Last week I wrote about the memo I sent to teachers for the beginning of the year. Although I have not yet started official coaching cycles, I am trying to get into as many classrooms as possible. A sixth grade teacher invited me in to do a demo lesson on close reading, and I was happy to oblige.
My goals for the demo lesson were:
1. To show the students how close reading allows them to understand a text more deeply.
2. To demonstrate, for the teacher, a close reading lesson that she could extend and build upon in the coming weeks.
For the lesson, I used the text “Salvador Late or Early” by Sandra Cisneros. I chose the text because it was short enough to read in one class period, yet it holds deep meaning for the sixth graders to uncover. First, I read the text aloud and shared my initial thinking. “It seems as though Salvador is responsible for his younger brothers, like he has to take care of them,” I told the sixth graders.
Next, I used the three-step ritual for close reading that is outlined in Falling in Love with Close Reading by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts.
The first step is to read through a lense. Wanting to understand Salvador more, I reread the text through the lense of collecting character details about Salvador.
Using the document camera, I recorded the following details about Salvador:
- eyes the color of caterpillar
- crooked teeth
- crooked hair (messed up)
- wrinkled shirt
- apologizes when he speaks
- 40 pound body
- chest throbs with what only he knows
The next step is to look for patterns in the details. I thought aloud about the details I had collected. “When I look at these details about Salvador, several of them stand out to me. His wrinkled shirt, his messed up hair. I wonder who is taking care of Salvador? His 40 pound body… that is small. My four-year-old daughter is 40 pounds. A lot of these details seem to suggest that perhaps Salvador isn’t being well taken of at all, maybe he’s even neglected, or abused.”
The last step is to develop a new understanding of the text. Once again, I thought aloud, “When I first read this piece, I thought that Salvador had a lot of responsibility and had to take care of his younger brothers. After close reading, I now think that maybe no one is taking care of Salvador. In fact, I think Salvador is being neglected, maybe even abused. Salvador does not come from a good place…” and so on.
I think I met my two goals for this lesson. I think the students clearly saw how close reading helped me delve deeper into understanding a text, and I think the classroom teacher has some close reading work to build upon. The classroom teacher and I talked briefly about the lesson afterwards, and I have plans to return to her classroom next week.
Last year, under the guidance of Ellin Keene, the literacy coaches in my district developed criteria for demonstration teaching. Looking back at the list of criteria, I see some hits and some misses.
Coach is clear about the lesson’s focus.
Classroom teacher takes notes during lesson.
A sense of authenticity prevails – this is something real readers or writers do.
The coach uses high quality text.
Goal is determined collaboratively before the lesson.
Demonstration teaching should be based on a gradual release of responsibility.
The lesson includes a focus on the larger implications of the objective in their lives and the world.
Principles of quality classroom discourse are used – wait time, probing.
All in all, I think it was a success, and I am excited about the follow-up with this teacher.