Monday is my first official day back at school. It’s my fourteenth year. And the first three hours of my fourteenth year will be sitting in a large room discussing the enthralling topic of Close Reading.
Excuse me for a second…..
I’m not usually one to burn books. In fact if you look at my home you’ll see that the den of my house looks more like a used bookstore than a den. We have stacks of books. Books everywhere. Close reading just does something to me.
For those of you that are uninitiated, Close Reading is basically hyper-analysis of a small text or a small piece of a larger text. Kids identify first impressions, vocabulary, main idea, points-of-view, contextualization, and so on. The goal is to get students to not only have a greater understanding of the literary passage but to also be able to apply it to something else. It’s actually a very effective method of analyzing text.
Ok then, what’s the problem?
The problem is that we’ve had in-school professional development for this strategy all the time, every year, forever and ever, Amen. Close Reading has now become the buzz phrase that makes a teacher say “Are you kidding me”, and then begin the charge of the iPad so they can read a whole lot of Tweets during the presentation. I could go on-and-on except that John Spencer has a better grasp of why I hate Close Reads. In summation:
-It’s consistently forced because of bad policy.
-You are told you must use it. A lot. And damn the fact that you are a professional.
-It’s not really good for all subjects.
-Advanced students hate it.
-It’s often done within the context of itself, not with a bigger idea in mind.
-It’s horridly overused.
-It’s something teachers have done before. Many times.
-Teacher’s chose bad literary choices.
-The skill becomes the important part of the exercise.
I even know and like the presenters and I’m still prepared to use my three hours of human capital in a more efficient way. One of these days teachers are going to be able to figure out there own professional development and not cop out to the schools to rescue them from laziness.
In the meantime, Angry Birds is here somewhere…..