+ Dr. Cheesman: Some Games to Boost Math Skills

From the IDA Newsletter: By Elaine Cheesman, Ph.D.

There are times when we want kids to put down the iPad or tablet and to play traditional games (e.g., dominoes, board games, card games) with humans, particularly when the whole family is on vacation and it has been raining for days.

Playing traditional games is beneficial on many social and academic levels and can provide real-time practice for children in both reading and math skills. Research by Ramani and Siegler (2008) suggests that playing board games strengthens proficiency in foundational math tasks—counting, estimating, subitizing (i.e., the ability to perceive at a glance the number of items presented, such as on dice), recognizing written numerals, adding and subtracting, and comparing numerical sizes.

Many children with reading difficulties also struggle with math skills. Even though they may not have been formally diagnosed with dyscalculia, a learning disability related to math calculation, these individuals may display one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Use of inefficient calculation strategies
  • Difficulty memorizing basic arithmetic facts
  • Early difficulty with subtraction
  • Lack of “number sense” (e.g., comparing the relative size of two numbers—Which is greater? 3 or 9)
  • Subitizing
  • Dysfluent processing of written numbers or mathematical symbols
  • Linking written or spoken numbers to the idea of quantity
  • Difficulty understanding place value
  • Trouble learning or understanding multi-step calculation procedures (e.g., multi-digit multiplication and long division)
    This App chat reviews math websites and mobile apps that can strengthen basic math skills needed to play traditional family games as well as higher-level calculation skills. It avoids programs/apps that require extensive reading, include in-app purchases, or contain distracting images and/or audio that may disrupt the primary task.

Subitize Tree

Developer: Doodle Smith Ink
Website: www.doodlesmithink.com
This app provides subitizing practice using a variety of representations (e.g., dominoes, dice, fingers on hands, and playing cards). Players can choose a specific representation to practice, change the amount of time the images are displayed, and select the range of numbers used. Settings are intuitive and easy to use. The goal is for players to correctly subitize in order to free captive animals. One animal is freed for every four correct responses. Incorrect responses signal display of the correct response. 2


Developer: Division of Labor
Website: www.modmath.com
This free app provides virtual graph paper and a keyboard with numbers and math operation symbols for laying out equations and problems in all four operations with whole numbers and fractions. Intuitive settings enable contrasting rows and/or columns. After solving the problems, the user can save, print, and email completed worksheets.

Dexteria Dots—Get in Touch with Math

Website: www.dexteria.net
This is an intuitive math game that teaches the concepts of number sense, addition, subtraction, greater-than (>), and less-than (<). The user separates or combines dots to produce a value. For beginners, larger dots represent greater values, and smaller dots represent smaller values. There are three main options for gameplay, and each includes four levels. All levels have time limits. In addition, bonus dots are awarded, and most challenges have multiple solutions.

Ten Frame Fill

Developers: Mike Egan and Randy Hengst
Website: www.classroomfocusedsoftware.com
This app is designed to improve addition and subtraction skills in the family of 10. In this app, a ten frame is shown with tokens. The player is shown an addition problem and a complementary subtraction problem and asked, “How many more are needed to make 10?” The players can drag tokens of another color or touch the number for the correct response.

Word Problems

Developers: Mike Egan and Randy Hengst
Website: www.classroomfocusedsoftware.com
This app provides practice in simple math word problems requiring addition and subtraction with answers of 10 or less. The user can solve one of three types of equations. The user has the option to use virtual manipulatives to solve the problem and the option to show the number sentence.

X-tra Math.com

Website: www.xtramath.com
This free website helps users automatize computation skills in the four operations for problems related to decimals and fractions. Timed activities challenge the user to respond in at least ten seconds, but optimally in three seconds or less, with immediate feedback for slow or incorrect responses. Progress-monitoring graphs show responses of ten seconds, three seconds, and areas that require more practice.


Website: www.coolmath4kids.com
This free website calls itself an “amusement park” for math. It features kid-friendly information and engaging games using the four basic operations plus geometry art. The instructions require reading skills, and the visual layout may be distracting for some students. Tabs for both parents and teachers provide guidance, instructions, and options to select targeted activities. A related website for practicing pre-algebra and higher-level math is CoolMath (described below)


Website: www.coolmath.com
This free website is an extension of CoolMath4Kids (described above) that provides engaging games and information related to advanced math (e.g., pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, calculus), geometry art, and science. Tabs for both parents and teachers provide guidance, instructions, and options to select targeted activities.


