Terrytown Students Take a Closer Look at Reading

*This video is part 1 of a series dedicated to exploring different aspects of the Common Core State Standards and its implementation in JPPSS classrooms.

Students at Terrytown Elementary have accepted and are embracing the new challenge of Close Reading.

Close Reading offers students the opportunity to participate in a careful, in-depth analysis of a text by reading and rereading a text and then participating in a discussion about what they’ve learned.
Principal Christopher Joyce said that this change came about because of the more rigorous standards put in place with the Common Core State Standards.

“What we’re shifting to now is everyone working together and rereading the same passage over and over again so students are able to understand the text in greater depth,” he said. “We want them to get a deeper meaning based on what the author is talking about and how they relate their experiences to the text.”

This type of learning is new to Terrytown. In the past, English Language Arts teachers would focus solely on teaching literary elements and comprehension strategies in isolation. They would model on how to find the elements and use these strategies, students would practice on different passages, and then they would be tested.

Fifth grade teacher Meghan Dooley said that the shift to Close Reading has been a big change. Teachers select smaller pieces of text and work with the students for an extended period of time.
“We read things several times and my students are really building their confidence with this more challenging material,” she said. “They’re finding that they can do it if they take their time and look for specific things.”

Joyce knows that not all students will grasp these higher level passages as they begin, but over time and with the support of the teacher and their peers, they will come to have that understanding.
In Dooley’s classroom, students follow steps so they can attach themselves to “something concrete” through reading, discussion, and writing.

“We talk about how we read things a couple of times just for fluency,” said Dooley. “We look for words that are difficult for us to understand, we call them clunkers, and we identify what those words are and we create context clues to figure out the words in the text.”

This technique is especially valuable because rather than teachers giving students the vocabulary, they are selecting the words themselves.

Close Reading is also being used in the social studies and science classes as students read informational text at Terrytown. Dooley believes that the writing activity she assigns her students helps them in their other classes.

She said that because students have spent so much time with the text, they’ve become experts on the material. When she gives a writing assignment, students can go back through the text to cite specific information in their paper.

“This makes them better writers because they are using evidence to back up their opinions – this is a skill that can be used in their other classes.”

Joyce says that by becoming more proficient readers, his students will succeed as they transition to middle school and beyond.