The earlier we begin teaching CLOSE reading the better……

confused reader 

How many times have we heard the term, “close reading” and wondered what exactly that means for children who are not yet reading independently? For one thing it is a requirement of the common core and as Martha Stewart would say, “….it is a good thing!”

Text comprehension begins with listening and monitoring our comprehension of the massive amount of words and ideas that flood our brains throughout the day.  Our filtering systems require us to STOP the flow when we don’t understand something that is being said or read to us that is how we build prior knowledge.  Learning to differentiate when we are understanding, vs when we are not, is the foundation to building a vocabulary that leads to reading comprehension.

Young learners become self-regulated when they are taught to closely monitor their comprehension during (teacher) read alouds. Raising the awareness of both teacher and learner that we all process information differently and that each individual learner should be given the opportunity to alert the teacher when confused about a read aloud text can fulfill two requirements of the common core state standards —(CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.3Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.)


  • Close reading (during read alouds) can motivate children to recognize when they need help. Directing children to ask for help in specific situations, with appropriate motives and questioning strategies, helps them distinguish between adaptive and excessive help seeking.
  • Young students can be trained to ask for help strategically. For example, by asking the teacher to revisit a misunderstood phrase or posing a specific question when trying to figure out the author’s intended meaning.

We cannot begin the process too soon – we are accustomed to checking for understanding by having the teacher pose the questions, but not the other way around.  If we are to train self-regulated young learners to be college ready, the earlier we teach them how and when to phrase and pose the questions, the sooner they will be able to access information from text.


Being test ready….

test anxiety cope

With all the chatter about the common core and testing I have again been reminded of what it means to be “college-ready.”  One thing I learned in all the courses I took on the validity and reliability of testing was that if we only used test results for their intended purpose we would be safe from having any one test measure the success or failure of our students.

I recall learning that my daughter could begin to take the PSAT’s when she was in the seventh grade. Prior to that I did not know there was a practice period of testing that came before the actual TEST.  Allowing her to begin to participate in the process early on gave her a sense of power over the exam, raising her self-efficacy over time.  First of all, in the beginning it was for practice, the test had no consequences other than for her to become familiar with standardized testing, time constraints, and any anxiety that might accompany test-taking.  Over time, as she familiarized herself with the test, she was able to self-regulate.  She would set goals, self-monitor her performance, and then reflect on whether or not the strategies she used led to a performance that was successful (or unsuccessful).  By beginning this process almost three years prior to the PSAT’s, she was able to approach the even more critical SAT’s with a calmness that was not necessarily her own, but that of a prepared student. This is not true for many of our learners, who meet the PSAT for the first time in the ninth grade, cannot afford tutors for content or instruction in strategic test taking, and as a result do poorly on the SAT’s and are not able to enter higher education.


Practice in taking standardized tests can allow our students to plan and evaluate their performance using self regulation strategies from the earliest grades.  Rather than emphasize the score on the test, we should consider emphasizing which test taking strategies are being measured, and whether or not using them has an impact on performance. The common core community is beginning to realize that the validity and reliability of the standardized testing associated with the common core is not credible; it requires a transition phase (at the very least).  Taking time to evaluate the reliability and validity of the new measures is critical to the success of standardized testing.


Don’t Overlook the Tugboat!


If you look closely you will see a tugboat alongside a ship making it’s way through The Narrows, a waterway connecting the Atlantic Ocean and New York City ports.  Everyday I observe the same scene the ship makes it’s way into the Narrows and must sit and wait for the tugboat to come alongside and guide it through the waterway. Alone, the ship would not make it to the port safely because only the tugboat’s captain and crew are knowledgable of the specific areas of the waterway that do not accomodate large ships . As big and powerful as the ship looks, if the tugboat does not come to guide it,  the ship remains stuck in The Narrows, not moving forward toward it’s goal (the port).

I liken the ship to the Common Core without self-regulatory strategy alignment.  If we want our students to be life long learners, educators need to work with learners of all ages within structural guidelines of the common core standards and use self-regulation to help our students become independent learners.  The tugboat analogy attempts to show the Common Core State Standards as a structure of goals (big ship needs to reach port) and the realization that without self-regulation (tugboat has power and knowledge to guide) the ship will remain in the waterway, looking big and strong, but not able to move ahead.

Many educators recognize the commonalities shared by self-regulation and the common core, I see it when I visit classrooms were teachers are practicing on cognitive modeling,  acting as coping models, teaching self-monitoring, encouraging self-evaluation in order to guide their learner’s towards independent learning.   Significant progress is being made with students who are not only learning how to read and comprehend informational texts, but are given training in self-regulated learning as well.  Future blogs will provide more specific ways of aligning self-regulation training with the common core state standards, a very powerful union!