Close Reading in First Grade

“Close reading for first graders?…Are you crazy?!?!?!”
That was my reaction when the district I was in talked to us about a K-12 initiative to do close readings in the classroom.
“I have kids who can’t read a full sentence, and you want them to read quietly to themselves and annotate their thoughts? What planet are you from?”
And after the initial shock finished running through my body, our team settled down {somewhat} and got to work.  NOW…you should know that the way a close read is supposed to go is NOT how we did it in our room.  In fact, our team feels that a close read “by the books” is not developmentally appropriate for our first graders.  But, I have modified and adjusted it over the years…maybe so much that it’s really not a close read anymore, but it works for my kids and helped me see success and growth in reading through close reading in first grade.

Step 1: Silent Sight Word Search

The first thing I do is pass out the passage and give my first graders 2 minutes to look for and circle sight words they know or that are on our word wall.  I’m going to use a non-fiction passage from our animals unit we did a while back for our example, but I’ve done this with fiction too!
I differentiate this step through the year.  At the beginning of the year (or if I have a lower group of kids), I may read the passage aloud to them first before passing out the passage, just to give them some context and comprehension for the passage.  Many times when I do this first, I will put the passage up on our Promethean Board and read it aloud once.  Then, we will read it aloud together twice.  And then I send them back to their desk to circle sight words.

Step 2: Highlight Key Details

Once students have sight words circled, we read the passage together again.  Later in the year, this may be the first time we’ve read it together as a class because we don’t read it before they circle sight words at that point…they just read it independently and/or scan for sight words.
Before we read it together this time, I ask them to listen for the important details–the key details–in the passage {for non-fiction…they could listen for important events for fiction}.
After we choral read together, I ask, “What are some of the important details we learned about muscles from this passage?”  Then, we do a think-pair-share at their table and then they share out key details.  After each detail, I have my firsties point to the place in the text where their friend found that key detail.  This is to reinforce the idea that our research come from the text. Then, we highlight the details in green.  Not a whole sentence, just the key detail phrase.  As they highlight, I highlight on my model passage on the ELMO and then add the key detail to our anchor chart on muscles for our shared research/writing.

Step 3: Sight Words and Questions

This last step depends on the time of year.  At the beginning of the year (or with lower readers), I ask them to go back and reread with their shoulder buddy at their desk or independently and finish circling any sight words they missed and illustrate the details from the text.
Later in the year (or with higher groups in guided reading), I will have them think of a question they still have about the topic we read about and write it on a sticky note or at the bottom of the passage.
I have several non-fiction passages in each of my Science and Social Studies units that go along with those topics that I use for close reads in first grade.  And also, my Rock That Read Passages are great to start off with close reading and then end with comprehension questions to extend the passages even more!
So, no, I don’t follow the ideal model of a close read….don’t call the literacy police on me!  But, it actually has worked beautifully for my first graders.  I think I’ve finally found a way to make this work in first grade!

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