Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Topic: Close Reading of Literary Works

10-second review: Three steps to close reading.

Title: “How to Read a True War Story: Close Reading Through The Things They Carried.” B Gilmore. Classroom Notes Plus (October 2008), 1-6. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: After students have finished reading a book (fiction or nonfiction), select a passage, type it up, distribute to the students and engage in three steps with them:

1. Students read the passage and underline any words that strike them, even if they do not know why.

2. Students try to identify the technique in each underlining (metaphor, run-on sentence, fragment, alliteration) or, if they can’t name the technique, describe its effect.

3. Students try to relate the technique to the theme of the book.

Uses a 3-column chart, the columns labeled “Text,” “Effect,” and “Reflection/Connection.” In column one, students copy the text from the passage. In column two, they describe the effect of the technique. And, in column three, students tell how the technique relates to the theme of the book.

Result is that students will have slowed down their reading and seen how the author achieved the theme of the book.

An interesting sub-step: After the students have read and underlined the ideas in the passage, the teacher re-reads the passage aloud and students who had underlined particular words or phrases, etc., read the words aloud with the teacher. Shows the students that different students underlined different passages.

The author suggests that students practice the technique.

Comment: Intriguing idea. You might want to try it yourself and you might then alter the details of how to structure the steps in the technique with your classes. Sometimes we forget to teach students what we assume they already know—like close reading. RayS.

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