I think most teachers would agree that our class sizes are growing and our student populations are getting more diverse. While growing class size leaves much to be desired, a diverse group of students is something to celebrate. Even though diversity in the classroom is something we would all like to have, it might make lesson planning and content creation a bit more challenging. Creating differentiated close reading lessons is one way to tackle the task of teaching multiple levels of student proficiency at the same time. The three steps outlined below will walk you through all you need to know to create your own differentiated close reading.
Step One: Set Your Objective
The first step in creating your differentiated close reading is to choose your objective. What skill do you want your students to master? Starting with your content standards and working backwards will help you narrow down your focus. I like to choose one standard to focus on, and I build my close reading around that specific standard. That way, I ensure that my lesson is standards-based, and I have a set target when it comes time for assessment. As the lesson progresses, students will work their way up to meet the planned objective. Zeroing in on the objective during the third and final reading of the text gives students a chance to build their familiarity and confidence with the text before diving deeper into integration.
Step Two: Choose Your Text
After finalizing your objective for the lesson, it is time to choose your text. In order to challenge students and encourage critical thinking, the text you choose should require a fair amount of rigor. A successful close reading lesson requires high quality texts. You want to find texts that are short, complex, and lend themselves to the close reading process. First, assess the overall quality of writing and length of the text. Next, determine if the text is appropriate for your students by assessing the reading level and subject matter. Finally, make sure the text includes layers of meaning for a deep dive into synthesis and analysis. Ideally, you want to select a text with depth, potential for discovery, rich language, and room for interpretation. It is also important to remember your objective for the lesson. It is critical that you choose a text that will lead students to the desired outcome. Please note that you do not have to use an entire text for a close reading. A section or paragraph of text that meets the criteria mentioned above will work just fine.
Step Three: Build Your Lesson
You are now prepared to add structure to your differentiated close reading. The strategy of close reading is a specific process that requires three readings of the text in order for students to hit three interpretative goals: what the text says, how the text says it, and what the text means. Even though your students are at different levels of proficiency, all will complete three readings of the text. The only difference for each level of proficiency will be the length of text. Your advanced students will have more text to work through than your emerging students. There is no need to find different reading passages. Simply shorten the passage you have chosen for your close reading. After adjusting the text length to meet the diverse needs of all students in your classroom, you are now ready to build the framework for instruction. The first reading of the text should focus on key ideas and details. During or after the first reading, I have students read independently and annotate the text with metacognitive markers. The next reading of the text can be completed as a partner read. This reading should focus on craft and structure, which is a great time for students to identify and define unknown vocabulary words. Learning new vocabulary in context will assist students in learning and remembering the new words. Finally, for the third reading of the text, I like to have students listen as I read aloud. The final reading is a great opportunity to dive deeper and hit the objective you planned for at the beginning of the lesson. Writing prompts, open-ended questions, fill-in-the-blanks, and sentence frames work well for assessing student understanding after the third reading of the text.
By the third and final reading of the text, all of your students will have had the opportunity to meet the lesson objective. Scaffolding the lesson in such a way gives each student a chance to work with the text in a progressive manner. Crafting differentiated close readings takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, you can set them up the same way each time. Over time, your students will get the hang of it too! If you want to see a specific example, or you want a model to work from, I use a differentiated close reading to teach tone and mood using Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart”.