An important part of a close read is to LIMIT the activation background knowledge. Front loading a lesson with information before reading the text with the students is counterproductive in a close read. There are several reasons for this. The first reason is that when we spoon feed information to the students, they get used to that and quit thinking on their own and searching for information. They want information given to them. Another reason is that when you limit activating background knowledge, it puts all the students on an even playing field. They don't have to have been somewhere or experienced something to add to the discussion. All discussion now is related directly to the text.
Even vocabulary words should be left for figuring out the meanings of the words with context clues within the text. Now, of course, not every word is defined within the text but a good share of them are and students need to learn the skill of being able to figure out the meanings of unfamiliar words.
Because of this, we start right into the text on day one of a close read unit. :)
I will, however, introduce the essential question that I want them to be thinking about as we read the story "My Brother Martin" by Christine King Farris.
What is the author trying to teach us about making a difference?
Farris, C.K. (2006). My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. New York, NY : Aladdin
We will dive right into the story to begin the lesson. We are only 6 weeks into the school year, so I will give a lot of guidance as we read the story together as a class. These are the text-dependent questions we will focus on while reading.
What does the author mean when she says "We stuck together like the pages in a brand new book?"
Describe some of the pranks the King children were involved in. Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.
What were the unfair laws the author mentioned?
What things did the King children miss out on because of the unfair laws? Give examples from the text.
What was Mother Dear's explanation to M.L. when he asked, "Why do white people treat colored people so mean?"
What does the author mean by "peas in a pod?"
After reading the story, we will fill in a top hat graphic organizer together as a class, comparing and contrasting Martin and his sister. I will project the graphic organizer onto the Smart Board and let the students use the different colored pens to write ideas on the organizer. (They get so much more excited about a lesson when they themselves get to write on the Smart Board.)
I will have the students explore the following question:
What is the theme of the story?
Cite evidence from the text to back up your answer.
(This is a shift from our state standards to the common core. Students should be able to back up their answers with evidence from the text. Our questions need to be text dependent for this reason. In the past (and our current basal reader still does this) you would have question like: In the story, it talked about unfair laws that were in effect at the time. Can you think of a time when someone or something seemed unfair to you? You would not even have to have read the story to answer that question. This new shift to text dependent questions requires the students to dig into the text for their answers. The end of level testing (at least in Utah) will require students to do just that.)
To wrap up today's lesson, we will discuss the the answers the students came up with to the question: What was the theme of the story? We will take a look at the evidence that they found to support their answers.