Focus will be given to one longer text and a handful of shorter ones each quarter. The term "close reading" (has it become Pavlovian for you? It has for me. I hear it and want to scream, not drool, though) is synonymous for intensive reading. And yet there are research studies going back to the early 1900s that proved the efficacy of extensive reading. Coryell, Hanna, and Smith all wrote about extensive versus intensive reading. Karen Kutiper (my old boss from Alief ISD where she was ELA coordinator for years) wrote about it in an article for English Journal in 1983. You can see the abstract for the article here:
We know that kids who read ore extensively still do well on tests over the required texts and still perform well on standardized and other state assessments. So, why this move to intensive? If I were the paranoid type, I might call it a money-making conspiracy on the part of those folks who are making money with these new standards and the call for a new curriculum to address them.
Instead of wandering down Paranoia Boulevard to Conspiracy Street, though, let me just recommend that we continue to provide the time and environment for extensive reading. Read more; let kids read more. It is how we truly begin to connect texts more easily, how we continue to develop broader vocabularies, how we experiment with different writing styles. There is not a book I read today that I could not tie to a standard or use to address some element of the ELA curriculum if I so elected to do so. There is also not one text that I did not connect to at least 1-2 other texts, building and connecting all the time. I think this is what we do, we who are real readers, who read for pleasure, who NEED to read.
One final note: please do know there are times when close reading might be something I do. Kylene Beers recently pointed out that kids might read a love note or a text closely. I would like to think, then, there is a difference between intensive and close reading, between close reading and dissecting the text. Hope so. I am done with dissection. I want time to read; I want to read sometimes just for my own pleasure. I want to feel free to share what I got from the text on my own and then listen to someone else's take and think, "wow, I need to go back and look at that again."
In the meantime, please excuse me while I head off to read with my ears. I feel a book calling.