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December 10, 2015

Close Reading With Favorite Holiday Songs and Books

By Genia Connell
Grades 3–5

    Over the years, I've always felt those few short weeks sandwiched between Thanksgiving and winter break bring with them some of the most challenging conditions under which we teach. While I'm trying to stay focused on curriculum to get the most out of a calendar packed with special programs, celebrations, and sing-alongs, my students are anything but focused! I'm teaching reading strategies and algorithms, and they're mentally counting down to vacation while visions of sugarplums dance in their heads. Times like these call for a bit of creative license in the classroom. In order to meet goals and objectives, and keep the students' attention, one of my favorite activities at this time of year combines the best of both worlds — close reading with favorite holiday songs, poems, and stories.

     

    The Power of Holiday Music in Close Reading

    In a culturally diverse school like mine, I've discovered festive holiday music is the tie that binds all of us together at this time of year. No matter your background, every third-grader loves singing along to the classics. Additionally, many songs are perfect for close reading because the text is normally short and students have some familiarity with it.

    I've also discovered along the way that when students are thinking about holiday parties or a looming two-week long vacation, they are not necessarily eager to tackle deep thinking activities. That all seems to change, however, when the song sheets come out in reader's workshop. When I first began using holiday songs as part of my instruction, not only were my students focused and engaged, they were begging to study new songs every day! My students were able to keep their minds on their work while they analyzed lyrics to songs, and words to poems and stories they had never given more than a superficial thought to.  

     

    How to Get Started

    Close reading involves students analyzing text in several re-readings in order to discover key ideas and details, author's craft and structure before they are able to synthesize what they have read with other texts along with their schematic background. To get an idea of how I use songs as part of this process, read my post from last year, "Use Popular Music to Improve Reading and Inspire Writing," in which I outline the steps I use to have my students make meaning out of lyrics they have heard before, but may have never really thought deeply about.

    To summarize the steps I follow:

    Close Reading With Favorite Holiday Songs and Books

    • Have students listen to the song without seeing the lyrics. If you own the song, you could play it off your phone or a CD; I frequently play it off of YouTube, letting my kids hear the sound only.

    • After listening to the song, students write down the name of the song in the first column, what they think the song is about in the middle column, and what they are wondering or curious about in the last column. They discuss what they’ve written down with their turn-and-talk partners.

    • Before listening to the song a second time, I tell my students, “This time your goal is to listen for . . . ” and I’ll share the objective such as the song’s theme, purpose, lesson, words you can visualize, etc.

    • After listening a second time, students complete the next row of the I Hear, Think, Wonder sheet, then talk over their findings with their partner once again. If time allows, they listen a third time. When the song is played multiple times, my students start listening more carefully, and it's very common to see them experience those a-ha moments.

    ​Close Reading With Favorite Holiday Songs and Books

    Close Reading With Favorite Holiday Songs and Books

    • The next day, we revisit the song, except this time students have a sheet of the lyrics that I’ve copied for them. Whenever I ask them what they notice about the lyrics my students always seem to be amazed that the song looks exactly like a poem.

    Close Reading with Holiday Songs and BooksClose Reading With Favorite Holiday Songs and Books

    • Using the holiday-inspired version of my Close Reading sheet below, my students read through the songs with their reading partners three times. They share what they have learned on the I Read, Think, Understand sheet which I’ve copied onto the back of the I Hear, Think, Wonder sheet, all of which can be downloaded and printed by clicking on the image below. 

    Close Reading with Holiday Songs and Books

    Close Reading with Holiday Songs and Books

    • Finally, students use the lyric sheet to answer some text dependent questions. For my third graders, this part of our close reading routine just may be the most beneficial as they need to use evidence from what they have read in order to respond. 

    Close Reading with Holiday Songs and Books

    Download and print my lyrics and questions for:

    "Winter Wonderland"

    "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"

    Tips for Writing Text-Dependent Questions

    When writing text-dependent questions for my students to answer, I frequently include sentence stems such as:

    • What key ideas can you take away from the story?

    • What specific examples from the text support the main idea?

    • Retell the story. What is the song about?

    • What were the major events in the song?

