Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Discussion Question 1

"Close reading should suggest close attention to the text; close attention to the relevant
experience, thought, and memory of the reader; close attention to the responses and interpretations of other readers; and close attention to the interactions among those elements."-Notice and Note

"Close reading, as described in this book, results when the reader analyzes any given text at the word or phrase level and also the paragraph and section levels.  As the reader analyzes the text, he or she determines which details are most important and how these fit together logically to convey the authors central idea(s) or theme(s)."
-Close Reading of Informational Texts

Discussion Question 1:
The above quotes provide a definition of close reading from each of the texts we are reading.  Based on the book you are reading, what similarities and differences do you see in how you would approach close reading of a fiction or nonfiction text?  Can some of the elements of close reading be applied to both fiction and nonfiction?  Give an example.


  1. The main difference between the two book is that Note and Notice focuses on what the reader gets from the text, intellectually and psychologically. Both books discuss the importance of analyzing and synthesizing the text but in Note the idea is to gets the students engaged so that they are the ones asking questions and to let them lead a discussion so that the reading is not so teacher supported.The idea of creating an intellectual community that allows analyzing synthesizing, speculating an coming away from reading a text with questions. Some of the elements of close reading can be applied to both fiction and nonfiction. Note emphasizes that students need the ability to read a manual, or a text about a certain item and think about it analytically and take information away from that and understand what they read. Students also need to have the escape from the present moment and fiction offers the reader life experiences, and what is to be human. One quote that I really liked is, "Nonfiction lets us learn more; fictions lets us be more". I really found that to be powerful.

  2. Personally, as a Kindergarten teacher, I see close reading being more applicable to fiction text in my classroom. First off, it is the text that most students are introduced to by their parents - fairy tales, poetry, picture books - that then carries over to being the more prevalent text in their first classroom(s). I find that my budding readers are better able to engage in fiction on the level required of close reading, rather than the "black and white" factual information provided by nonfiction text.

    As Notice and Note states, fiction has a broad appeal for all readers - "all [...] will care about fear, loneliness, friendship, and the other themes to be confronted in novels, plays, and poems" (17). In Kindergarten, students are beginning to develop their own little personalities, including understanding and expressing their emotions and feelings, as well as the reasons for them. They can then apply their newly acquired understandings to the characters in the text being read. For example, the signpost "contrasts and contradictions" wants a reader to look for contrasts or contradictions in a character's behaviors (feelings, emotions, etc.) and then ask the question "Why is the character doing that?"

    With our Spring Read Aloud of James and the Giant Peach, some of our discussions could be the contrasts between characters (the sweet, innocent nature of James vs. that of his cruel aunts), as well as the contradictions of characters (the change in James from submissive and fearful to a more confident James). All Kindergarteners, regardless of background experience, would connect with James - a fearful young boy with a wild imagination that gets to go on an exciting adventure in a giant peach with some large bugs. By 5 or 6, we have all experienced the feelings of fear and excitement, and yearned for an adventure.

    On the other hand, I feel that a great deal of background knowledge and physical experience is required in order for a student to pick up on a nonfiction text's "contrast and contradictions". In my last four years teaching, I have learned that not all 5 or 6 year old students have been to the beach, been to a museum or played at a park. These students are then not able to relate to or find interest in these texts.

    With all that said, I too enjoyed the quote Sam noted: "Nonfiction lets us learn more, fiction lets us be more" (17).

  3. When reading Close Reading of Informational Texts, I did so with non-fiction in mind. 5th graders struggle more with comprehension of non-fiction texts, not just at the vocabulary level, but also when trying to decide what is most important in the text. This book gives very helpful and practical suggestions about how to take away a summary of the text. It starts with analyzing the text at the word, sentence and paragraph level. When teaching fiction we spend a lot of time having students analyzing setting, characters, plot sequence, dialogue and motives to make inferences, draw conclusions and better understand the "big picture" in the story. Non-fiction doesn't contain these elements, so students don't always have strategies to apply. Close reading gives tips on how to attack the text with strategies designed for non-fiction.
    I used one particular strategy in the classroom. After reading non-fiction science trade books the students then went back to each chapter and identified the headings as main idea statements. They then looked at each first sentence to determine if that was a summary statement. This strategy made it easier for the students to summarize the information, almost as if they were summarizing the plot of a non-fiction story.
    This particular strategy would not apply to fiction directly as it relies on using features specific to non-fiction. However, the idea that the reader must pay attention to details at the "close" level of word and sentence should be applied in both fiction and non-fiction

  4. The purpose of reading non-fiction versus fiction is generally very different. Fiction is usually read for enjoyment- to connect to characters and to relate to events in the story. Nonfiction is generally read to gain knowledge. I think this distinction really affects how students can use close reading.

    For fiction texts, students can use close reading to understand the characters in the book. Signposts such as "memory moment" and "contrast and contradictions" help readers learn more about a character. Students can learn about their values, personality, and can even learn to predict their actions. Close reading helps students recognize the subtleties the author has written- foreshadowing, theme, conflict. This type of reading makes the whole experience more valuable for the student and helps them connect to and appreciate the text.