Ramani, G. B. & Siegler, R. S. (2008). Promoting Broad and Stable Improvements in Low-Income Children’s Numerical Knowledge through Playing Number Board Games. Child Development, 79(2), 375-394.


Other Dr. Cheesman’s App Chats available:
Dr. Cheesman’s App Chat: Literacy Instruction
Dr. Cheesman’s App Chat: Spelling
Dr. Cheesman’s App Chat: Interactive Books for Kids, Teens, Adults
Dr. Cheesman’s App Chat: Holiday Gifts! (Word Games and Logic Puzzles)
Dr. Cheesman’s App Chat: Vocabulary and Morphology

Dr. Cheesman is an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. The courses she developed were among the first nine university programs officially recognized by the International Dyslexia Association for meeting the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading.

Copyright © 2014 International Dyslexia Association (IDA). Visit the IDA site: http://www.interdys.org


Orton Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ 25 Ways to Ask Your Student How Was School Today

[Note: this was from Simple Simon and Company blog at Huffington Post 8-29-14]

This year, Simon is in fourth grade and Grace is in first grade, and I find myself asking them every day after school, “So how was school today?” And every day I get an answer like “fine” or “good,” which doesn’t tell me a whole lot. AND I WANT TO KNOW A WHOLE LOT!!!! Or at least get a full sentence. So the other night, I sat down and made a list of more engaging questions to ask about school. They aren’t perfect, but I do at least get complete sentences, and some have led to some interesting conversations… and hilarious answers… and some insights into how my kids think and feel about school. 

1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)

2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.

3. If you could choose, who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?)

4. Where is the coolest place at the school?

5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today. (Or something weird that someone said.)

6. If I called your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about you?

7. How did you help somebody today?

8. How did somebody help you today?

9. Tell me one thing that you learned today.

10. When were you the happiest today?

11. When were you bored today?

12. If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?

13. Who would you like to play with at recess that you’ve never played with before?

14. Tell me something good that happened today.

15. What word did your teacher say most today?

16. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?

17. What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?

18. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?

19. Where do you play the most at recess?

20. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?

21. What was your favorite part of lunch?

22. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?

23. Is there anyone in your class who needs a time-out?

24. If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?

25. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.


***** So far, my favorite answers have come from questions 12, 15 and 21. Questions like the “alien” one give kids a non-threatening way to say who they would rather not have in their class, and open the door for you to have a discussion to ask why, potentially uncovering issues you didn’t know about before. And the answers we get are sometimes really surprising. When I asked question 3, I discovered that one of my children didn’t want to sit by a best friend in class anymore — not out of a desire to be mean or bully, but in the hope they’d get the chance to work with other people. As my kids get older, I know I am going to have to work harder and harder to stay engaged with them — but I know it’s going to be worth the work.

Source: Simple Simon and Company blog at Huffington Post 8-29-14


Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com Continue reading


by Henry L Roediger III in the New York Times

Low-stakes quizzes help us retain what we’ve learned..

TESTS have a bad reputation in education circles these days: They take time, the critics say, put students under pressure and, in the case of standardized testing, crowd out other educational priorities. But the truth is that, used properly, testing as part of an educational routine provides an important tool not just to measure learning, but to promote it.

In one study I published with Jeffrey D. Karpicke, a psychologist at Purdue, we assessed how well students remembered material they had read. After an initial reading, students were tested on some passages by being given a blank sheet of paper and asked to recall as much as possible. They recalled about 70 percent of the ideas.

Other passages were not tested but were reread, and thus 100 percent of the ideas were re-exposed. In final tests given either two days or a week later, the passages that had been tested just after reading were remembered much better than those that had been reread.

What’s at work here? When students are tested, they are required to retrieve knowledge from memory. Much educational activity, such as lectures and textbook readings, is aimed at helping students acquire and store knowledge. Various kinds of testing, though, when used appropriately, encourage students to practice the valuable skill of retrieving and using knowledge. The fact of improved retention after a quiz — called the testing effect or the retrieval practice effect — makes the learning stronger and embeds it more securely in memory.

This is vital, because many studies reveal that much of what we learn is quickly forgotten. Thus a central challenge to learning is finding a way to stem forgetting.

