Friday, October 11, 2013

The Best Book Bridge Ever - Dr. Carol Wilcox!

Often I am asked about books.  I adore these questions because I looooooovvvvveeeee books.  We have them in every room of our home...including our bathrooms (This is what happens when your and your spouse are teachers...You just run out of room for all the books you need to have and want to hold close.)!  As much as I earnestly try to keep up with birth of new books, I fall short.  Fortunately, I am richly blessed with the most incredible book bridge - Treasured friend Carol Wilcox. 

No one I know reads more, reflects more, or shares more about books than Dr. Carol Wilcox, a brilliant Denver Public Schools coach and mentor.  Her book shares on her blog are absolutely gorgeous.  Each entry is a love letter, an invitation, a portal into her latest reads.  When you are looking for something delicious or edifying to read, turn to Carol.  Your heart will be bigger.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

CLOSE READING: Connecting Growing Readers to Texts Responsively


More than one way...Many great ways...

It may not be a popular stand to take these days but, from over 34 years of teaching, I have learned that there is not just one way to engage students in close reading apprenticeships.  Close reading lessons are edifying when they are customized to what the reader can do and where he needs to go next in deepening his capacity to harvest more from text and understand diverse texts.
Purpose is everything.  Intention is critical.  Moving students forward, I chose edifying close reading experiences in response to students' strengths, "not yet" goals, and the kids' passions and interests.  Developing a menu of supportive options for close reading learning helps me be able to make responsive, efficient "on the spot" decisions.
Menu?  I know this can sound a bit strange as a teaching tool but there is a method to my madness.  Truth is, right now it feels like a lot of people making decisions for teachers are grossly forgetting what life is really like in classrooms with students everyday.  We do not have hours of planning time.  And when we have planning time, there are at least 548 tasks we have to accomplish in the those precious minutes.  Most of our teaching decisions are like that of an emergency room nurse - Stat!  You and I have about 30 seconds to two minutes to make most of our planning decisions because we have multiple subjects to teach (as elementary teachers) or triple digit numbers of students to plan for (as secondary teachers).  Thus, I advocate taking a proactive stance in developing even a few solid ideas for standards-based lessons in my summer planning or with my teammates as we develop curriculum collaboratively during our grade level/department meetings or professional learning communities.  This way, I am "at the ready" to serve my students where they are developmentally as growing readers.
Here's a window into one of my close reading instructional strategy menus:
Close Reading Strategies

Model, practice, and encourage students’ independent close reading of text with…


  • Close Reading by Employing Thinking Strategies
    • Establishing a purpose with Questioning, Determining Importance, and/or Inferring
    • Begin with the end in mind – Synthesis as your starter
  • Close Reading by Previewing and Predicting
    • Picture Walk
    • THIEVES (Zweirs)
    • SQ3R
  • Close Reading by Priming
    • Read Alouds
    • Viewing video “texts”
    • Marinating students in key vocabulary


  • Close Reading by Employing Thinking Strategies
    • Monitoring and Synthesizing with stop, notice, and note (Beers & Probst)
    • Monitoring, questioning, predicting, and summarizing with Reciprocal Teaching
    • Reading to answer early and new Questions and Inferences
    • Making Connections and establishing patterns
    • Ask text dependent questions and answer with text evidence
    • Ask and generate text dependent questions with Touch Pads and Show Me Your Thinking
    • Studying questions with Question and Answer Relationships
  • Close Reading by Writing
    • Annotating text (notes in the margin, WIKI sticks, Thinking Ink)
    • Coding text:  Student/Class generated codes; Brain Stains
    • Keeping a Writer's Notebook (harvesting favorite quotes, recording responses to reading next to seed ideas for writing, noting observations and/or questions)
    • Note Taking:  Key Word Notes; Cornell Notes; 2-3 Column Notes; RAN
  • Close Reading by Going Deep
    • Genre studies
      • Nonfiction/Informational Texts
      • Argumentative Texts
      • Narrative Texts
    • Text Sets (short and spirited texts; genre-based; thematic; content area-focused; Thinking Strategy studies)


  • Close Reading by Writing and Talking/Oral Composition
    • Summary discourse:  Turn and talk; Socratic seminar; book club
    • Summary writing:  One sentence summary; opinion/argumentative piece summary; book review; exit cards; headlines; cumulative writing; chalk talks
    • Summary writing from note taking:  Key Word Notes; Cornell Notes; RAN