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steps for close reading

Five Steps For Close Reading To Boost Your Student’s Vocabulary

I’m continuing this blog series on the steps of close reading. Today’s topic? Vocabulary development! We’ve all seen studies about vocabulary development in children. The more words and phrases a child knows by the age of two helps them to develop the language skills they need to be successful readers. As a mom, I tried to use conversational language with my kids to boost their vocabulary. And although parenting is HARD, this was something I think we did right. But as a teacher, I always felt like teaching vocabulary needed much more than the conversations we had in the car to and from soccer practice. My students needed more vocabulary instruction and I found it difficult to find the time. 

Steps For Close Reading Vocabulary Growth

There is a big correlation between poverty and vocabulary as well. I’m by no means wealthy and we’ve had our times where we lived paycheck to paycheck. But I know that I am fortunate to have much more than some of the families I’ve taught. I say this without an ounce of judgment, because we’re all doing our best.

steps for close reading

So what do you do when there is a vocabulary divide in your classroom? By the time your students walk through your door, they’re already five or six years old. Since vocabulary increases exponentially, they should already know over 2,000 words. Not only that, but you’ll be expecting them to learn twice as much this school year alone. 

When students are behind with vocabulary, it’s a momentous task to help them get caught up. 

When Do You Find Time To Teach Vocabulary?

steps for close reading

Ages ago, when I first started teaching, we had time built in the day for vocabulary. We also had the resources we needed. I could spend 10-15 minutes each day on 3-4 new vocabulary words. We also had vocabulary notebooks specifically designed for my kiddos to draw a picture and use the word in a sentence. 

Today, you don’t have either of those. You don’t have the time, and chances are, you don’t have the money for the notebooks or the supply of copy paper to make your own. This is a huge problem when you have so many vocabulary words to catch up on.

Using Close Reading For Vocabulary Instruction

There isn’t just one solution for this problem, but there are some things you can do to help your students understand and use new words and phrases. My favorite strategy for vocabulary development is teaching close reading. 

steps for close reading

When you teach close reading, you will see so much growth in your students. As I learned how to adapt my close reading lessons for my beginning readers, I thought I’d see more comprehension growth. And I did. But what surprised me the most was how GOOD they got at learning new words and phrases. And here’s the best part. They LOVED it. The day that we focused on new and tricky words in our close reading passages was by far their favorite day. 

Here are some suggestions to make vocabulary development fun when you follow the steps for close reading.

Steps For Close Reading For Vocabulary Activities

The first thing to do is build hype. If you are excited about learning new words, they will be too. Now would be a good time to down the coffee that’s been sitting on your desk and do a couple of jumping jacks to get the endorphins pumping because you’re going to need your energy to make this work.

I usually treated close reading like we were unlocking secrets the author left for us within the text. As we read through our close reading passage, I would pause for a moment and use my best teacher-talk voice. “Um. Hmm. I don’t know what this word is. This is a tricky word, right? Let’s circle this one because the author probably wants us to figure this word out!”

steps for close reading

A little side note: I rarely used the word “hard” when talking about words. I like the phrase “tricky words” because I found that my kids were not intimidated by something tricky. But use the word hard, and they’re like NOPE, I’M OUTTA HERE.

Use Annotation Symbols To Mark Tricky Words

Annotation is huge when it comes to close reading. Using close reading marks to show student understanding or questioning of a text gives your students ownership and responsibility for their text passages. It’s also something that you shouldn’t skip just because you think it’s over their heads. If you’d like to know more about close reading annotation with younger students, make sure to visit the blog post in this series.

steps for close reading

When you annotate the tricky words, you’re pulling them out of the passage for your students to see. You’re identifying them as important and you’re making it abundantly clear that you’ll be working through these words together. 

When you’re first beginning to teach close reading to your students, make sure you only choose one MAYBE two words. Later on in the year as they’re getting better at the vocabulary instruction steps for close reading, you can introduce more.

Cooperative Learning With Partners

Remember the example of my early years in my classroom? Sliced bread had just been invented and I was using vocabulary notebooks to teach my students new words and phrases. I was a young teacher and I really didn’t have the best classroom management skills when it came to cooperative learning. So my vocabulary instruction looked like this: 

  • The teacher tells her students what the new words are this week.
  • The teacher writes them on the board. Students write them in their notebooks.
  • Teacher gives the students new sentences to write that she comes up with all on her own.
  • A picture is drawn, but it’s a copy of what the teacher attempted to draw on the board. 

Do you see a problem here? The teacher already knows the words. When a child is developing their own vocabulary, it has to be what they understand from the words. Not what your teacher already knows. 

 

Instead, vocabulary must be student-centered. This is when partner activities come into play. Now, it can look like this:

  • Students find a partner.
  • The teacher reminds the students of the tricky word we found and asks leading questions like: “Have you ever heard this word before?”, “What does this word remind you of?” “When might we use this word today?”
  • Partners discuss the word and try to use it in their own context.

 

steps for close reading

Do you see the difference? 

Now, I’m realistic, and I know that some of my students may not be able to fully understand the new words with this one conversation. However, I know for certain that they won’t be any further along if I do all the work for them by telling them the definition.

