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Reading Closely with Middle School Students

Students in Chris DiFulvio and Chris Leins’ eighth-grade classroom in Homer, NY are engaged in the close reading process. The students grapple with the complex non-fiction text, Unbroken, to deepen their understanding of the book’s central character and of the World War II era.

In this video, students and teachers are engaged with EL Education's grades 3-8 ELA curriculum. This video accompanies the book Transformational Literacy: Making the Common Core Shift with Work That Matters.


- You could all open up the Louie’s Change of Heart Text Dependent Questions. I want you to read these questions ahead of time so you know what we’re looking for as we dive deep into the text. So number one: What motivates Louie to attempt to change his ways? Two: Most reading is teaching students how to persevere with the text and really get in deep with the one text as opposed to just glossing over several texts.

- When we come back at school and we’re close reading it, I get to understand the text more than when I did reading it at home.

- I, lots of times, will read a section and then you read another section and you look back and you say, I have no idea what I just read about. And I think that the close reading kind of helps make sure that that doesn’t happen.

- Then you get like more context clues and details and you like think about the questions more.

- Close reading just basically brings the book alive. If you’re going through a book fast and you’re just skimming it’s like slowing down a bit I guess and making sure that you can understand the book. And the detail and like the feeling it’s trying to give you.

- Like when I read too fast and I skim through sometimes so going back a second or third time helps me get like quotes and stuff I can use and the note cards we’re using so I can get a comprehension of the reading.

- As Louie neared his teens, he took a hard turn. Aloof and bristling, he lurked around the edges of Torrance, his only friendships forged loosely with rough boys who followed his lead.

- So the first question I want you to talk about with your partner is What motivates Louie to attempt to change his ways? Go ahead and pair share with your partner right now.

- And barely safe for sterilization through a frantic legal efforts by his parents. So that’s why Louie changed motivations He didn’t want to be sterilized. And then he started acting nice ‘cause he didn’t want that to happen to him.

- I believe working in partners is better because you have two minds that read the book You can combine your ideas. So you get not only what you got from the book but your partner.

- I think he started to feel bad for what he was doing and kinda was like I can’t do this anymore Might as well just kinda be the person that I should be.

- Alright so let’s take a look at number two. Alright question number two, How does trying to change work out for him? So let’s take a few minutes with your partner to answer that question.

- Because of his, you know, his previous reputation

- She didn’t believe it.

- She didn’t believe it, yeh.

- So even if he cooked something since his past reputation I guess Some people didn’t want to go near him to test it.

- Molly why don’t you lead the class in discussing How does trying to change work out for Louie?

- When Louie tries to change did anybody have like an answer for that one, Miriam?

- If you’re sitting there and you’re the one leading the class and you can ask the questions you think are important it really helps you understand.

- It kind of impacts you different than having a teacher just go on and on about something that will just go in one ear and out the other.

- It’s a little more relatable than just having a teacher up there talking about a subject. You kind of absorb it more through another kids kind of mind. Do you think he was resilient when he did that?

- Because of the fact that he holds himself into his room kind of, he kind of gave up

- Rowan

- Even his own mother gave up on him because she doesn’t care that he’s trying to help she doesn’t think that Louie will ever be the son she’s always wanted. She’s always resorted to Pete being the one who does everything good.

- Alright class, how does Louie demonstrate self examination or reflection? Go ahead and pair share with your partner and I’ll be looking for a volunteer to facilitate question three.

- Most of page 11 was all about him looking back, starting at that break It’s all about him looking back at the things that he’d done.

- Realizing that you’re doing all these bad things finally understanding that

- There’s consequences

- Yeh this time there’s gonna be a consequence and it’s gonna be a huge consequence

- Something that you can not come back from

- Yeh, you’re not gonna

- So he’s trying to change it

- Yeh

- After you finish, could you each share your own copy with me? When students are working, it can immediately be flashed up onto the board for feedback purposes. I’ll be able to go back in and comment on your answers to give you feedback okay.

- We like put em up on the screen and we can do like peer editing which I enjoy cause I think that makes my writing better. When we do that I get additional points than if I were by myself.

- So let’s look at the word resilient in the traits column.

- So these are all examples that’ve been taken from the text. Know that vocabulary term resilient. Using pages 9-12, look to see if you can find more examples of Louie’s resilient character.

- When he came home with a gash in his knee it said 27 stitches did not tame him

- So he does this several times I think that could be what we add to the resilient box

- He’s just bouncing right back up saying I’m gonna be bad again.

- So is there a group that wants to start, Chloe?

- We put a quote in for resilient

- My goal is that the students will not need me by the end of the year. I want them to pick up a complex text and be able to read it on their own.

- Hey you did a great job today I will see you in 23 hours and 20 minutes, thanks.

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