Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Comments Which Don't Inspire Responses

Me, commenting on Grant Wiggins On close reading, part 2:

The CC standards do not call generically for close reading as it is broadly defined in the discipline. They *could have* and other standards have done so, but they chose not to. Standard one only calls for students to “Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it,” that only refers to a single aspect of the close reading process.

Most of the rest of the reading standards address a small number of specific tasks which would commonly be part of the close reading process, with a multitude of variations on these tasks piling up over the grade levels.

Discussing close reading generically misses the point. The question should be whether close reading as systematically specified by the Common Core is the best, or at least sufficient, approach for a complete K-12 course of study in ELA. Indeed, the examples of other descriptions of close reading cover a wide range of interpretations.

I would argue that Dr. McClennen’s definition is very different than what the CC asks for (and I would prefer something like hers): “‘Reading closely’ means developing a deep understanding and a precise interpretation of a literary passage that is based first and foremost on the words themselves.” The CC is very consistent in not requiring students to create an original interpretation of a text as a whole — and they could, there are many examples of standards that do. For that matter, they avoid requiring “understanding” as much as possible.

The CC’s overall approach to reading is more like the UW one “..close reading does not try to summarize the author’s main points, rather, it focuses on “picking apart” and closely looking at the what the author makes his/her argument, why is it interesting, etc.” That is, focusing on textual analysis, craft and structure.

So, for example, if we look at your Frog and Toad example, I certainly like your questions, and they do require close reading. However, how well aligned with the Common Core are they? In general you’ve hit standards 1-3 pretty well, although way above the second grade level (if that’s the reading level of the text), but you’re missing the other five relevant standards.

This may seem like a pedantic technical point, but from reading the responses of NY teachers to their first Common Core ELA test, I suspect that a lot of them were generically teaching close reading as you demonstrate, when in fact they needed to be preparing their students for lots of tasks like “Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action (RL2.5).” Or whatever multiple choice question asks students to “Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters (RL2.6).”


EC said...

"I suspect that a lot of them were generically teaching close reading as you demonstrate, when in fact they needed to be preparing their students for lots of tasks like..."

I am skeptical that they :"needed to be" preparing their students for specific tasks. My assumption is that extensive reading and rich discussion will be better preparation than any explicit, point-by-point instruction. But I could be wrong...

Tom Hoffman said...

I would say "needed to be" insofar as the questions for the later standards were surprising and strange to the students (and teachers).