Moving Toward Close Reading in Content-Area Classrooms: Where Do I Start?

For many content-area teachers, teaching”reading” is a challenging charge. We’ve spent much of our practice using texts as a vehicle through which content knowledge is built. The acceptance that, for many of our students, that “vehicle” is not accessible, can leave us a bit baffled about how to proceed.

One small first step in helping student access texts in our content-areas is to simply change our pacing and questioning. Assign students one paragraph at a time to read in class instead of a section. When students finish reading, first ask, “What roadblocks did you encounter? Where did you get struck or have to slow down? What still doesn’t make sense?” Then open the answering of those questions to the class or coach students through a process to find meaning in a word or phrase.

In seeking first to clarify smaller chunks of text, we enable more students to unlock key ideas, we begin to anticipate the struggles our students face, and we build a safety and system of support that will ultimately enable us to go farther faster.

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