Close Reading: Our First Steps

Today I settled back into the routine of my classroom, and I have to say, other than me taking a total spill while at my ELMO (I tripped over the cord and fell on my back....ouch!!! Keep those cords wrapped up away from legs!  I am fine now though...) we didn't miss a step.

One of the big ideas in the district is "close reading" using the Common Core.   For the past few months, I have been trying to wrap my brain around this idea and gather strategies for doing it.  It really isn't something that is too different from what we have been doing in the past, but the new name scares me ;)  So I have been trying to turn to mentor texts to help me out.

Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading is my go to right now, so I decided to start my students off with the first introduction lesson of Contrasts and Contradictions.  Using "Thank You, Ma'am" by Langston Hughes as my reading text, I basically followed the lesson in the book.  Since there were examples of where to stop and look at the contradictions, my life was just made easier (and who doesn't want an easy life, really??)

I made this trifold for the students.  It is a bit different than the one I shared with you earlier in that it doesn't have all 6 strategies on it, rather, this is a trifold for Contrasts and Contradictions only.  Using our anchor chart, the students took notes on the strategies right there on the front cover of the trifold.

Then, as we began to read, I modeled the strategy whenever possible.  I talked out my thinking AND wrote it down in my trifold for the students to see.  The book suggests to slowly release more and more responsibility to the students, but frankly, my students weren't ready to go totally on their own with this by the third example.  So we went through all of the spots where the character did something unexpected together.  We discussed the anchor question of "Why did the character act this way?" and looked for evidence in the story.

I only modeled two written examples with the students.  I did verbally model the others.  We did A LOT of partner talk.  A.LOT.   They needed the talk through.  I found that most students were unsure of their own ideas since this is so new, so validating it with a partner first really helped them to be a bit more confident in our discussion.
Talking with a partner really helped the students to notice any examples of C&C. 

I then asked the students to go back, annotate where they saw examples of the character acting in unexpected ways, and write the answer to "Why did the character act this way?" with textual evidence in their trifold.

Notice the diamond?  That is our symbol for Contrasts and Contradictions in a passage.  This student noticed a C&C and marked it using the diamond!  That made me happy to see!
Finding the examples wasn't all too hard for the students (since we had talked them out earlier anyway!).  It was citing evidence that proved to be tricky.  The kids kept wanting to paraphrase or draw from their own schema, rather than take the words right out of the text.  That is just going to take a lot of time, modeling, exposure, and practice, but we will get there.
Finding evidence (citing it from the text without paraphrasing) proved to be the most challenging aspect of this whole endeavor.

Overall, I am happy with how these first two days of using this strategy went.  The kids are talking and seemed interested in it all (no one moaned or groaned, so that was a good sign ;) )   Here is a copy of the trifold I used for Contrasts and Contradictions if you would like.  Just copy it back to back and fold along the dotted lines.

Are you using the Notice and Note strategies?  How is it going in your room?  Any tips, suggestions, comments, or questions that you can share?  Let's start a discussion!


  1. I bought the book after reading about it on your blog. :) I agree - getting the kids to use the author's words is a daunting task, but it seems that once it finally clicks, it stays with them, and isn't something we have to keep reteaching them (thank goodness). Maybe it's because I always start with summarizing (as a reading strategy) in my class ... maybe if I turned it around they wouldn't be so eager to paraphrase ... just thinking aloud ...

    I hope you're recovering from your fall ... and I hope the ELMO is OK - I would cry alligator tears if anything ever happened to mine. I'd give up my smartboard before I gave up my ELMO now. ;)

    1. Luckily, my ELMO is on a cart so I actually just tripped over the cart cord. My ELMO was never in danger (thankfully!!) Just my poor back ;)

  2. I must get this book. It has been on my Amazon wish list for a while now.
    Thank you!

    Fit to be Fourth

  3. I have this book and more than anything I want to start it with my second graders!!! Its amazing, but how do you do it with all the time restraints from the district with what is going to be on their tests??? Cheech! But hands down the best book ever!!!

    1. I am just working it in. We are trying new things this year because of the switch to CCSS, so I am really trying to take the time to implement strategies that I think will benefit the kids. I just sort of make time for it.

  4. Love this post! I am glad you talked about annotating text. I have been trying to get my students to "read with a pencil" and annotate using a universal classroom code we set up. Thank you for the pictures and the step by step!

    1. Well, that was the first time anyone did hopefully the practice sticks!!

  5. I read this book last summer and loved it. We do a lot of close reading and strategies. I want to teach all of these but time has gotten away from me, as it always does. I would've never guessed that I would actually WANT another hour in the school day, but boy do I!!!
    I have also taught Contrasts and Contradictions. It's the only one I've gotten to but it went well. My 5th and 6th graders really did well with it and it's a popular choice to use as a goal for their reading conferences with me. They love to find the contrasts and contradictions and infer the many reasons why this might be :)

  6. After reading your posts about close reading and this book...I ordered the book and off I went. I started this week and my kids and I LOVED ITTTTTT. It has been great so far. We have ways to go, but a great start overall.

    THANK YOU for sharing this....

  7. I just finished Notice & Note and LOVE it!! The lessons are specific and I can't wait to start implementing when we get back. You're right; we've been teaching very similarly to CCSS & these are new names, but I never felt my students' annotations were specific or deep enough. Thanks for the foldable!!


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