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Close Reading And Other Purposes, Literacy

Close Reading And Other Purposes

Three Levels Of Reading Difficulty

In the classroom, both primary and early to middle secondary school, these are:

  • texts for pleasure,
  • texts with enhancements, such as pictures, at a middle tier of difficulty, and
  • texts for close reading.

All of these levels should be provided to the same child or group of children in each year level.

Reading For Pleasure

Children choose their own readers or chapter books in the classroom. They are given reading time for pleasure. Usually, this takes place first thing in the morning or after lunch.

Children will choose texts that interest them. However, these texts will be below their best reading level. This is the way it should be. They read material that is entertaining or interesting. To get the best comprehension the texts will require lower decoding skills. Another way of saying this is the simpler the words, the higher the comprehension.

Texts With Middle Ranking Difficulty

These are often for the collection of information or the teaching of textual format. They would include non-fiction with pictures and diagrams. I would include simpler texts with many formatting conventions such as sub-headings, short paragraphs, inverted commas perhaps, and even footnotes.

Close Reading

The highest level of difficulty in texts requires close reading. By close reading we mean every word counts. Text at this level calls for two readings. The first reading is for decoding and the second reading is for comprehension. Reading this type of text is not the time to suggest your child ‘guesses’ or ‘anticipates’ because there is a high chance of being wrong. This is the text that requires concentration, slow decoding and the”Read what’s there” message. No guesswork.

If your child is a little hesitant on the first reading of a text, then the text is pitched at the optimum level for the student. The child may make a sigh at the end of it with a “Thank goodness that’s over” type of expression. That’s the moment to praise your child. That’s the moment of achievement.

The second reading is much easier for the child. On the second reading, the child is familiar with the words. The second reading is for comprehension. This is when the student puts the words together in context and relates the words to each other.

Is Your Child Challenged?

When evaluating how well your child is reading, ask yourself

  • how often the child is being challenged, and
  • how much close reading is taking place at school.
  • Distinguish between leisure reading and texts that require two readings.

What Every Child Needs

To progress with reading skills, a child needs

  • text in increasing levels of difficulty and length,
  • The opportunity to read, uninterrupted,
  • Reading that takes the eye from left to right and top to bottom,
  • Discussion of the text with an adult or teacher,
  • The chance to write answers to questions about the text, and
  • The right to check the text for answers.

Phonics Defeats Whole Language Theory

This Post (link below) explains what Whole Language Theory was/is, and how it has influenced literacy education in English speaking countries. Decoding of the written language was always about phonics and symbol-sound representations. We should be grateful for the return to common sense.


Different Texts = Different Assessment

  1. Children may be asked to write a book review on a chapter book they are reading for leisure. This kind of text is read easily and fluently. This is where a teacher can expect a child to read with expression.

2.They may give a talk or write about a non-fiction topic in the middle rank of difficulty. Children can be expected to study the texts for information and talk about the content, or prepare a poster or project, based on the information.

3.With close reading, children can be expected to

  • read the text, slowly and deliberately,
  • study it in detail,
  • write answers based on the text, or express an opinion.

Children take much longer to deal with close reading. The text:

  • is demanding;
  • the sentence structure often more complex;
  • the words are longer with three, four or five syllables;
  • and the answers require specific information or reasoning.

Acquisition Of Skills Is The Real Challenge

  • It is through close reading of demanding texts that children make the greatest progress.
  • Leisure reading produces fluency with the high frequency of words.
  • Middle ranking texts extend general knowledge, and give students a good grasp of language conventions.

Content Versus Skills

The different types (genres) of texts, the layout of text and other conventions are content based, not skills based. These aspects of literacy are not demanding and can really be taught at any level, preferably later. However, they are not and we must work with the way things are.

It is the acquisition of skills that requires constant work to progress.

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