Tag Archives: Sally Derby

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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