What does close reading look like in Fifth Grade?

Jaclyn DeForgeJaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been modeling how to do a close reading at several different grade levels. To close out the series: Close Reading in Fifth Grade using the X level text Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.

One way to structure close reading questioning is to use the format laid out by the Institute for Learning of the University of Pittsburgh. Under their framework, students read the text selection four times: first, to get the gist; second, to find significant moments or ideas; third, to interpret the ideas in the text; and finally, to analyze the author’s methods (craft). Here’s an example of how to plan out your questions for close reading of the first poem of Under the Mesquite, entitled “the story of us.”

Under the Mesquite Cover

1st reading (read to get the gist):

  • Who is the narrator? What have we learned about her? What can we infer about her so far? Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.
  • What is Mami like?  What have we learned about her?  What can we infer about her so far?  Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.
  • What happened in the first poem?  What was Lupita doing?  What was she looking for? What does she find?  How does Mami react?  What can you infer about their relationship?   Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.

2nd reading (read to find significant moments or ideas):

  • What is the most important thing you learned or that happened in this section of the text? Why is it significant?  What was the purpose of this poem?  Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.

3rd reading (read to interpret ideas):

  • “No, today I am Eve in the garden, / stealing secretos, / mining for knowledge, / hoping for a taste / of the forbidden fruit.”  What is this section of the poem an allusion to?  What does this reference reveal about Lupita and her background?  Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.
  • Why does Mami keep Lupita’s umbilical cord?  What does it mean to her? What is the cord a symbol of?   What does that tell you about their relationship? Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.

4th reading (read to analyze the author’s methods/craft):

  • How is this text organized? How is it different from other novels you’ve read? How is it similar? Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.
  • What is the tone of the piece?  Formal?  Informal?  Serious?  Light? etc.  What effect does the tone have on the way the audience reads the piece?  Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.
  • What are some of the strongest images Garcia McCall has created so far? How do these images set the mood for the piece?  Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.

By asking students to ground their responses in the text by citing text-based support for their answers, the following Common Core Standard is addressed:

Reading Literature, Grade 5, Key Ideas and Details, Strand 1: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

How does close reading look in your classroom? Any tricks and tips to share?

Further reading on teaching literacy in Fifth Grade:

Further reading on Close Reading series:

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