The question is how to structure and use tests effectively. One insight that we and other researchers have uncovered is that tests serve students best when they’re integrated into the regular business of learning and the stakes are not make-or-break, as in standardized testing. That means, among other things, testing new learning within the context of regular classes and study routines.

Students in classes with a regimen of regular low- or no-stakes quizzing carry their learning forward through the term, like compounded interest, and they come to embrace the regimen, even if they are skeptical at first. A little studying suffices at exam time — no cramming required.

Moreover, retrieving knowledge from memory is more beneficial when practice sessions are spaced out so that some forgetting occurs before you try to retrieve again. The added effort required to recall the information makes learning stronger. It also helps when retrieval practice is mixed up — whether you’re practicing hitting different kinds of baseball pitches or solving different solid geometry problems in a random sequence, you are better able later to discriminate what kind of pitch or geometry problem you’re facing and find the correct solution.

Surprisingly, researchers have also found that the most common study strategies — like underlining, highlighting and rereading — create illusions of mastery but are largely wasted effort, because they do not involve practice in accessing or applying what the students know.

When my colleagues and I took our research out of the lab and into a Columbia, Ill., middle school class, we found that students earned an average grade of A- on material that had been presented in class once and subsequently quizzed three times, compared with a C+ on material that had been presented in the same way and reviewed three times but not quizzed. The benefit of quizzing remained in a follow-up test eight months later.

Notably, Mary Pat Wenderoth, a biology professor at the University of Washington, has found that this benefit holds for women and underrepresented minorities, two groups that sometimes experience a high washout rate in fields like the sciences.

This isn’t just a matter of teaching students to be better test takers. As learners encounter increasingly complex ideas, a regimen of retrieval practice helps them to form more sophisticated mental structures that can be applied later in different circumstances. Think of the jet pilot in the flight simulator, training to handle midair emergencies. Just as it is with the multiplication tables, so it is with complex concepts and skills: effortful, varied practice builds mastery.

We need to change the way we think about testing. It shouldn’t be a white-knuckle finale to a semester’s work, but the means by which students progress from the start of a semester to its finish, locking in learning along the way and redirecting their effort to areas of weakness where more work is needed to achieve proficiency.

Standardized testing is in some respects a quest for more rigor in public education. We can achieve rigor in a different way. We can instruct teachers on the use of low-stakes quizzing in class. We can teach students the benefits of retrieval practice and how to use it in their studying outside class. These steps cost little and cultivate habits of successful learning that will serve students throughout their lives.

Henry L. Roediger III is a professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and a co-author of “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning”.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Tips for Teaching Poetry

From Poets.org:

Here are a number of creative and inexpensive suggestions for making poetry a more important part of school life during April and throughout the year.

These tips were developed with the help of the Dodge Poetry Festival, the National Council of Teachers of English, and Teachers & Writers Collaborative.


  • Meet with other teachers and local poets to talk about how to teach poetry to young people.
  • Talk with your school librarian about ordering books and creating a poetry book display.
  • Order a poetry anthology or other poetry books for your class.
  • Attend poetry readings in your community.
  • Contact your state arts council or your local literary center.
  • Reread some favorite poems.
  • Post favorite poems in faculty and staff lounges.
  • Write at least one poem before beginning a unit on poetry.


  • Begin each class with a poem by a different poet.
  • Read a poem over the public address system each morning.
  • Ask students to memorize poems and then recite them from memory.
  • Read poems aloud to your students.
  • Organize a student poetry reading the local library or bookstore.
  • Organize a Skype poetry reading where your students can interact with students from another part of the country or world.
  • Organize a field trip to a local nursing home and have students read poems to the elderly.
  • Ask each student to create his or her own anthology of favorite poems.
  • Introduce a new poetic form each week and give examples of poems that use—or reinvent—the form.
  • Have your students read and discuss the poem featured on the National Poetry Month poster.


  • Publish student poetry in your school newspaper or magazine, or on your website.
  • Publish a special anthology of student poems.
  • Create a school poem and ask each student to contribute one line.
  • Give students a list of words and ask them to create a poem using those words.
  • Invite students to write poems in response to their favorite poems (or to news stories, songs, TV shows, or artworks).
  • Encourage students to write in the voice of someone else—a parent, friend, or teacher.
  • Have your students discuss several works by a specific poet by comparing and contrasting his/her poems.
  • Hold poetry workshops where students discuss one another‘s work.
  • Have your students write short poems, put them in balloons, and set them free.
  • Have students write a poem in the style of a particular poet.
  • Create and send poetry greeting cards to celebrate National Poetry Month.
  • Have students write to their mayor to encourage an official National Poetry Month proclamation. For advice, visit www.poets.org/npm.
  • Challenge students to create a poetry notebook and write one poem per day for every day in April.