Using Vocabulary Words In Context

When you’re teaching vocabulary steps for close reading, context is everything. The most important question you can ask is “How Can We Use This Word In Our Classroom Today?” 

During this part of your close read lesson, you can ask for volunteers or you can indeed bust out a current version of a vocabulary notebook if you’d like. I found that scratch paper or dry erase boards work just as well. You only need three instructions for this task. I’m sure they’re familiar to you, but remember, you’re not giving your understanding of the word, you’re leading them to find THEIR understanding of the word. Have your students write the word at the top. Then ask for volunteers to come up with their own sentences with the vocabulary words. It’s okay if you write the sentences out so struggling writers can successfully complete the task. After that, make sure to encourage your students to draw a picture of their sentences. If you’d like to model this as well, I think that’s acceptable, but remember that teacher talk during your picture as you’re deciding what to draw. 

Later in the year, your students will need less modeling from you as they complete this task. You will be amazed at their growth.

steps for close reading

During this part of your close read lesson, you can ask for volunteers. Or, if you found a vocabulary journal you like, bust it out. I found that scratch paper or dry erase boards work just as well.

You only need three instructions for this task. I’m sure they’re familiar to you, but remember, you’re not giving your understanding of the word, you’re leading them to find THEIR understanding of the word.

 

Have your students write the word at the top. Then ask for volunteers to come up with their own sentences with the vocabulary words. It’s okay if you write the sentences out so struggling writers can successfully complete the task. After that, make sure to encourage your students to draw a picture of their sentences. If you’d like to model this as well, I think that’s acceptable, but remember that teacher talk during your picture as you’re deciding what to draw. 

Later in the year, your students will need less modeling from you as they complete this task. You will be amazed at their growth.

Celebrate Your Vocabulary Victories

You’re not done just yet. Remember that hype we talked about? It’s time to bring that back because you’re going to want to celebrate the words you’ve learned! You can do this in several different ways, and it’s great to mix things up to keep your celebrations fresh. 

Sometimes, I would have my students write their words on their dry erase boards and we’d have a parade through the school. Helpful hint: make sure you mass email your staff so they know to stop your kiddos and ask about their new words.

Other times, we would decorate posters with our new words and hang them in the hallway so it’s the first thing they would see in the morning as they arrived. 

I think my favorite was to make vocabulary stickers. I inherited a bunch of random things from a teacher friend of mine who retired. One of the best items was a whole box of printer labels. Again, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I began teaching and printers were a bit, well… different. Anyway… I had thousands of printer labels that did not fit in a laser printer, so we used them for vocabulary. I would bust out the fun markers that I was too stingy to let my students use on a daily basis, and we make stickers based on our new words. 

Then, my kiddos would wear the stickers home for their family to see!

Teaching vocabulary doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems. When you incorporate close reading with your vocabulary instruction, I think you’ll find a great deal of success. 

Good luck!

steps for close reading

This FREE guide will teach you the close reading strategies that will make a close read lesson successful.

As an elementary teacher, it’s hard to adapt close reading successfully for younger readers. I didn’t have a manual when I began, but I wish I had an easier start. So I wanted to give teachers like you a head start when you’re teaching close reading to beginning readers.

With this free guide, you’ll know what to do to keep your kiddos engaged all week.

You will learn what supplies and materials you need for a successful close reading lesson. You’ll learn what to do on each day during your week of close reading. This was another struggle for me.
I read through the text passage with my students, NOW WHAT? 

You’ll have vocabulary ideas to boost your students’ mastery of words and phrases, imagine how great it would be to have time for vocabulary instruction! I’ll show you how it works!

Comprehension is hard for younger readers. They learn to decode words and now they have to understand what everything together means too?

With how much we have to teach in a week, the idea of “Fun Fridays” went out the window years ago. At least it did for me. I didn’t have time to do the fun crafts and activities that first-graders love and frankly deserve to do! I always thought this was so sad, and I wanted to bring it back somehow. So I devoted the last day of close reading to a fun extension activity about the topic of our close reading passage. I’ll show you how to find time for a fun activity, where your students are still learning in the FREE guide for close reading!

I also added the best classroom management tips I used during our close reading week, so you can actually teach your students, rather than correcting unwanted behavior or trying to keep your kiddos attention.

And best of all? I’ve added two close reading passages WITH lesson plans to get you started.

When you download the FREE Guide For Teaching Close Reading To Younger Readers, you’ll learn:

  • How to teach your students to annotate.
  • Which supplies you need and which ones you don’t!
  • What you need to know about the best reading passages for close reading.
  • What to teach on each day of a close reading week.
  • How to improve your student’s vocabulary with close reading.
  • Techniques to improve your student’s reading comprehension skills.
  • Extension activities that take the topic of your close reading passage further.
  • Classroom management during close reading, including partner activities and effective transitions.

You’ll also get two close reading text passages with TWO WEEKS of lesson plans! 

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Rachael Hull

Rachael Hull

Teaching literacy and facilitating literacy stations has been a passion of Rachael's and she wants to help you gain confidence in your classroom!

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