Close Reading and Dialogue Studies

“Close reading” is all the buzz these days, and there are so many important skills and strategies that can be addressed doing a “close read” of a text.  That being said, I do think we need to be very careful that we don’t “kill” reading by over-analyzing everything we read!

I do want to share an activity we did the other day that I feel was JUST the right amount of close reading!  We are just finishing our read aloud, “Eight Keys”–and the kids are just loving it!  We have been getting to know the main character, Elise, very well and have been paying attention to how Elise acts, feels, and what she says.

As we finished reading a chapter today, I made a copy of a page that I thought was particularly interesting (a page I had already read TO them) and I partnered the students up to go “hunting”.  I asked them to use their highlighter to highlight all words that were spoken aloud.  We have been talking on and off all year about dialogue and that authors use dialogue to give the reader insight as to character feelings.  I have recently been noticing some deeper thinking about what characters have been DOING so I wanted to see if the students could think deeply about what they are SAYING.  They highlighted the dialogue (I circulated to make sure all partners understood how the quotation marks showed this, etc) and then I asked them to “star” any words spoken that they felt helped further the story.  I then asked them to write their thinking in the margins.

We came back as a whole class and talked about how some of the dialogue helped us know what the characters were doing–but some of it really helped us get to know their thoughts and feelings.  Once I was sure they understood the process, I sent them off to tr it again with the next two pages of the text that we had not yet read.  I reminded them that they might need to read and reread as they hunted for important dialogue.
This time they had a real purpose for reading–we were at a very important part of the book with a critical discussion between two characters.  I was so impressed with some of the discussion I heard with some of my pairs!  They were really using the text to make inferences about Elise and her friend.
We came back together and shared out and we were able to again stress that dialogue is one way authors “show” us what they need to!  Our next step?  To dig in deeper to our book club books and have students hunt for critical dialogue and to write about it!  The whole lesson?  Less than 20 minutes start to finish!  Have a great day–another winter storm coming my way. UGH!