I posted yesterday about reading a blog post on teaching close reading which began with Step One telling teachers to read the text themselves. I still find that insulting despite the number of folks who commented that there are teachers who do not read what they assign. (Insert SIGH here). However, even conceding that there are non-reading teachers (who need to leave the profession), this blog posting was still one that angered me as it went on to indicate that kids need to be doing the reading at home and not in the classroom. NO. I am sorry, but if you wish to make sure kids are reading "closely" (as opposed to "openly"?), I think this needs to be demonstrated in the classroom. Further, time needs to be spent in the classroom on actual READING (the last research I saw indicated that 90%+ of the time in classroom is spent with the teacher talking and very little time left for reading). Give kids time to read with your supervision. Let the at home reading be reading for pleasure, please.
Subsequent steps indicated the teacher should ask "So what?" for those pages, passages, etc. she or he had selected for close reading. Well, duh! Of course I want to ask questions that get kids thinking at a deeper level than simple text comprehension (however, one component of PARCC is that kids answer comprehension questions, HELLO?). For years I have advocated using broad questions. One of my favorite set of generic questions for fiction comes from Richard Peck. For nonfiction, I suggest those developed by Abrahamson and Carter in FROM DELIGHT TO WISDOM (one of the best books about NF). OK, now I have my questions. What next? Well, the blog post kind of ends there with suggestions that teachers now reflect on what they have done. But I di not stop there since the blog post directed me to an article in another journal about what makes text complex. That, my dears is the subject for tomorrow's rant, erm, post.
For now, let me just pause to reflect (Step Six) on why I am befuddled, puzzled, angered, and confused. First, I am angered at the tone of the discussion from CCSS. It seems to talk down to teachers (and if you really want to be made to feel small, watch some of the videos from the group that discuss why CCSS was sooooo needed in the wake of the dumbing down caused by NCLB (WTH?). I am confused about all of the contradictions about how much fiction versus nonfiction is required and who is responsible for what percentage. Maybe my math skills need some work, too? I am puzzled because I see some backtracking in terms of what should be read and analyzed in ELAR classes, too. And I am confused when even the authors of CCSS point to footnotes as evidence that the instructions are clear.
I realize none of this raving helps you if you are a teacher in a CCSS state. I know I could offer you ideas about texts, especially nonfiction texts, you can use. But I am loathe to do so. One of the reasons is that I do not wish to see ONE MORE BOOK ruined by "close" reading and overanalysis. If you need to dissect text, keep your hands off texts kids might actually enjoy reading on their own.
OK, maybe some of this harshness is because I pulled a muscle in my back turning on the light in the bathroom last night (how old am I). But I think my concern goes deeper than those muscles. It comes from my reader's heart and my reader's mind. I love books and reading. I see little evidence that CCSS cares a whit about creating lifelong readers.