Academic journal article Language Arts

Close Reading of Informational Texts: Assessment-Driven Instruction in Grades 3-8

Academic journal article Language Arts

Close Reading of Informational Texts: Assessment-Driven Instruction in Grades 3-8

Article excerpt

Close Reading of Informational Texts: Assessment-Driven Instruction in Grades 3-8 by Sunday Cummins, Guilford, 2013, 194 pp., ISBN 978-1-4625-0781-8 (paperback)

Across the school day, in a multitude of exchanges, how we engage students orally shapes how students see themselves and how they become strategically oriented independent learners. (p. 31)

Informational texts are becoming increasingly significant in today's classrooms. In her book, Sunday Cummins illustrates ways to support students' close reading of these texts through lessons, assessments, student work samples, and vignettes of teacher language. She proposes that teachers should engage readers during an instructional cycle that includes teaching to students' needs and assessing their understanding. Cummins encourages teachers to be mindful of their language in order to promote autonomous readers. She advocates for teachers to personalize instruction in a "community of practice that endeavors to co-construct knowledge about reading, writing, listening, and speaking." Such a community holds potential for students to "internalize what they need to do to read, understand, and communicate effectively" (p. 31).

Drawing on sociocultural learning theories, Cummins presents readers with ideas surrounding the instruction of close reading with the premise that knowledge is continually constructed through social interactions. For instance, teachers make visible their thinking through interactive readalouds or through personal conferences to promote social interactions needed to construct meaning from texts. Cummins posits that close reading results when readers determine how important details fit together to logically convey the author's central idea(s) or theme(s). She maintains that close reading is an essential skill "for our students to cultivate in a world where they are constantly bombarded with information they need to understand in order to be active participants in society" (p. 1).

Cummins frames the book around several fundamental points regarding instruction of informational texts: teaching for close reading is essential to create pathways for critical thinking; students experience more success with close reading when lessons are naturally integrated into content-area learning; an assessment-driven, systematic approach to teaching provides students scaffolding and rigor that supports them as learners; and progressively building students' literacy skills sustains their growth as close readers. …

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