Thursday, February 19, 2015

Close reading a text

So here's an old post I began and never finished. I began the year with an introduction of close reading a text using Outkast's Hey Ya! Perhaps you've heard the song.

As you can tell by the catchy tune and the fun and colorful video, this seems like an upbeat and happy tune.

But then I caught this acoustic cover on the radio one day and I almost cried on my way to the grocery store.

I knew I had a great opportunity to teach students how to close read a text. Here's what I did.

First, I played the Outkast video. Students sang along and danced (surprised me; I didn't think they'd know it!). We talked about what the song is about and what is the tone of the song.

Next, I played Matt Weddle's version and asked the same questions.

Finally, I gave students a copy of the lyrics and asked them to perform a close reading to tell me what the song is about and what is the tone. They were told to use the lyrics to support their analysis and that they should be marking up the lyric sheet, looking for key words/phrases/patterns in the text. I asked, "what words or phrases tell you what this song is about?" Then, we had a whole class discussion, modeling close reading. 

Finally, I gave them a historical text to close read.

This worked really well, and of course, I was singing Hey Ya all day!

Chalk Talk

It's been a super long time since I've posted, but here's something that could be helpful. It's a really old strategy that I learned about in a faculty meeting well over 8 years ago. Tech could certainly be used, but I haven't done it in any way but on a whiteboard.

Depending on the topic, I start by giving students time to gather and organize their thoughts. In this case, they were given a do now that asked "How did Thomas Jefferson feel about/treat Native Americans? Explain." This do now was a follow up to a podcast they viewed for homework.

Next, I put the central theme or question on the whiteboard and explained the Chalk Talk procedure:

  • You speak only using the markers. There are four markers available; when you've put up your ONE thought, pass it to someone who has not yet gone.
  • You may write a fact, opinion, question... anything, but it must be related to the theme and, of course, classroom appropriate. You may build off someone else's point as well.
  • When everyone has had a chance to add, only then may someone add a second point.
  • There is NO SPEAKING.
Depending on how controversial the topic is, it can definitely fall into organized chaos. I have had it devolve into two students carrying on an argument with markers. On task, but it became more about the argument than the central topic.

This can really be applied to anything--a gauge of what students know about a topic before beginning, a closure, a formative assessment. I've used it in nearly every class I've taught.