Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Using Digital Technology to Complement Close Reading of Complex Texts

Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Using Digital Technology to Complement Close Reading of Complex Texts

Article excerpt

As we work to implement Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010) in our English language arts courses we must reconsider the ways in which we engage our students in literacy and the ways we approach texts with our students. The Common Core requires students to be able to read and comprehend increasingly complex texts. One way we can facilitate students' development of the skills required to meet these new demands of text complexity is through close reading. Close reading is "an instructional practice that makes complex texts accessible using repeated reading, cognitive scaffolding, and discussion" (Fisher & Frey, 2014a, p. 35). Through instruction in close reading, students can develop the stamina and skills necessary to engage with complex texts on their own. Instruction in close reading is achieved through using short but complex texts, engaging students in repeated readings and annotation of the texts, decreasing the amount of background we activate for students before reading, asking students text-dependent questions, and engaging students in argumentation around the text (Boyle, 2013; Fisher & Frey, 2012; 2014b).

Engaging students in close reading of short texts allows us to focus on the reading skills that the Common Core State Standards for reading literature and informational text are meant to develop. For instance, if we consider the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010, p. 35) we see that many of the standards can be addressed through close reading strategies. The practice of repeated readings, annotation of texts, and asking text dependent questions can facilitate students' abilities to meet the standards for "Key Ideas and Details," such as reading closely to determine what the text says both explicitly and implicitly as well as citing specific textual evidence to support claims made from the text, determining main ideas and analyzing their development through the text, summarizing supporting details, and analyzing how ideas develop throughout a text. Repeated readings, annotation of texts, and asking text dependent questions can also facilitate students' abilities to meet the standards for "Craft and Structure," such as interpreting the meaning of words and phrases in the text, analyzing text structures and assessing point of view and author's purpose in a text. Finally, we can meet the standards for "Integration of Knowledge and Ideas," such as integrating and evaluating information presented through diverse media, evaluating the argument and claims in a text, and analyzing multiple texts on a similar theme through engaging students in both oral and written argumentation around texts.

The Common Core State Standards also establishes the importance of students in grades K-12 using digital sources to access information as well as technology to produce and publish writing (Common Core State Initiative, 2010, p. 41). In this article, we argue that instruction in close reading of complex texts can be complemented by the use of digital technology through the use of digital texts, digital tools to scaffold close reading of print and digital texts, and the use of digital writing to allow students to demonstrate what they have learned through their close reading experiences. We bring to this work our experiences as classroom teachers, university instructors of preservice and inservice teachers, and digital literacy researchers to share the digital resources that show the most promise for complementing close reading and scaffolding students' learning to meet the literacy demands of the Common Core State Standards.

Choosing Digital Texts

Research has shown that reading online requires students to develop complex skills in applying background knowledge, using inferential reading strategies, and self-regulating their reading processes (Coiro & Dobler, 2007). In fact, in a recent article published in The New Yorker on the differences in print vs. …

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