click to enlarge):

9-10 Modern Battlefield Unit

9-10 Modern Battlefield Unit

Achieve the Core: Common Core Close Reading Sample Lessons

Achieve the core has been supporting implementation all along the way and with the redesign of their website they have provided a host of new resources, including Common Core Close Reading Sample Lessons.  The sample lessons span literature and fiction as well as grade levels.  Here is a screenshot of some of the middle school literature lessons (click image to enlarge).    Close Reading Exemplars


3 comments on “Close Reading and the Common Core

  1. grantwiggins
    May 14, 2013

    The link to Common Core Close Reading Sample Lessons doesn’t seem to work

  2. dgburris
    May 14, 2013

    I just changed it! Thanks for finding that.

  3. Pingback: CAUTION…..CLOSE READING! | Vermont Reads Institute

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This entry was posted on May 7, 2013 by .

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