Close Reading Meet Writing

At the beginning of the month, my students set out to do some close reading with nonfiction texts about the impact of the Columbian Exchange on the world (boy, that was a mouthful!)  They read with a close eye, reading with a purpose, and really learned a GREAT deal more than I had ever thought they would.  You can read about it in detail here.

But, with our new Common Core standards, it isn't enough for the students to read and discuss anymore.  Writing is equally as important to use as a vehicle with which to convey your thoughts and learning.  So I wanted my students to take their reading and discussions a step further and convey their thoughts through a written essay.

Sounds standard.

But it wasn't.

This was actually REALLY hard for them.  Let me explain why.

The focus of the essay was to relay to the reader both the positive and negative effects of the Columbian Exchange.  Easy enough.  What was difficult was the next part.  They needed to include evidence from the text, the very evidence they were highlighting, annotating, and discussing, into their written work.  That was where things got hard!

So we started with a single sided mulitflow map.  They listed the positive effects on the top, the negative on the bottom, all taken from the three articles that we read.

They then used that organizer, as well as the texts themselves, to create their paragraphs.  What actually made this entire process a bit easier to handle was the fact that the kids have been doing Paragraph of the Week for quite some time now, so the format is old hat to them.  They were able to see that the "detail" sentence was their idea and the "explanation" sentence was evidence from the text.

However, writing the evidence so that it flowed well and made sense within the context of the paragraph was tricky.  Knowing when to paraphrase and when to quote directly was very, very, very hard.  Heck, it is hard for me.  But the kids tried.  They were discussing their evidence in partner talks.  Thinking aloud their paragraphs.  Deciding upon what textual evidence should be used and which shouldn't.   Lots of heavy talking was going on in the planning/drafting stages of this piece.

So while the final products aren't perfect and don't represent a complete grasp of the standards at hand, the kids DID *understand* what it was that I was asking them to do.  They know what it means to cite evidence and back up your statements with examples from the text.   So even though the writing isn't the most awesome thing ever....that doesn't matter.  They get it and are working towards mastery of this very, very difficult skill.

So I say that our first attempt at bridging the CCSS gap between reading and writing is an overwhelming success!

What have you done to connect your close reading and writing?


  1. Thanks for your great ideas. I have been working on having them find evidence and prove their thinking in their writing. Since we started blogging, the students are finding a purpose to write and are taking their writing a little bit more serious. I have been following you for awhile and always come away with something new, thanks for all your great post.

  2. I started close reading and connecting it to writing about two weeks ago. It is a process for sure! My students have been able to get in the habit of finding evidence for backing up their answers, but some are just taking direct quotes from the text....ALL the time. So now we are learning how to paraphrase and like you said, it is really hard for them. I see such great improvement with close reading and finding evidence that I know it will be hard for them, but worth it!

    I am having my observation this week and we are doing a close read of a nonfiction text, so hopefully it goes well!


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