Category Archives: Educator Resources

Lesson plans, activity guides, and helpful tips from our literacy specialist and guest educators.

What’s in your classroom library? Rethinking Common Core Recommended Texts

guest bloggerKatie CunninghamGuest blogger Katie Cunningham is an Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College. Her teaching and scholarship centers around children’s literature, critical literacy, and supporting teachers to make their classrooms joyful and purposeful. Katie has presented at numerous national conferences and is the editor of The Language and Literacy Spectrum, New York Reading Association’s literacy journal.

We live in an increasingly diverse society. Nowhere is this more evident than in classrooms, in both urban and suburban schools.  Nationally, our classrooms are almost 45% non-White and the trend toward greater diversity is expected to continue. Our classrooms reflect this trend, but our classroom libraries do not. The New York Times found that despite making up about nearly a quarter of the nation’s public school enrollment, young Latino readers seldom see themselves in books. Those of us in schools working with children from minority backgrounds know this to be true as we scan our bookshelves and find protagonists that are overwhelmingly white and living in suburban, privileged settings. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that in 2011, only 6% of children’s books featured characters from African American, American Indian, Asian Pacific/ Asian Pacific American, or Latino backgrounds.

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What does close reading look like in Fourth 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.

Etched in Clay written and illustrated by Andrea ChengOver the past several weeks, I’ve been modeling how to do a close reading at several different grade levels. Next up: Close Reading in Fourth Grade using the T level text Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet written and illustrated by Andrea Cheng, out this January!

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 introduction through the first 13 pages of Etched in Clay:

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What does close reading look like in Third 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 past several weeks, I’ve been modeling how to do a close reading at several different grade levels. Next up: Close Reading in Third Grade using the O level text  Baseball Saved Us by  Ken Mochizuki and illustrated by Dom Lee.

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 just the first 8 pages of Baseball Saved Us:

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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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Hurricane crafts: how to make a paper mask

The Lee & Low office is closed today because of the storm, and our thoughts are with everyone affected by Sandy and the rain, wind, and flooding that she brought with her.

Drummer Boy of John John illustrator Frané Lessac has shared instructions on how to make masks for Halloween and Carnival, but they work just as well as a Hurricane craft for those still cooped up and looking for something to do, as most things can be found around the house or replaced easily with household items.

Enjoy, and stay safe and dry!

Materials:

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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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