Home > Literacy Centers, Reading > Close Reading Casualties

Close Reading Casualties

Close Reading

Close Reading: Don’t Read Too Closely

With the “Great Shift” from fiction to non-fiction reading since the advent of the Common Core State Standards, many teachers are finding that the academic rigor of expository text is challenging for readers of all ages. The predominant reading strategy to access rigorous text has been the widely-used close reading. The popularity of close reading has been chiefly beneficial as a means for readers to dig into these three components of text: 1. Key Ideas and Details 2. Craft and Structure and 3. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. However, there have been some unintended casualties.

As is often the case in our profession, teachers dropped many of the effective reading practices they had been using for years to make room (and time) for time-consuming close readings. In a related article, I concur with the criticisms of noted reading researcher, David Pearson, who values the benefits of close reading, but says, “We need a mid-course correction, not a pendulum swing… but with BALANCE in mind…” (Pearson).

Specifically, I agree with Dr. Pearson that the close reading ban on pre-reading strategies is counterproductive. Additionally, I argue that the stated goal of close reading advocates (to develop reader independence in rigorous text) is undermined by the focus on teacher and publisher produced text-dependent questions… not that external questions are at all bad… but that the internal questions developed by the reader to dialog with the author have been largely replaced. The research regarding self-generated question strategies has a long-validated history. Again, in our concern that external questions must be text-dependent (a good thing), we have reductively dismissed the practice of encouraging internal reader engagement with the text (a better thing).

A further casualty of the expository-focused pendulum swing has been the decline of class novels and independent reading. As a case study, my middle school in Elk Grove, California has a large staff of ten ELA teachers. Since the advent of Common Core, the number of core novels has been cut in half and the emphasis on independent reading eliminated. Of the ten teachers, only one other teacher provides time for independent reading (10 minutes per day). I’m a lone ranger, still assigning 30 minutes per day as homework with accountability procedures. And, no… it’s not Accelerated Reader. Check out my independent reading plan and my dialog with others (including Dr. Stephen Krashen) HERE.

So, what have been the unintended consequences of the “Great Shift” and universal popularity of the close reading strategy? Less reading.

1. LESS VOCABULARY ACQUISITION With less reading, students are exposed to fewer Tier 2 academic language words. Reading a rigorous, vocabulary-dense article of, say 600 words (frequently filled with infrequently-used Tier 3 domain-specific words), exposes students to between 15 and 25 unknown Tier 2 words in a 45-minute close reading lesson. Whereas, reading a less vocabulary-dense grade-level novel in or out of class for the same amount of time would expose students to between 200 and 400 unknown Tier 2 words at a 95% word recognition level.

2. DECREASED READING FLUENCY Less reading means less fluency practice, which is highly correlated with better reading comprehension. None of my colleagues are administering fluency assessments and providing fluency practice as they did before Common Core, except Yours Truly. It’s not that these teachers were unconvinced by the merits of reading fluency. Far from it! As seventh and eighth grade teachers would say, “I hope that elementary teachers are still practicing fluency… we don’t have the time anymore.” As fourth, fifth, and sixth grade teachers would say, “I hope that primary teachers are still practicing fluency… we don’t have time anymore.” Etc.

My three recommendations?

1. Get back to pre-teaching both expository and narrative reading texts. Build accessibility into rigorous texts.

2. Provide more time for independent reading (I prefer homework, so as not to waste class time. After all, you have your close readings to do :))

3. Practice reading fluency and independent comprehension strategies (including self-generated questions).


Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Science of Reading Intervention Program

The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Word Recognition includes explicit, scripted, sounds to print instruction and practice with the 5 Daily Google Slide Activities every grades 4-adult reading intervention student needs: 1. Phonemic Awareness and Morphology 2. Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling 3. Sounds and Spellings (including handwriting) 4. Heart Words Practice 5. Sam and Friends Phonics Books (decodables). Plus, digital and printable sound wall cards, speech articulation songs, sounds to print games, and morphology walls. Print versions are available for all activities. First Half of the Year Program (55 minutes-per-day, 18 weeks)

The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Language Comprehension resources are designed for students who have completed the word recognition program or have demonstrated basic mastery of the alphabetic code and can read with some degree of fluency. The program features the 5 Weekly Language Comprehension Activities: 1. Background Knowledge Mentor Texts 2. Academic Language, Greek and Latin Morphology, Figures of Speech, Connotations, Multiple Meaning Words 3. Syntax in Reading 4. Reading Comprehension Strategies 5. Literacy Knowledge (Narrative and Expository). Second Half of the Year Program (30 minutes-per-day, 18 weeks)

The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Assessment-based Instruction provides diagnostically-based “second chance” instructional resources. The program includes 13 comprehensive assessments and matching instructional resources to fill in the yet-to-be-mastered gaps in phonemic awareness, alphabetic awareness, phonics, fluency (with YouTube modeled readings), Heart Words and Phonics Games, spelling patterns, grammar, usage, and mechanics, syllabication and morphology, executive function shills. Second Half of the Year Program (25 minutes-per-day, 18 weeks)

The Science of Reading Intervention Program BUNDLE  includes all 3 program components for the comprehensive, state-of-the-art (and science) grades 4-adult full-year program. Scripted, easy-to-teach, no prep, no need for time-consuming (albeit valuable) LETRS training or O-G certification… Learn as you teach and get results NOW for your students. Print to speech with plenty of speech to print instructional components.

Click the SCIENCE OF READING INTERVENTION PROGRAM RESOURCES for detailed program description, sample lessons, and video overviews. Click the links to get these ready-to-use resources, developed by a teacher (Mark Pennington, MA reading specialist) for teachers and their students.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Cues FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic ELA and Reading Assessments FREE Resource:


Literacy Centers, Reading , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.