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 "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest L. Thayer:
How does the structure of a story or poem add to our understanding of the text?
I chose this piece because it was one of the recommended pieces to read for 4th grade in the CCSS appendices and it goes well with "Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen" by Marissa Moss, which is in our basal readers. The two stories will work well to compare, contrast, and to analyze.
Moss, M. (2004). Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen. New York, NY : Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
We have the Kindle version of "Casey at Bat" by Ernest L. Thayer on our iPads which is available HERE. We will dive right into the poem to begin the lesson. This is a very complex text, so we will look at the poem, analyzing each line, piece by piece together. We will keep our dictionaries handy for any words that are not defined within the text.
I have included in the resources a list of text-dependent questions we will focus on during the close read.
After we have read "Casey at the Bat," we will discuss as a class the sequence of events as a class, referring back to the text frequently.
Next, in partners, the students will work together to create a good summary of events that took place in "Casey at the Bat," using the Beginning, Middle, End sheet found in the resources. I will encourage the students to refer back often to the text to ensure they have events in chronological order.
For our individual project, I will have the students create a picture of what they think Casey looks like. Then I will have them write a paragraph describing the character traits of Casey. They will need to be able to support their description of Casey with evidence from the text.
To close, students will have the opportunity to share what they have written about Casey as well as their drawing of Casey on our "Royal Reader's Throne." We have a castle theme in our classroom this year and the Royal Reader's Throne is a "throne" where the students get to share their work with the rest of the class. We have a microphone so that they are easily heard.