Other Activities

  • Participate in Poem In Your Pocket Day with your class. For tips, visit www.poets.org/pocket.
  • Film students reading their own poems or poems by others; encourage them to share the recordings with parents and friends. Create a YouTube channel for your class and have parents sign permission slips to allow you to post the videos on YouTube.
  • Have students give an oral report on the poet of their choice performing as the poet herself. Have the student recite some of the poet‘s work.
  • Plan a field trip to a local poetry site (a poet‘s former home, gravesite, etc.)
  • Invite local poets to your school for readings, workshops, or discussions, or ask poets from different parts of the country to talk to your class via Skype.
  • Have your class vote on 5 poems to hand out in the cafeteria.
  • Decorate the classroom or the school with illustrated poems and pictures of poets.
  • Hold a poetry exchange day with poems wrapped as gifts.
  • Encourage your local newspaper to sponsor a contest for student poets.
  • Organize a poetry contest for teachers and administrators and select students to act as judges.

Success Stories from Past Years

The schools that had the greatest success during National Poetry Month were those in which individual teachers and librarians developed creative ways of making poetry a more important and visible part of daily life in school.

  • Rye Country Day School (Rye, NY) A poem was read for the students at each morning meeting. Inspired by Pinsky‘s Favorite Poem Project, students read aloud a favorite poem and explained its significance to them. These poems were compiled in an e-text archive. In the upper classes, students created elegies based on The New York Times obituaries. The fourth grade class performed “Poetry in Motion” memorizing and acting out poems. They created a poetry wall where their poems could be displayed. They also made a “living poetry anthology” posting famous poems in various locations throughout the halls. Students’ original works were gathered into a school anthology.
  • Miss Hall‘s School (Pittheld, MA) At morning meetings attended by the entire community a different teacher opened with his/her favorite poem. Sophomores gathered poems to dedicate to a special person with personal comments about the poem directed to that person. The school sponsored a school-wide poetry contest of published poems to focus on the poetry and on oral presentation skills.
  • Charlotte, MI A residential treatment facility for juvenile offenders had a guest speaker read a favorite poem in the morning and at bedtime each day. Two residents read their own poetry at a County Board of Commissioners meeting. Residents published a book containing their poems. All guests to the facility received a copy. They held a poetry reading for members of the community and invited a local poet for a presentation and poetry workshop. Local businesses passed out poems written by residents to their customers. Customers were asked to give feedback via self-addressed stamped postcards. Placemats with residents’ poems were used at local restaurants. In this second year of activities, community members were very enthusiastic about participating in NPM.
  • United Nations International School (New York, NY)Poetry clubs meet for 20 minutes each week to discuss a chosen poem. After examining the Brueghel painting “Peasant Wedding” and reading William Carlos Williams’ poem of the same name, sixth through eighth graders studied a painting and wrote a poem about it. These were presented to the class and displayed on bulletin boards. A Poetry Café was held for the fifth grade classes. Parents decorated a classroom in the style of a French café and provided refreshments. Each student learned and recited a poem, in groups or individually. Seventh graders studied Lorde‘s “Hanging Fire” and wrote letters to the girl in the poem. Eighth graders discussed Carver‘s “In the Lobby of the Hotel Mayo” and wrote poems based on an event that changed their lives.
  • The Gillispie School (La Jolla, LA) A bulletin board of favorite poems from teachers decorated a classroom ceiling to floor. A Coco House Café allows children to come in during recess and share poetry. This started two years ago during NPM and is now so popular it occurs every month. During NPM it is held every week. Students went around the community and gave out business cards with poems typed on them.
  • A.D. Healey School (Somerville, MA) Students memorize a poem a month. On “Poetry Night” a classroom is converted into a coffee house setting and students recite the poems, staged with scenery. They do a dress rehearsal for upper grades and a performance in the evening for parents and other non-students.
  • Lincoln, RI Students brought in songs to relate to poetry themes. They posted original and favorite poems in areas where students congregate. Students composed original poetry from artwork and photographs from shared themes.
  • Centennial School (Utica, NE) Local poets shared poetry with the kindergarten, third and fourth grade classes. They handed out bookmarks with poetry printed on them and had the children create poetry using a “name game.” The children were very excited and the ones who had participated last year but couldn‘t this year requested to be involved.
  • Portland, Oregon Poems were posted in faculty restroom stalls for the fifth year. A “poetry supermarket” in class had students choose a “product” they like, read it to the class, and respond in writing to its special elements.
  • Valencia Community College (Kissimmee, FL) An Evening With the Poets allowed students to share their original poetry. Faculty members read their favorite poems and explained their choice. This is the second successful year and students are already asking for another one.
  • St. Marks Episcopal School (Houston, TX) Students in a sixth grade class each chose a poet and memorized one to three poems to recite to the class. Then they chose another poem to “teach” to the class using theme or content, structural literary devices, or forms as a basis. They wrote original odes, couplets, or free verse poems which were compiled into their own poetry book containing ten original poems.
  • Reidsville, NC At 11:00 all high school classes stopped to write poetry. Ideas for methods were supplied. Every student‘s poem was posted in the halls.
  • Mill Valley, CA Classes in a high school viewed portions of Bill Moyers The Language of Life videos. Students helped their teacher post poetry all over the school, in lockers and in faculty mailboxes. Open poetry readings were held once a week during lunch. The library created a poetry display “window” in the hallway. Freshman wrote poems and designed a Powerpoint slide show around them with animated type and artwork.

