Thursday, February 14, 2013

Close Reading and Removing Layers of Snow

If you live anywhere near CT, you spent last weekend (and this week) digging out from the blizzard like I did. As I walked out to my parking lot last Sunday and saw my car completely buried in the snow, I immediately felt overwhelmed and did not even know where or how to begin digging it out.  After someone created a path to my car for me, using a snow blower,  I felt like the task was more manageable and that I actually would be able to get my car out.  With a shovel in my hands and the help from a neighbor, we were able to remove enough snow for me to drive my car out of my igloo parking space.  Then the removal of snow began - layer by layer.  As we removed each layer of snow, using shovels and brushes, my car became more visible and I felt both a sense of relief and accomplishment.  In the end, I achieved my goal and gained new learning from the experience and the process.
My Honda Accord buried under the snow

During this snow removal process, I was reminded of the skills and strategies readers use when they read closely and interpret texts.  Just as I felt overwhelmed at the onset of seeing my car, readers sometimes feel overwhelmed when they get ready to read a complex text.  Just like I had the support from a neighbor who created the path for me, it is important for us to model and explicitly teach close reading strategies to students so they have the support they need to apply them independently.    Readers will need different levels of support, just like I needed additional support by my neighbor.  He helped coach me through the process and helped me as much as I needed at the time.  This is similar to the coaching work we do during conferences and small group instruction.  It is also similar to how reading partnerships support one another during reading workshop.

Removing the snow layer by layer, reminds me of how we teach students to pull back the layers of the text and dig deeper each time they reread to lift the level of their interpretation.  I have used the analogy of peeling an onion in my classroom and how you peel the layers of the text to reveal the deeper meaning just like the onion is revealed after peeling back the layers of skin.  Now I have the analogy of removing the layers of snow off my car to help students visualize the work readers do when reading closely.  When reading closely, readers develop new and revised thinking that they did not have after their initial reading of the text.  They also see the text through a different lens and may have different emotions and/or point of view of the text. When I first saw my snow situation, I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, and defeated.  When my car was snow free after getting help from my neighbor, I felt successful, relieved, and grateful.   Taking the layers of snow off my car was no easy feat, but I had the tools and support I needed to be successful.  We need to make sure we are equipping our students with the tools and support they need to feel and be successful.