Introducing Close Reading Strategies at the Beginning of the Year

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience, for which I do receive commissions if a purchase is made, but at no cost to you.

According to Beth Burke, NBCT, “Close reading is thoughtful, critical analysis of a text that focuses on significant details or patterns in order to develop a deep, precise understanding of the text’s form, craft, meanings, etc. It is a key requirement of the Common Core State Standards and directs the reader’s attention to the text itself.”  She also says that texts used for close readings should be short, they should be discussed in large or small groups, and they need to be deliberately reread at least 3 times. 
With those key points in mind, short films and wordless picture books are a great way to introduce the strategies involved in close reading. Like wordless picture books, there are short films that have no words, but the content is definitely discussion worthy. Taking out the decoding to focus on the content and thoughtful discussion will allow every student to be able to access the content and practice the strategies involved in close reading. 

The short film For the Birds by Pixar is a great place to start. It addresses the subject of bullying, which is a great discussion to have at the beginning of the year. 

First Read
When doing a close read, students focus on what the text says first by identifying what the story is mostly about. They can look for the main idea, summarize, or find the theme. If your students are identifying a theme, remember that the subject and the theme aren't the same thing. Bullying, for example, is not a theme. it's a subject.  A universal theme about bullying might be Overcoming Adversity; someone overcomes the problems they face with bullies. Another common theme might include Man vs. Society. The reason someone might bully another person could be from peer pressure, and they are trying to fit in by joining in the bullying. Students can come up with their own theme too by giving an opinion about the subject, such as: bullies always get their pay backs. This video helps introduce how to find a theme:

Second Read
On the second read, students focus on how the text works by looking at text
structures and text features. They might also focus on the author's craft or
what the text says by looking at vocabulary or word choice. 

Still using the short film For the Birds, have students think about what words
they would use to describe the birds. Have them use evidence from the film to 
support their thinking. Here is the video again, but with comments embedded to
help students think about the birds character traits :

Third Read
Students focus on a deeper understanding of what the text means 
by inferring, analyzing, and evaluating the text on the third read. They might
compare it to another text or connect it to the larger world with text to self 
connections, text to text, text to media, or text to world connections. 

With this short film, on the third read have students make a connection to your
classroom. How can you address bullying in your classroom? You can also 
compare this short film to the wordless picture Bluebird by Bob Staake. Just like
the short film, this picture book has no words, but it is definitely discussion
worthy. Every student will be able to access the content and deep thinking, and 
this book is intense. The story is a very sad one that includes death, so you may
want to preview it first to make sure it is not too intense for your class. I am 
including the book trailer for this book, but a video does not do it justice, so 
you'll want to look at a copy of this powerful wordless picture book yourself. 

You can download this lesson on Teacher Sherpa. It includes QR codes and links to all the videos in this post so you can use it with iPads or laptops/chromebooks. It also includes the text dependent questions for the first read, the second read, and 2 options for the third read, along with blank pages to use with your own books and/or videos. 

How do you introduce close reading in your classroom? I hope you'll consider using short films and wordless picture books to kick it off in your classroom. They're a great tool that will allow you to have deep conversations regardless of a students' reading level. Enjoy!


New School Year Resolution: Organizing Parent Communication Tutorial

It's summer time, and that means it is time for teacher's to make their New School Year's Resolution! We do it every summer . . . we say, "Now that I have time to do it, THIS year I'm going to . . . " and for me, the end of that sentence usually has something to do with organization. 

As a technology specialist, I want to give you some ways that technology can help you get more organized than ever and save you a ton of time in the process! Who doesn't need to save time?! At the beginning of the year, there is a lot of information we need to collect from parents. I've created some pretty lists for you in a few different color schemes:
If you are afraid of technology and you are perfectly happy printing out your word doc and sticking it in a binder, you can download these as a word doc. I have a set of each of these lists that you can choose in all of these colors, and while it's nice to have a pretty checklist, that doesn't exactly save you a lot of time or paper and ink. 

When you download these lists, there are also links available that allow you to make your own copy as a google doc. Google docs will save automatically and allow you to share the lists with subs or other staff members. They can see all the changes live, so no need to send a new copy when you have to add a new student to list. Google docs also give you the option of going paperless. No need to upload, download and upload again to save your changes and print them out. Seriously. You can stop doing all of those extra steps!

Google forms is the trick that will save you the most time. By sending a google form to parents, THEY do all of the work for you! They fill out all of their information, and everything is automatically saved on one google spreadsheet. 
Here is how to see the responses:

1. When you click on the link included in the download, it will ask you to make a copy of the form.
2. Click on "responses" on the top, and you will see the responses from all parents when they have filled out the form.
3. If you click on the little picture of the spreadsheet in the corner, it will put all the responses on a google spreadsheet for you. It's not as pretty as the form I created, but it is a quick way to get all the info you need in one place!

The picture below shows you how to do it step by step:

I've created the forms for you and included them in the download as well, so all you have to do is share it with the parents and you're done! 

Not sure how to get these forms to parents? There are 2 easy ways. 

First, you can email it to parents. 
1. Click on send
2. Click on the link icon in the middle.
3. I usually click on the url shortener in the corner so that the link is shorter.
4. Click "copy" and paste the link into an email. Although you can send it as an email straight from the form, you have to type in each email by hand. If I copy the link, I can send it to the group I have set up in my email. 

The picture below shows you how to do it step by step.

But what if you don't have an email list for parents set up yet?

Make a QR code! That might sound a little scary, but it's not. I promise! After you copy the link following the steps above, go to
1. Paste the link in the box. It will automatically create a QR code on the right hand side.
2. Click on "download QR code." You don't even have to set up an account to do it!
3. Now print the QR code. During open house, ask parents to scan the form and fill it out. Done!

The forms included in Organizing Parent Communication ask for parent email addresses, phone numbers, and a detailed volunteer questionnaire of how parents might like to offer their help from donating supplies for the classroom to volunteering every week. There is also a form for parents to sign up for helping with classroom parties. You can send the spreadsheet of responses to your room parent with the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of the parents who would like to help and what they are willing to bring. Another task crossed off the list!

You can find all of these docs and forms as a free download here on Teacher Sherpa.

Happy New School Year! Enjoy!

You may also like Notes from the Staff Meeting: