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The Importance of Close Reading

January 14, 2017

 

Close reading is a strategy where readings are repeated and discussions are focused on the text in order to increase text comprehension.

 

And when referencing John Hattie's Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, you'll find that "repeated reading" has a significant positive effect on reading comprehension and fluency. These skills are naturally developed in the 2nd - 3rd grade range, but students with learning challenges and disabilities need to have close reading strategies used regularly as a scaffolding to information retention and comprehension.

 

The effect size, in Hattie's book, is noted at .76 for transfer and .50 for new passages. How do we interpret these numbers? A 1.0 effect size indicated an increase of one standard deviation on improving achievement, or growth in one school year of two to three years. Thus, .76 and .50 would correlate with growth beyond one school year....in one school year.

 

Now, science isn't perfect. One can't say that a student exposed to close reading would automatically experience that much growth in one year. But close reading strategies to make statistically significant impacts on student learning. So what does it consist of?

 

Close reading expects that students will develop reading habits for college and career readiness. Close reading requires students to:

  • read closely to determine what the text says explicitly - read with prior knowledge in mind, construct knowledge and meaning from reading, don't have adults fill in all the gaps with extensive frontloading

  • make logical inferences from interactions with the text - think about location, characters, time, actions, categories of events, cause/effect, problem/solution, feeling/attitudes

  • cite textual evidence to support conclusions - graphic organizers can be especially helpful to note setting, problems, goals, and more while answering questions and annotating text

What can leaders do to support close reading?

 

Start with a mini-lesson in a staff meeting on close reading - what it is and what it isn't. Model it, as if the staff is experiencing it for the first time so they know how to teach it. Find videos from sites like The Teaching Channel to discuss close reading. Teachers also need time for coaching around the concept.

 

What does the text say? How does the text work? What does the text mean?

 

Reading is a challenging subject to teach. Close reading, when done correctly, benefits students at so many levels.

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