    Nonfiction texts don't often generate the same emotion and connections that fiction texts do. Close reading for nonfiction is focusing on getting the most information from the text as possible. It certainly will help students understand their nonfiction texts better by ensuring they read and understand headings, graphs, pictures, etc. However, I don't believe it will inspire a love of reading or create passionate, voracious readers the same way close reading fiction will.

    Close reading is exactly what it sounds like- reading the text closely. In this, fiction and nonfiction strategies are the same. We are teaching are students to read the text carefully, without rushing, and checking their understanding throughout. Beyond that, I find that fiction close reading and nonfiction close reading have very different purposes.

  5. I very much agree with what Sarah has said above. I believe largely how you are going to read a text, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, is dependent on your purpose for reading.

    Most of the time when reading a book that is fiction, we are reading it for enjoyment. Part of the enjoyment that I get out of fiction books is analyzing how different characters are feeling, understanding motives for their actions, and determining the author's purpose for writing the book. I had never really put much thought into how I get to these points before reading "Notice and Note," but I can see how I use these signposts while thinking about these things (although I was never explicitly taught to do so).

    I feel like when your read a non-fiction book, you are not necessarily going to have the same signposts that are discussed in "Notice and Note," but you are going to have certain elements that will catch your eye and tell you "this is important... I need to pay close attention here." I feel like most non-fiction books give you important information more explicitly than fiction books do. There is not a much to "weed out" as there is in fiction texts because of the nature of what is being written.

    I think that if a student is taught what aspects are important to look for in both fiction and non-fiction texts, then the close reading they do of one will help to improve the reading of the other. As students delve more deeply into whatever texts they are reading, they are picking up new strategies that will carry over to future reading along the way.

  6. I also agree with Sarah. The different purposes behind fiction and nonfiction lead me to believe that we need to have different ways we read them. I do not read them in the same way. I naturally have to read nonfiction even more closely than fiction. Therefore I need to teach students to look at fiction differently from non-fiction.

    I am reading Notice and Note and I like the idea of the signposts. I see them as a way to better teach all my readers how to read closely and notice important story elements in fiction (theme, plot, character traits, etc) and to use comprehension strategies more naturally. I am struggling with how to successfully use these same signposts with expository non-fiction. (I can see them working with biographies/autobiographies.) I know the authors talked about how it can be done, but there was also a line in the book that makes me think they are working on the signposts for expository text. (I hope so.) I see these current signposts as being very exclusively tied up in a character and how the character develops.

    Close reading of non-fiction would have similarities (like Sarah mentioned) to fiction. In both, we are teaching them to delve closely into the text and read it carefully with a purpose. I would like to know if the other book gave any ideas for teaching students how to weed out important v. less important ideas in expository text. I find my 3rd graders struggle with this although like Janet mentioned I teach them to look at headings and titles as part of this.

  7. This week, I have been reflecting on this very question, without having looked at this blog discussion post yet.

    On Monday, I taught the first signpost to my students, "Contrasts and Contradictions." The lesson went pretty well, and the students were able to take the time to think about the text we were reading. When they were shown how to notice and note when a character did or said something they did not expect, they were then able to stop, and ask themselves, "Why is the character doing that?" They came up with some pretty good thinking to show they were then able to make inferences about why the character did or said the things she said. I copied the lesson straight out of the book, text and all, and they were really able to think deeply about the characters. We followed up the next day with a picture book and they did the same, making predictions and inferences about a character. We completed these lessons as a whole group, which the book suggests, but I look forward to discussing this anchor question with the students when I see them in their reading groups with their novels.

    As I was reflecting on this lesson, I have been wondering myself, how to apply this particular strategy to non fiction text. The book implies that it is possible to do so. I do think that once students have a firm grasp on how to notice and note a contrast or contradiction with characters in a book, it will be possible to apply this same type of thinking and questioning strategy when reading non fiction text. The only difference is the anchor question can just be slightly adjusted. Social Studies will probably be easier to apply than Science, since history can read like a story, and students can notice contrasts and contradictions with historical figures. For example, Robert E. Lee was a United States general, but when Virginia seceded, he decided to fight for his state, rather than his country. Students can clearly see that this is something that could be considered a contrast or contradiction because Lee did something we may not have expected, fighting for the Confederacy instead of the Union. Students can then ask themselves the anchor question, "Why did Lee do that?" essentially the same question. I think it is possible to apply this line of question to Science topics, as well, but may be a little more challenging. Maybe, for an easy example, students are reading about volcanoes/Pompeii. When a volcano erupts, it is pretty easy to notice and note that something just happened that we did not expect, leading to the anchor question, "Why did the Earth do that?" Same anchor question, just applied to something other than a character or person.

    These are just some of the ideas I have been thinking about the past few days as I have been working on the Contrasts and Contradictions lessons from the Notice and Note book. I don't know about how they will work out with the other signposts, since I haven't practiced them yet, but I so far, I do think it is possible to try to use this particular strategy with both fiction and non fiction texts, at least to a certain extent.

