Close Reading and Collective Responsibility

by Becky DeSmith | 1 | 3 Comments

Someone once told me that bloggers should write about things that matter to them.  “Passion is contagious!”  A lot of things matter to me, and I tend to be a pretty passionate person.  In my world of teaching TIME and COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY are two things that matter to me.

I currently present workshops on Close Reading, and I love it.  Done correctly, Close Reading can:

  • increase reading confidence
  • contribute to a positive, supportive classroom environment
  • strengthen comprehension strategy development
  • create lovers of reading (OK, I am an optimist)

But Close Reading takes TIME – real chunks of time.  To dig deeply and intensively into a short piece of text, complete with well thought out text dependent questions is a real time sucker.  And I don’t know ONE teacher who claims to have enough TIME in his/her day to meet the demands of this profession.

Enter COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY.  The Common Core has charged content teachers with the responsibility for teaching Close Reading.  No one subject area can do this to the extent that students will internalize the process.  It’s just too much TIME!  Content area teachers in my workshops visibly pale when they realize what Close Reading lessons entail.  “Are you nuts?  Have you met my curriculum?”  I gently ask them if they could commit to this kind of process once a term.  They pause.  Pulses calm.  Pallor improves.  Breathing regulates.  They want to do it; they really do.  They see benefits by this point in the workshop.   “I………….could do that,” they whisper.

If a student engages in real Close Reading once a term in social studies, science, ELA – that could be 12 experiences with Close Reading in a year.  Add AP psychology, film studies, art history, Spanish 4…… get it.  That matters!  That strengthens strategies, develops the confidence that comes with success, changes cultures. We have a COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY for literacy.  We know there is a lot on the plate of every teacher – but literacy IS the plate.  If we collectively take that responsibility, the benefits of Close Reading will be realized and not fall on the shoulders of one content teacher.  Students will internalize the process.

That matters.

Becky DeSmith

Becky DeSmith Becky joined Keys to Literacy in 2007 and has been a literacy educator for over 35 years. She has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, and been involved in many school and district-wide initiatives that address core literacy issues. She has been recognized as a Teacher of the Year by the International Reading Association.

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  1. Angela Sibert

    I am a second grade teacher. I am currently looking for some close reading passages. Could you direct me in the right location?

  2. Judy Gould

    I am going to repeat the phrase “Literacy IS the plate.” over and over and over again. My math teacher husband will love it when I explain that once a quarter for each content teacher will earn students NO LESS than 12 opportunities to have a close-read experience.
    May I have more information about the Keys-Close read-professional development opportunities? I may know a few teachers who would be interesting in learning more about the nuts and bolts of this particular instructional tool.

  3. Karen Devereux

    Thanks for putting the “collective responsibility” for close reading into a context that everyone should be able to understand. I feel that I see too many teachers who think they need to abandon everything else for close reading! The way you describe it makes it seem doable without it becoming the only thing that teachers put in front of students!



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