source: http://www.poets.org

Orton Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


+ Researchers at OSU Need Dyslexic Children

OSU Dept of Otolaryngology is doing some fascinating research on kids with dyslexia. Susan Nittrouer, PhD, Director of Research, asked if we could help her find some dyslexic kids.

Does your child with dyslexia have 1 1/2 hours to help out, in exchange for a t-shirt and $15?

The goal is to see how dyslexic children process sound and language features.

Sorry I don’t have Dr Nittrouer’s phone number… I will have flyers soon.

” This could be groundbreaking research, more finely tuned than the fMRI studies that show different locations of processing. COBIDA will be sending out flyers and sign-up letters to our contact list encouraging folks to contact Dr. Nittrouer’s office and volunteer. Please pass these along. Let’s get together and help some outstanding researchers help us all better understand dyslexia.” ~Dorothy Morrison, press, COBIDA

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards, 614-579-6021 or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com



+ Mindfulness vs ADHD — Daniel Goleman article

Below: Daniel Goleman’s entire article from the New York Times (5/13/14)

Which will it be — the berries or the chocolate dessert? Homework or the Xbox? Finish that memo, or roam Facebook?

Such quotidian decisions test a mental ability called cognitive control, the capacity to maintain focus on an important choice while ignoring other impulses. Poor planning, wandering attention and trouble inhibiting impulses all signify lapses in cognitive control. Now a growing stream of research suggests that strengthening this mental muscle, usually with exercises in so-called mindfulness, may help children and adults cope with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and its adult equivalent, attention deficit disorder.

The studies come amid growing disenchantment with the first-line treatment for these conditions: drugs.

In 2007, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, published a study finding that the incidence of A.D.H.D. among teenagers in Finland, along with difficulties in cognitive functioning and related emotional disorders like depression, were virtually identical to rates among teenagers in the United States. The real difference? Most adolescents with A.D.H.D. in the United States were taking medication; most in Finland were not.

“It raises questions about using medication as a first line of treatment,” said Susan Smalley, a behavior geneticist at U.C.L.A. and the lead author.

In a large study published last year in The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, researchers reported that while most young people with A.D.H.D. benefit from medications in the first year, these effects generally wane by the third year, if not sooner.

“There are no long-term, lasting benefits from taking A.D.H.D. medications,” said James M. Swanson, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, and an author of the study. “But mindfulness seems to be training the same areas of the brain that have reduced activity in A.D.H.D.”

“That’s why mindfulness might be so important,” he added. “It seems to get at the causes.”

Depending on which scientist is speaking, cognitive control may be defined as the delay of gratification, impulse management, emotional self-regulation or self-control, the suppression of irrelevant thoughts, and paying attention or learning readiness.

This singular mental ability, researchers have found, predicts success both in school and in work life.

Cognitive control increases from about 4 to 12 years old, then plateaus, said Betty J. Casey, director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College. Teenagers find it difficult to suppress their impulses, as any parent knows.

