The Final Act of Close Reading: What the Text Means

October 21, 2016

In Act II of close reading, your students examined how the text works. Now it’s time to raise the curtain on Act III, in which students will contemplate what the text means.

Act III: What the Text Means

Act III is the third reading of the text. The production culminates as students are guided toward deep understandings of what the text means, such as main idea, point of view, author’s purpose, and central message or theme.

What Are Students’ Roles During Act III?

Throughout Act III, students will:

  • read all or portions of the text a third time, independently, with other students, or with the teacher;
  • look for evidence that will help them determine what the text means such as:
    • key facts and details that reveal the main idea;
    • portions of the text that reveal the author’s point of view;
    • words, phrases, or sentences that reveal the author’s main point or purpose of the author;
    • dialogue, actions, settings, or events that reveal a central message or theme;
  • annotate the text, in a format specified by the teacher, as understandings or questions arise;
  • answer teacher-provided text-dependent questions about what the text means;
  • share annotations and discuss understandings and questions about the text in pairs, in small groups, and/or in whole-class discussions.

What is the Teacher’s Role During Act III?

As in Act II, your role in Act III is to direct the close reading and to gather evidence of students’ understandings and misconceptions as they determine what the text means. You should:

  • set purposes for students before they begin the third reading, taking into consideration:
    • What are the big ideas that you want to students to take away? For example, After today’s reading, we will understand what Chief Wahunsonacock hoped to accomplish with his speech.
    • On which aspect(s) of the text do you want students to focus as they annotate? For example, Underline evidence of Chief Wahunsonacock’s purpose for delivering the speech.
    • Which format of annotation do you want students to use, such as circling/underlining words, phrases, or sentences; inserting symbols; writing ideas or questions in margins? For example, As you read, place a star or an asterisk next to a sentence or paragraph that you think indicates the Chief’s main idea in the speech.
  • provide students with text-dependent questions that ask about what the text means such as: What was the main purpose he hoped to accomplish by delivering this speech?
  • continue to accumulate evidence of students’ understandings by listening to their conversations, observing their annotations, and recording notes about students’ misconceptions. In addition, you might gather written evidence from students to use as formative assessments by:
    • collecting responses to the text dependent questions;
    • having students complete exit slips in which they respond to a brief question or prompt about the reading. You might want to review ideas from Acts I and II in addition to those from Act III by using sentence frames, such as: Chief Wahunsonacock says__________to indicate that he thinks/feels the English should __________. Chief Wahunsonacock makes his demand in the last paragraph because ________.

While three readings of a text are often sufficient for many students to gain deep understandings, Act III does not have to be your last reading. If you feel students would benefit from additional readings or there is more to explore, you might want to reread the text in future sessions.

What Happens Next?

After the final reading of a text, some close reading experts recommend having students respond to a writing prompt or complete a culminating project to demonstrate their understandings in a new way (Lapp 52). You might consider having students respond to the text by:

  • writing an essay in which they take a stance on the text such as: Write an opinion essay in which you evaluate the effectiveness of Chief Wahunsonacock’s speech.
  • developing a related visual or performance art project such as: Create a mural, in an authentic artistic style, that depicts the conflict between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Confederacy.
  • creating a new product integrating information or ideas from the text such as: Write an article that might have appeared in a newspaper in 1609 that describes the conflict between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Confederacy. Include interviews with both John Smith and Chief Wahunsonacock in your article.

Even after the curtain falls on Act III, not all students will come away with the deep understandings of the text that we desire. Some members of your troupe may need encore performances in small group or individual settings before they take their final bows.

Next up in close reading, we’ll look at intervention strategies for targeting specific needs.

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Lapp, Diane, et al. A Close Look at Close Reading. ASCD, 2015.


 

More on Close Reading

This article is fifth in a series on close reading. Learn more about how to plan close reading lessons for your classroom by digging into the series:

About Jill Echevarria

Jill Echevarria is an ELA Writer at Mentoring Minds and a National Board Certified educator with twelve years’ teaching experience in New York City and Los Angeles public schools. Jill’s goal is to help teachers support students as they develop a love of reading. When not working, Jill enjoys going to the library with her two beautiful girls and volunteering with the PTA at her daughters’ school.

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