Category Archives: Common Core State Standards

Posts related to teaching with the Common Core Standards.

Close Reading in the Lower Elementary Classroom: compelling or counterproductive?

Jaclyn 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.

Last Monday, my post on close reading in the second grade classroom inspired some great discussion in the comments section from Lee & Low authors Sally (Derby) Miller (author of My Steps) and Edith Hope Fine (author of our mentor text for the post, Under the Lemon Moon). Click here to read both my post and their thoughts in full.

Something Sally Miller brought up in her comment really stuck with me.  On what she imagines a close reading experience to be in a lower elementary classroom:

“We are talking about very young children–say ages five to eight–who have just heard or read a short, illustrated text. Some of them liked it, some of them loved it, and some of them waited patiently for a change in activity so that they could move around the classroom instead of being required to sit and absorb the story. Very well, it has ever been thus in public schools. But now…now they are expected to stay focused on the story, to decide why the author wrote it the way he did, why he used certain words, why he chose to set the story in, say, another country instead of this one. It’s not a story any more, it’s a lesson.”

My Steps by Sally DerbyThe adoption of the new Common Core Standards has certainly not come without controversy.  One of the purposes of the new standards, from what I understand, is to begin to address large gaps in reading comprehension and performance that we’re seeing in high schools across the country. SAT scores for the high school class of 2012 indicated that a whopping 57% (!!!) of test takers “did not score high enough to indicate likely success in college, according to the College Board.” (Layton, Lyndsey and Brown, Emma; Washington Post; Sept. 24, 2012). 

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What does close reading look like in Second 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.

Before I start discussing close reading in the second grade classroom, I want to take a minute to acknowledge educators and students across the Northeast, who over the past two weeks have dealt with not just superstorm Sandy, but a Nor’easter!  Some schools sustained significant flooding and damage, or have classrooms without heat or power.  And in some areas, even though the children are back in the classrooms, after a long day teachers and students head home to clean and repair damage sustained to their own homes and communities.  And last week, they did that in the wind and snow.  If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.  My thoughts are with everyone who continues to be affected by this awful streak of weather.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll be modeling how to do a close reading at several different grade levels.  Last week, I wrote about close reading in first grade. Next up: Close Reading in Second Grade using the L level text  Under the Lemon Moon by  Edith Hope Fine and illustrated by Rene King Moreno.

In terms of student questioning, start general and move up Bloom’s Taxonomy by gradually increasing the rigor.  For example, say you want to focus your close reading of Under the Lemon Moon on author’s craft, specifically focusing on language and word choice in just the first six pages of the story  (2nd grade reading standard for literature, Craft and Structure, strand 4,  AND 2nd grade language standards, Vocabulary Acquisition and Use, strands 4-6 from the Common Core Standards).  Here are the questions I would ask:

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What does close reading look like in First Grade?

Jaclyn DeForge thumbnailJaclyn 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 next several weeks, I’ll be modeling how to do a close reading at several different grade levels.  Last week, I wrote about close reading in Kindergarten. Next up: Close Reading in First Grade using the H level text Pop Pop and Grandpa by Mary Dixon Lake and illustrated by Christiane Kromer.

Pop Pop and Grandpa

In terms of student questioning, start general and move up Bloom’s Taxonomy by gradually increasing the rigor.  For example, say you want to focus your close reading of Pop Pop and Grandpa on the setting and events of the story (1st grade Literature Standard, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, strand 7, from the Common Core Standards).  Here are the questions I would ask:

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What does close reading look like in Kindergarten?

Jaclyn 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 next several weeks, I’ll be modeling how to do a close reading at several different grade levels.  First up: Close Reading in Kindergarten using the D level text Bedtime Fun by Barbara J. Newkirk and illustrated by Laura Freeman.

In terms of student questioning, start general and move up Bloom’s Taxonomy by gradually increasing the rigor.  For example, say you want to focus your close reading of Bedtime Fun on character development.  Here are the questions I would ask:

Question 1 (Knowledge):  Who is the main character in the story?  Who is the story mostly about?  Who are the other characters in the story? How do you know?

Question 2 (Comprehension): What was the big thing that the entire story was about? How do you know?

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What is Close Reading?

Jaclyn 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.

One of the most critical elements of the new Common Core Standards is the emphasis placed on close reading. In the anchor standards for reading for grades K-12, the first item under the heading Key Ideas and Details states that students should be able to:

“Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.”  (pages 10, 35, 60)

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The Common Core and Teaching Tolerance

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.

I live in Astoria, Queens, one of the most racially, culturally and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in New York, and my apartment building absolutely reflects that diversity.  My neighbors are from Egypt, Bangladesh, and the Dominican Republic and the building is warm and lively, full of immigrant families with young children.

Last week, New York City public schools were closed for Rosh Hashanah, and on Monday, my neighbors’ children played in our building’s courtyard late into the night.  My windows were open, and as I sat reading I caught snippets of their conversations as they laughed and ran and screamed and played. But when I stopped and I listened closely, it occurred to me that I kept hearing the same word over and over: the “n-word.”

It was just falling out of their mouths, every other word, as if it were just a synonym for “friend” or “dude.” This saddened me for a couple reasons:from Amazing Faces

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Fabulous Follow-Up Questions

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.

Whether doing a Read Aloud, facilitating a Guided Reading group, or asking students to respond to their Independent Reading, the follow-up questions you ask AFTER students respond are just as important as the initial question you pose.

The most highly effective teachers I’ve ever worked with always ask some variation of the following questions after each answer:

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Three Books for the First Weeks of School

Jaclyn 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.

Ready or not, the 2012-2013 school year is upon us!

And while parents are stocking up on pencils and notebooks (and, if the Target Music Teacher is to be trusted, potentially an inordinate amount of denim), teachers are busy planning for the first weeks of school.

Educators, for your planning pleasure, here are three titles to get students back in the right mindset for those first days back in the classroom:

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Goal Setting for Reading Success Part 1: Setting a reachable, standards aligned reading goal

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 this series for teachers, educators, and literacy coaches, Jaclyn discusses different strategies for ensuring students hit end-of-year benchmarks in reading.

These days, the words testing or assessment tend to bring up many conflicting emotions among educators, but determining where your students need to be at the end of the year and how you (the teacher)are going to keep track of individual progress toward each standard is a key part of proactive planning.

With my students, it was really important to me that they feel ownership of their success by being able to clearly see how their actions affected their achievement, so we did a lot of individualized goal setting and consistently measured our progress toward said goals.  The result was a classroom full of empowered children who were aware of where they were strong and what they needed to work on, and confident in the knowledge that there was a plan as to how we were going to get there.  This transparency in teaching can absolutely yield huge rewards, but it does take some proactive planning.

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