But impulsivity peaks around age 16, Dr. Casey noted, and in their 20s most people achieve adult levels of cognitive control. Among healthy adults, it begins to wane noticeably in the 70s or 80s, often manifesting as an inability to remember names or words, because of distractions that the mind once would have suppressed.

Bolstering this mental ability, specialists are now suggesting, might be particularly helpful in treating A.D.H.D. and A.D.D.

To do so, researchers are testing mindfulness: teaching people to monitor their thoughts and feelings without judgments or other reactivity. Rather than simply being carried away from a chosen focus, they notice that their attention has wandered, and renew their concentration.

According to a recent report in Clinical Neurophysiology, adults with A.D.D. were shown to benefit from mindfulness training combined with cognitive therapy; their improvements in mental performance were comparable to those achieved by subjects taking medications.

The training led to a decline in impulsive errors, a problem typical of A.D.D., while the cognitive therapy helped them be less self-judgmental about mistakes or distractedness.

Mindfulness seems to flex the brain circuitry for sustaining attention, an indicator of cognitive control, according to research by Wendy Hasenkamp and Lawrence Barsalou at Emory University.

For a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, they imaged the brains of meditators while they went through four basic mental movements: focusing on a chosen target, noticing that their minds had wandered, bringing their minds back to the target, and sustaining their focus there.

Those movements appeared to strengthen the neural circuitry for keeping attention on a chosen point of focus.

Meditation is a cognitive control exercise that enhances “the ability to self-regulate your internal distractions,” said Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco.

His research seeks to duplicate these effects with video games that “selectively target the key circuits without the kind of side effects you get with drugs.”

With colleagues, he designed NeuroRacer, a game for older adults in which they respond to traffic signs that appear suddenly while driving on a winding road. The game enhanced cognitive control in subjects ranging from 60 to 85, according to a study published in Nature.

Stephen Hinshaw, a specialist in developmental psychopathology at the University of California, Berkeley, said the time was ripe to explore the utility of nondrug interventions like mindfulness.

Dr. Swanson agreed. “I was a skeptic until I saw the data,” he said, “and the findings are promising.”

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


+ CLOSE READING: a Common Core Focus

From the very useful Keys to Literacy Newsletter:

What is “Close Reading?”  

  • Something readers do to understand high quality, challenging text
  • A process one uses to deeply comprehend
  • An intensive analysis of a text to determine what it says, how it says it, and what it means
  • Thinking about the words and ideas in the text to determine meaning (Shanahan,2012)
  • Some descriptions of close reading you may have heard:
  • Deep reading
  • Slow reading
  • Critical reading
  • Unpacking the text
  • Dissecting the text
  • Figuring out a text
  • Reading like a detective
  • Dwelling in the texts we read
  • Uncovering the information
  • Uncovering the mysteries of the text

During a close reading lesson, students and teachers repeat this cycle: read a little, think a little, talk a little, write a little.

From Common Core 2010, p.3:

“Students who meet the standards readily undertake the close, attentive reading that is at the heart of understanding and enjoying complete works of literature.”

The following reading standards relate to close reading:

# 1
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
# 2
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
# 4
Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
# 5
Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text relate to each other and the whole.

“The CCSS focus on text complexity will require students to understand the text, interpret what the author is saying and be able to support their ideas and opinions with evidence from the text. During a close reading lesson, students practice extracting meaning through careful and thorough analysis and re-analysis with a particular focus each time students return to the text.” [Meeting the Challenge of Common Core: Planning Close Reading, Tim Shanahan, 2013.]

Tips for Teaching

There is no set way to teach close reading, and there is no research showing that one particular way works best. However, there are some common characteristics of an effective close reading lesson:

  • Use of short, quality, content-based text or passages, including different genres in literature and informational text
  • Preparation of text
  • Minimal pre-reading activities
  • Multiple readings
  • Modeling through think alouds

Recommended further reading on this topic:

Boils, N. (2013). Closing in on Close Reading. Educational Leadership, 70, (4), 36-41.
Ehrenworth, M. (2013). Unlocking the Secrets of Complex Text. Educational Leadership, November 2013.
Frey, N., & Fisher, D. (2012 A). Close reading. Principal Leadership 13(5) 57-59.

Visit Keys to Literacy website at http://www.keystoliteracy.com

Orton Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com