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Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts--And Life [Paperback]

Christopher Lehman , Kate Roberts , Kathleen Roberts

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical, doable lessons in a framework that teachers can use! 28 Oct 2013
By Literacy Lover - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Do you want your students to be prepared for life?
This book has lessons that apply for analyzing texts and life - including songs, videos, and books. Re-engage students when you begin planning for instruction that will draw all students into the learning world.

This masterful text by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts (with Foreword by Donalyn Miller) begins with a chapter that defines close reading and explains a ritual that will build student independence. It continues with five chapters that detail text evidence, word choice, structure, point of view and reading across texts. Each chapter contains an explanation of the purpose, a customized close reading ritual for that content, texts that surround us every day (media), how to match your purpose to your students while choosing text, a model lesson, real student responses, and then next steps in the form of extensions and support as well as closely reading our own lives.


How important is this text as teachers implement changes in instruction to meet the demands of the Common Core?
Close Reading is listed in Reading Anchor Standard 1 and also contained within Key Ideas and Details 2 (main idea/theme), and 3 (individuals/events develop over time); word choice is Reading Anchor Standard 4 under Craft and Structure, structure is Reading Anchor Standard 5, point of view is Reading Anchor Standard 6 and argument 8; and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas contains reading across texts as Reading Anchor Standard 9. The "media" Reading Anchor Standard 7 is included in each of the topics so it truly is "integrated" into all five topics and Reading Anchor Standard 10 is about students reading a wide range and complexity of texts independently that is the goal of the entire text. (Yep! All 10 Reading Anchor Standards are included!)

Still on the fence? Haven't made up your mind?
The lessons provided in this book are carefully crafted to build a "love of reading" that is student centered. Students who are in classrooms where teachers use these rituals for instruction will be prepared for their Common Core assessments because those students will have practical experience in thinking and reading texts and life in purposeful ways that go well beyond the printed word.

And finally, you will fall in love with the authors, their stories of students and teachers, and close reading as you read and re-read this text. Your life will change as a result of your thoughtful reflection about the contents of this text.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read! 3 Nov 2013
By C.C. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The absolute best professional book I have read in a very long time! My concern with the common core was what teachers would do with close reading and complex texts. Would anyone remember to teach kids to LOVE reading? When I saw this title, I got excited. When the book arrived, I stayed up half the night reading. I spent the next day trying to figure out how I could get this book in every teachers' hands in my district! If you or those in your district are feeling bogged down with common core, read this and be uplifted! Thank you to the authors for this wonderful contribution to reading teachers across the nation! BUY THIS BOOK!
46 of 55 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An ok book geared towards primary and perhpas middle school teachers, or those unfamiliar with the concept. 5 Mar 2014
By Jyork - Published on Amazon.com
I can’t help but notice that the reviews for this book are all glowing. I find this curious as my own view is that the book is ok, but has more flaws than strong points. However, most reviewers praise the book for being easy to understand, and friendly in tone, so I assume that it appeals to teachers who feel daunted by the task of close reading, which is very fair, and I think the authors have appealed to their target market with good sense. I, on the other hand, as a High School AP teacher and Gifted and Talented coordinator am simply not the target audience. I was asked to review the book by our school’s curriculum coordinator which I have done.

The tone of the book made me suspicious immediately, with lines like “let’s borrow some language from the CCSS” or “Today the common core state standards have brought the idea of close reading back into the educational landscape.” Call me cynical, but the “gleefully sycophantic” tone rubs me the wrong way. It doesn’t feel genuine, but instead “bought and paid for.” They are writers for Heinemann, after all, so this is no huge surprise. Beyond the objectionable tone, the second statement is also untrue. AP Lit and Lang have been emphasizing close reading for years (decades?) so one can at best claim that the CCSS has taken its direction from College Board. Of course, the authors, in a very brief introduction to the history of close reading and literary criticism point out that the practice has been around since the 1940s, so it’s hardly new anyway. In fact, the CCSS’s fascination with close reading is oddly retrogressive. Are they not aware that many other forms of criticism have emerged that challenge and even supplant close reading? My guess is that they are, but in close reading they find a general practice – looking at details – that strikes them as useful in general for students to know, and I won’t argue with that.

Objections about tone and credibility aside, some of the lessons are decent ones. I like their idea of “lenses” (narrowing ones focus while exploring a text to a specific idea or structural feature) but I wish they had not called the practice a “lens” as the “lens” in literary theory is already a well-known but different concept, so students raised on this new “lens” in middle school may then be confused when the term is implied differently later on in AP and college. The author’s idea of a lens is also not new. In college we called it “tracing” as in “trace” your way through Macbeth looking for Shakespeare’s development of the theme of blood and guilt. But the author’s are successful at cleverly repackaging old ideas in what feels like a reasonable fresh way, which is itself typical in education and not a fault limited to this book in the least. The author’s also offer sound advice about developing close reading rituals, and about working to connect close reading as a practice in English class with close reading in life. This idea may strike some people as a bit forced, especially those not disposed to reflecting analytically on their lives, but I found this section perfectly reasonable.

While I’ll admit that the book has a healthy handful of useful activities and ideas, its major flaw are the so called examples of close reading. Nowhere in the book can one find a solid, well developed example of actual close reading. Often the examples provided – a couple hand scrawled sentences stuffed into the small boxes of a worksheet chart – are generalizations and personal “reactions” to a text. Never do they provide a demonstration of what quality close reading actually looks like. Never do we see a student engaged directly with a text, citing an author’s language, examining the text for an author’s use of literary language (nowhere in the text do they discuss an author’s use of personification, metonymy, etc., or the syntactical structure of an author’s language) or analyzing how an author’s language enhances the meaning of her text. This is unfortunate because, if my supposition is accurate that the book is aimed at those teachers who are least familiar with close reading, then I can guarantee that these teachers will not walk away with a robust sense of what students are being expected to do later in their careers, or what is actually possible when engaging with a text in a detailed, thoughtful way. Despite the amount of verbiage in this book that extolls the virtues of “reading closely and analytically” the authors really don’t succeed in modeling this beyond a very introductory level.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the most useful teaching books I've found in 20 years! 13 Jan 2014
By Catherine Advocate-Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A friend recommended this book and I was not disappointed. It is clear and presents an alternative way to interact with texts other than the traditional question and answer routine. Essentially, it suggests that you reverse the process. One gives the student a "lens," an idea through which to examine the text. Instead of answering a question and finding evidence to support it, the author suggests finding evidence and then drawing a conclusion or coming up with a "new idea" from the evidence. It is empowering for my students and a very clear way to develop independence.

I implemented this strategy almost immediately in my 4th grade classroom. My students were resistant to the process because it wasn't as easy as what they'd been doing. It slows them down and makes them work for the information. It also allows for more discussion in the classroom. My more powerful students don't always have the answer and my weaker students have an opportunity to join in and offer ideas. It also helps with note taking skills, making sure they're taking notes that support the given topic.

I have found ways to apply the concepts in Lehman's book not just in Reading class, but also in social studies, science, and math. My students have taken to choosing their own lens while reading independently. I tend to avoid professional teaching books like the plague, but this one was easy to read, easy to see ways to implement it and the students responded with more thoughtful comments and conversation.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Packed with useful strategies and ideas! 6 Dec 2013
By Melanie Bennett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I started Falling in Love with Close Reading last night and couldn't put it down. A few hours later, it was fully annotated and I had pages of notes filled with ideas about how to use the strategies in my 8th grade classroom. This is one of the best professional books I've read in a while. I have no doubt that the strategies will help me help my readers come to a new understanding of the texts we read.
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