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Grappling with Complex Fiction through Close Reading



Second-graders in Courtney Brockler's and Stacie Wall's class at the Dr. Walter Cooper Academy School No. 10 in Rochester, NY, read complex text about communities to gain knowledge about their learning expedition topic.

This video accompanies the book Transformational Literacy: Making the Common Core Shift with Work That Matters.



Second-graders in Courtney Brockler's and Stacie Wall's class at the Dr. Walter Cooper Academy School No. 10 in Rochester, NY, read complex text about communities to gain knowledge about their learning expedition topic.

This video accompanies the book Transformational Literacy: Making the Common Core Shift with Work That Matters.


- So yesterday we read an article. The article taught us how to describe. The benefits of using a close read in second grade is that it allows every student in the classroom to have an opportunity to interact with a complex text, a text that they probably wouldn’t choose if they were reading independently or reading at guided reading with a teacher. I want you to turn to your neighbor and tell your neighbor the names of those communities.

- Urban, suburban, and--

- Rural.

- Rural.

- [Courtney] We just started a learning expedition on communities. The students will be working on this learning expedition for the next 10 weeks. The second graders in my room are a heterogeneous group of general education students and students with IPs, as well as some English Language Learner students.

- My role in the classroom is a special education teacher. We work together to support all the needs of our students.

- The ranges of reading ability are from significantly below grade level to well above grade level. We’re gonna make sure that we’re looking at our learning target and we’re reading for a purpose. We’re going to be working on a lot of literacy standards throughout this expedition.

- [Class] I can use pictures and text to--

- [Courtney] The literacy standard that we focus on in this particular lesson is I can use pictures and text to describe character setting and plot.

- The setting is what’s around all the people.

- Another standard that the students will be working on today is using different strategies to make meaning for unfamiliar words. Does anybody remember what that article was describing? Which community was the article describing, Levi?

- Center city.

- Center city. Earlier this week, the students read a number of informational texts. They read articles on how to describe different communities as well as how to identify their community on a map. Where is center city? Go ahead, Levi.

- In the center of Rochester.

- [Courtney] In the center of Rochester. The text we chose for this lesson is a piece of fiction text. Open up to Country Kid, City Kid. It supported the learning standard that the students were addressing today. As soon as you find Country Kid, City Kid touch your nose. It’s also at the appropriate Lexile level for second grade at this time of year and, content-wise, it supports the learning expedition. Everybody, what’s the first step of your close read?

- [Class] Listen to the whole text, no questions.

- [Courtney] We’ve been using our close read protocol with our students since the beginning of this school year.

- You read and text code.

- Yes, everybody. The first step in a close read protocol is reading the text all the way through for fluency. Country Kid, City Kid by Julie Cummins, illustrations by Ted Rand. The way we read for fluency with second graders is through a read aloud. That way, all students have an opportunity to read the text and students who are still developing their ability to read can read along and listen for fluency. Mrs. Law’s friends may get up and go meet her at her table. The second part of the close read is for students to code the text. Some students are able to do that independently and some students need support from a teacher.

- He can see rows of potatoes and beans out his window. When I’m working at the table with a smaller group of students I read aloud to them and they read in their heads. I do the decoding for them and they do the thinking. Raise your hand if you need me to read it for you one more time. During this step, I chunk the text for them. We read page by page. After we complete a page they go through and text code. After they text code we discuss that part of it just to make sure that they’re on the right track. Who can share with us something that you star, something that’s important to the setting.

- Students star information that they think is important, which usually addresses the learning target for the day.

- Skyscrapers and apartments.

- Good, what is a skyscraper? Because some people circled that, Levi. They’re circling words that they may have difficulty with and they’re putting question marks and writing questions down for things that they seem to have a question about. They’re text coding the exact same thing as everybody else in this classroom.

- Before the students interact with the text, we engage with the text ourselves.

- What is a skyscraper?

- A skyscraper is a building that touches the sky.

- So we try to highlight which vocabulary students might circle and struggle with.

- They get their name because they’re so tall, right?

- [Courtney] And then what strategies would you use to gain meaning for those vocabulary words. After the second read, they immediately write down the main idea of the text. The third part of a close read is integrating the knowledge and ideas of the text. The students will read the story a third time and they might answer questions after reading using evidence from the text or document information that they gathered. We chose to use a Venn diagram today because it wasn’t text heavy and students could show their thinking that supported the learning standard.

- One of the most effective things about the close read protocol is that kids read the text multiple times. For my kids, that’s essential. They need to have a purpose for re-reading the text multiple times.

- Honking.

- Car horns and...

- Sirens.

- Sirens.

- [Stacie] Good, yeah that’s something else that you would hear.

- Let’s back at our learning target today so we can remember what information. We always end our close read with an activity that helps the students synthesize what they’ve learned.

- The main idea of this story is about two different kids.

- And where they live.

- [Courtney] What else did you read about their neighborhood?

- Jodi has sirens.

- [Courtney] Oh, yes.

- I’m committed to making sure that all students get high quality learning experiences. This means they can do the same higher order thinking, they can read the same texts, and they can participate in the same learning experiences.

- I know that this close read protocol is working for our students in second grade because I’ve seen it in the growth that the students have made since September in their reading ability. I’ve seen it in their ability to talk and discuss about complex text. I’ve seen it in their ability to gain content and discuss with grown-ups what they’ve learned about text. Raise your hand if you can tell me how you figured out what a skyscraper was. Levi?

- Something that touches the sky and--

- [Courtney] What kind of something is it?

- A big building.

- [Courtney] How did you know that sky was important?

- Because if it’s a skyscraper, it has to touch the sky.

- [Courtney] So you saw the word sky in that word and you knew that it meant it was a big.

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