Thursday, 02 May 2013

An alternative to the “Close” reading strategy

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An alternative to the “Close” reading strategy

Recently I have had several e-mails and been sent articles on something called “Close” reading. I must say that I liked the process of the strategy but I believe it has substantial limitations for content teachers, especially at the secondary levels. The greatest difficulty is simply the time it takes to complete in class. The all of the rigors of the Common Core Standards, and Content standards like those found in mathematics and science I must budget my time between core content standards and the Common Core. Both are important and both require time. As much as I would like to, I cannot spend the lion’s share of time reading an assignment two or three times. I must find alternatives that promote literacy, reading comprehension and improve my student’s reading speed. One specific strategy I and others who have used this set of tools is “Cued Retelling”. Students improved comprehension, reading speed and as a consequence improved performance in class and their test scores.

Cued retelling, sometimes called “Scaffolded” reading is an excellent strategy to improve reading comprehension and reading speed. It is especially helpful for secondary students (middle and high school) in content areas like science, mathematics and social studies. This strategy can be adapted and modified to meet the needs of the reader and help students meet the needs of the Common Core Standards.

Cued Retelling at the most complex level demands that students, in partners, read an assigned reading and then take turns reporting back to each other about what they read. Partner one is expected to report what they recall from the reading while their partner, armed with the cued retell report form checks off all of the important details. When they can’t remember any more details their partner then begins to “cue” them to help them recall the important pieces they have forgotten. After three cues they can tell them the item they could not recall. When they are finished the partners then change roles with regards to recording and reporting. Ideally, the teacher selects the pairings so that a weaker reader works with a stronger reader with the stronger reader reporting first. This adds additional support and confidence to the weaker reader. (It is funny how success tends to do that for students!).

Adapting Cued Retelling to meet the needs of students requires some work by the teacher but the dividends are quite remarkable. The first adaptation would be to rewrite the passage assigned so that it reads at a lower reading level without losing the content and key vocabulary. (For members, watch the video for adapting reading levels.) This differentiated approach allows weaker readers to participate in the reading activity and since the concepts and key vocabulary has not been lost only the original cued retell report form can used.

There are two other ways to adapt cued retelling to accommodate our EL students. The second way to adapt “Cued Retelling” is to have students work in pairs and have them work together and using the cued report form write in the main points or ideas on the report form paragraph by paragraph. Finally, the third way to adapt the strategy is to provide student pairs with the filled in Cued report form and working with the assigned reading try to find and underline each of the points of the cued report form. For additional support you might choose to add “Anticipation guides” or even “Master notes to support reading comprehension.

As you can see Cued Retelling is an excellent way for students to work on reading comprehension and reading speed. It demands the student’s process, work through and comprehend what they have read without having to take the extra precious time to read a document two or three times.. This process encourages the promotion and efforts needed to meet the rigorous demands for literacy development by the Common Core Standards, Anchor Standards and more.

Tell me what you think! Have you tried “closed” reading or “cued retelling”? Which did you prefer? Why? Do you other strategies for improving reading for content?

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