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Close Read-Aloud in the Primary Grades, Part 1: First Read, Focus Question, and Interactive Analysis

This is the first video in a two-part series that features Sara Metz and her Kindergarten class at Explore Elementary in Thornton, Colorado. Using the EL Education Language Arts Curriculum and its Close Read-Aloud guide, Sara and her students engage in analysis of the text, Come On, Rain!, as part of a module on the topic of weather. Sara strikes a balance of rigor and joy as she guides her students through a carefully crafted sequence of text-dependent questions driving toward a focus question, total participation techniques to engage all learners, and a culminating task. To hear Sara describe her process, watch the companion video, Behind the Practice: Close Read-Aloud in the Primary Grades with Sara Metz.


- ♪ What’s the weather like today ♪

- [Presenter] In Sara Metz’s kindergarten class at Explore Elementary in the Mapleton School District near Denver, Colorado, close read-aloud strike a balance of rigor and joy.

- Boys and girls, we just learned all about weather around the world and we learned a lot of science, didn’t we?

- [Students] Yeah.

- So these books are books that tell us information. Today we’re gonna learn more about weather but we’re gonna learn it through a story.

- [Presenter] A close read-aloud is a read-aloud of a complex text that uses text dependent questions and interactive analysis to deepen student’s understandings of the big ideas in a text.

- We’re reading a book that’s two or three grade levels above kindergarten and they are able to comprehend it because of the questions that we ask and the way that we ask them to interact with the text.

- [Presenter] Close read-alouds happen over a series of sessions, in this case five. The EL Education Language Arts curriculum includes close read-aloud guides which lay out the entire sequence of sessions for each close read-aloud. Each session is approximately 20 minutes. Close read-alouds fit within an hour of module lessons that include other learning activities related to the topic. This video series has two parts. In part one, you will see the first three sessions of a close read-aloud. Sara and her students will engage in a first uninterrupted read of a complex text, consider the focus question, and begin rereading and interacting with key sections of the text. In the second video you will see the final two sessions of the same close read-aloud series.

- This narrative text tells the story about this little girl Tess and her mama and how the weather affects them.

- [Announcer] In session one of a close read-aloud the teacher reads the entire text fluently with expression.

- Ms. Grace and Ms. Vera bend tending to their drooping lupines. Not a sign of my friends, Liz or Rosemary. Not a peep from my pal Jackie Joyce. There’s high complex vocabulary, the content is very rich, and kids can relate it directly to their lives, and they see meaning and value in what they’re doing. Come on rain, I whispered. Can you guys whisper that? Come on rain.

- [Presenter] During the remainder of the one hour module lesson students continue to explore the module topic of weather through other literacy activities such as independent and partner reading about weather, observing the weather outside their classroom and writing in their weather notebooks, interactive word-wall work using vocabulary from Come On Rain, and embodying weather concepts through purposeful play.

- This book we read yesterday, it’s called Come On Rain.

- [Presenter] In the next four sessions, students work closely with sections of the text that their teacher reads aloud. Sara introduces the focus question which frames the overall purpose for the entire close read-aloud. Then she engages students in a carefully designed sequence of text dependent questions that help scaffold students comprehension.

- So for this book, we’re gonna look at these two really important questions. They’re called the focus questions. The first one says... Understanding the focus question and the purpose of it helps me to make decisions in the moment based on what my kids need and what they already know about the text. All the questions that I ask them, answers that I’m looking for, are all framed by that question. How does the rain coming affect the characters? We’re looking at Tess and... We have our chart that we started working on yesterday, right? We had some hot dry words that we added. Remember this one was parched.

- [Presenter] After reviewing work from the previous session, Sara continues to ask a carefully designed sequence of text dependent questions to drive students for a deeper understanding of the text. She also uses and adapts movement and total participation techniques from the close read-aloud guide to fully engage all of her students.

- Something I really love about the close read-alouds is that they really allow kids to access knowledge in a way that works for them. Some kids thrive on the movement piece that helps them learn. Some kids thrive on the oral language and having discussions. So all the kids learn in different ways and this really helps them do that. I have these sentence frames for us right here and we’re gonna fill them out. We’re gonna mingle-share to fill them out. It says the weather is blank so Tess blank and feels blank. So think about what the weather is, what does Tess do, and how does she feel? ♪ Mingle, mingle, mingle. ♪ ♪ Mingle, mingle, peanut butter. ♪

- The weather is hot so Tess sweats and she feels hot.

- 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 when I get to a question that I’m going to ask, I can gauge the room. Do they need to move? Do we need to keep moving? We’re gonna pretend that we are trees and the kids playing under the wind. Trees sway under a swollen sky. The wind grows bolder and bolder. And just like that rain comes.

- [Presenter] Please join Sara and her students for part two of this video to see how they engage in deeper analysis of the text and synthesize their learning with a culminating task that will drive future teaching and learning.

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