  8. While reading the nonfiction close reading text, I tried to relate the topic to my own group of third grade special education students. The levels of my students and their mastery of reading and reading skills vary widely. I like how when using the close reading approach with both fiction and nonfiction text the teacher models the strategies. They read text to the students and think aloud providing students with clear examples of how they should attack the text. The teacher also constantly monitors the classroom and modifies the approach based on the students’ understanding. The also teacher changes his/her level of support to enhance the level of student understanding.

    Using the strategy with fiction and nonfiction differs in how you approach the text. As proficient readers, we know that when reading we approach our text differently based on whether we are reading for enjoyment, for information, whether reading a poem, or menu. Students do not always understand the differences. I think by teaching them specific strategies for how to approach the two different types of writing will enhance their knowledge of what they have read.

    I liked the “THIEVES” mnemonic in the nonfiction text which reminds students when we preview a text we need to look for various elements such as title, headings, introduction, every 1st sentence, visuals and vocabulary, end of chapter questions, and summary. Although this was a little more than my students would be able to do the author also offered the mnemomic “TELL”. This stands for title, examine, look for bold or italics, and look up and predict what the text will be about. I think this would be a good strategy to teach students to use prior to reading a story.

  9. I agree with Stephanie. I as well liked the mnemonic for "TELL" and "THIEVES". Both of these elements will allow students a way to remember how to notice or take a "close" look at the text. In addition, it provides ways for them to take that closer look both prior to reading and during reading. I have use SQSA strategies, but I feel these two might do a much better job of looking at what they are reading. I plan to use both of these in my classroom.

  10. Sarah hit the nail on the head with her post! Nonfiction and fiction texts must be approached differently. We obviously tend to read fiction texts more for enjoyment and connect more to the characters/story. We as adult readers must work a little harder when reading nonfiction texts, and likewise our students must do the same. So often (For SOL prep especially!) we want students to read texts in order to find evidence in support of answers to questions. They are so busy searching for these that they end up often completely missing the central idea of what they are reading. They can answer the given questions, but they can’t really tell you what they read. I think the coding strategy and “Thieves” mnemonic strategy discussed in Close Reading of Informational Texts are invaluable for helping students closely read nonfiction texts. Using these strategies will give students an opportunity to organize their thoughts about nonfiction texts and use this organization to identify the central idea. When students closely read, they are getting more out of the text than just the right answers. Sarah told me about the “sign posts” discussed in Notice and Note. I agree that using these is a valuable strategy to identify character traits and understand character motives more thoroughly. Sign posts help students identify the theme of fiction texts more accurately. When teaching students both the nonfiction strategies explored in Close Reading of Informational Texts and the sign posts discussed in Notice and Note, we are giving them the tools they need to be able to switch gears between closely reading nonfiction texts and fiction texts.

  11. I agree with Sarah and Catherine that while the intended learning outcomes for close reading of fiction and nonfiction texts are different, both are based on a the intentional rereading of a text to determine which details are most important and how they fit together to convey the author's central idea(s) or theme(s). As stated in Close Reading of Informational Texts, "Synthesis is more than simply identifying the central idea. It is about being able to identify textual evidence that supports that idea and being able to explain how that evidence fits together to convey that idea. It's about realizing your role as the active reader and how "thinking" is the reader's tool for making sense of the text during the (reading) experience". This definition of close reading relates to the intended learning outcomes for both fiction and nonfiction texts.

    Catherine asked if Close Reading of Informational Texts provides strategies for teaching students how to weed out important verses less important ideas in expository text. Cummins list the following essential skills or strategies for close reading that can be taught for a variety of reading purposes including reading for enjoyment: Tapping prior knowledge of text structure; Tapping prior topical and vocabulary knowledge; Setting a purpose; Self-monitoring for meaning; Determining what is important; and Synthesizing. She explains each strategy and provides example lessons on how to introduce and teach each concept. Cummins' instructional model is based on an assessment-driven, structured approach to teaching and includes the following key components: Ongoing assessment of students' strengths and needs; Lesson preparation and text study (by the teacher); Focus lessons explaining the instructional objectives and modeling; Guided practice; Independent practice; and Student assessment. Teacher read alouds, teacher think alouds, and opportunities for students to read, write, and talk about texts are presented as essential components for teaching close reading strategies in both Notice and Note and Close Reading of Informational texts.

  12. While I feel like close reading can be used in both fiction and non-fiction texts, I feel like the specific signposts explained ( and the questions taught in how to identify each signpost) in Notice and Note would be applicable more to fiction than non-fiction. I believe the six signposts discussed are designed to not only teach the students how to read more closely but to better relate to and understand the characters and events in a story. This in turn will hopefully not only improve comprehension but build a love of reading. I have trouble envisioning how "contrasts and contradictions," "aha moment," or any of the others would appear in a non-fiction text unless it would be a biography or autobiography. I almost wish there was another chapter that would be on how to adapt the signposts to non-fiction as well as examples of texts that would be good to use for it.

  13. Fiction and nonfiction texts need to be read differently. I have been using THIEVES with my class. They seem to have easy time remembering what it is and how to use it. I think it will great to start out with next year. The children realize how much information they gain just be using THIEVES.