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Behind the Practice: Close Read-Aloud in the Primary Grades with Sara Metz

Sara Metz, Kindergarten Teacher at Explore Elementary in Thornton, Colorado, gives us a window into her purposeful planning and delivery of a Close Read-Aloud. She takes us through her process of analyzing the curriculum's Close Read-Aloud guide, planning based upon the needs of her students, and responding in the moment. We see Sara analyze student work and plan for future instruction. This video is part of the "Behind the Practice" series and is also a companion to the two-part video series Close Read-Aloud in the Primary Grades, which features Sara and her students in action.


- My name is Sara Metz. I am a second year teacher at Explore Elementary School in Denver. One of the things I really love about close read alouds is that they incorporate really complex texts that most people think are above the level of their students. If we were just using books that are at their grade level or with everyday vernacular language that they already have we’re not building anything, we’re just keeping them at the status quo. I mean we’re reading a book that’s two or three grade levels above kindergarten and their able to comprehend it because of the questions that we ask and the way that we ask them to interact with the text. It just excites me because I can hear them using the language from the texts and think more deeply about concepts that I’m asking them to get to. I always make sure I read the entire close read all the way through all sessions, so that way I can really see you know, what do my kids already have? Do I need to spend extra time on this word or not? Can I just move forward? I also think about ways that I can incorporate movement into the lessons, so that kids are up and incorporating what they know into their bodies. And then finally I want to make sure that there’s total engagement, so I use some different total participation techniques and kind of figure out in the lesson where can I plant those that are gonna be the most effective.

- One of the strategies that I’ve always loved is I take sticky notes and I take the notes from the planning document and I write them on little sticky notes, like the questions I need to ask and I put them in the book, so as I’m reading I have little cues of when I need to be asking those questions. When I plan I use this online system, kind of annotate the lesson so that it’s the same thing except very, very condensed and almost shorthand that I understand, so I’m able to just kind of glance and see like trigger words that tell me what comes next. Close read focus questions really help me to guide the close read aloud because it’s not just a series of meaningless, non-related questions. They’re really all tied together to get kids to that core understanding. Working from that lens all the questions that I ask them, the answers that I’m looking for are all framed by that question. So with total participation techniques I really try to have them in my back pocket, like a handful that I know I can pull out at any time, so that way in the moment if I see, oh, kids need to be talking or moving right now I can say, “Okay, for this particular question we’re gonna stand up and mingle share or back to back, face to face.” Or if I feel I just want to keep the pacing going and move along, I’ll just ask the question, give them a little think time and then pull a popsicle stick. If I choose to have a total participation technique that takes a little more time like the turn and talk or the mingle share, I want to use it for questions that are really trying to get at kids to understand something a little bit deeper that’s going to get to the overall learning and the focus questions that we’re going after that day. Really thinking about what I want them to do for the assessment, which is coming up in the next unit. So looking through some of the work from the close read, I pulled some that were proficient where I could tell that the kids really understood who the characters were, what the main events was in the story and they’re ready for their assessment. These are some of the kids that I pulled, who I noticed just from their pictures alone really can’t tell if they get it or not. Something I would maybe do with them is you know add details or maybe even inference, what you think might happen next or how do you think that the characters would feel if and so, giving them some kind of hypotheticals to work with. What this curriculum has taught me is that it’s really important to engage kids with high level texts, so that they can increase their vocabulary, increase their content knowledge, help them feel like they want to be readers and writers. Does that make sense?

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