    • What did the author do to show the reader____?

    • How did the author help you understand/visualize the story?

    • What might have happened if_____?

    Tips for Choosing Songs

    Ideally, close reading should be done with complex text. When looking for songs to use with my class, I look for lyrics with more sophisticated vocabulary and a storyline that leaves my students pondering.  When you consider a song to use with your class, ask yourself if the text:

    • Tells a story that students can relate to and understand after several readings.

    • Offers new ideas that will leave your students thinking of the song in a different way.

    • Follows familiar language conventions and text structure.

    • Includes interesting vocabulary and word choices.

    • Is an appropriate reading level for you class.

    Songs I've Tried:

     

    Try Close Reading with Holiday Books

    If close reading with books instead of songs is more your style, choose your favorite holiday story or poem and use the same strategies I shared above. A few organizers you may like to use with your books are below.

    Close Reading with Holiday Songs and Books

    More on Close Reading

    If you are not familiar with close reading techniques, read my post "Digging Deeper With Close Reading" where I share the basics of close reading instruction.  

    Also, be sure to check out Rhonda Stewart's post on "Close Reading Using How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

    Other holiday resources from Scholastic:

     

    And please accept this 25 percent off offer from The Scholastic Store. Just click on the coupon and use the promo code!

    Over the years, I've always felt those few short weeks sandwiched between Thanksgiving and winter break bring with them some of the most challenging conditions under which we teach. While I'm trying to stay focused on curriculum to get the most out of a calendar packed with special programs, celebrations, and sing-alongs, my students are anything but focused! I'm teaching reading strategies and algorithms, and they're mentally counting down to vacation while visions of sugarplums dance in their heads. Times like these call for a bit of creative license in the classroom. In order to meet goals and objectives, and keep the students' attention, one of my favorite activities at this time of year combines the best of both worlds — close reading with favorite holiday songs, poems, and stories.

     

    The Power of Holiday Music in Close Reading

    In a culturally diverse school like mine, I've discovered festive holiday music is the tie that binds all of us together at this time of year. No matter your background, every third-grader loves singing along to the classics. Additionally, many songs are perfect for close reading because the text is normally short and students have some familiarity with it.

    I've also discovered along the way that when students are thinking about holiday parties or a looming two-week long vacation, they are not necessarily eager to tackle deep thinking activities. That all seems to change, however, when the song sheets come out in reader's workshop. When I first began using holiday songs as part of my instruction, not only were my students focused and engaged, they were begging to study new songs every day! My students were able to keep their minds on their work while they analyzed lyrics to songs, and words to poems and stories they had never given more than a superficial thought to.  

     

    How to Get Started

    Close reading involves students analyzing text in several re-readings in order to discover key ideas and details, author's craft and structure before they are able to synthesize what they have read with other texts along with their schematic background. To get an idea of how I use songs as part of this process, read my post from last year, "Use Popular Music to Improve Reading and Inspire Writing," in which I outline the steps I use to have my students make meaning out of lyrics they have heard before, but may have never really thought deeply about.

    To summarize the steps I follow:

    Close Reading With Favorite Holiday Songs and Books

    • Have students listen to the song without seeing the lyrics. If you own the song, you could play it off your phone or a CD; I frequently play it off of YouTube, letting my kids hear the sound only.

    • After listening to the song, students write down the name of the song in the first column, what they think the song is about in the middle column, and what they are wondering or curious about in the last column. They discuss what they’ve written down with their turn-and-talk partners.

    • Before listening to the song a second time, I tell my students, “This time your goal is to listen for . . . ” and I’ll share the objective such as the song’s theme, purpose, lesson, words you can visualize, etc.

    • After listening a second time, students complete the next row of the I Hear, Think, Wonder sheet, then talk over their findings with their partner once again. If time allows, they listen a third time. When the song is played multiple times, my students start listening more carefully, and it's very common to see them experience those a-ha moments.

    ​Close Reading With Favorite Holiday Songs and Books

    Close Reading With Favorite Holiday Songs and Books

    • The next day, we revisit the song, except this time students have a sheet of the lyrics that I’ve copied for them. Whenever I ask them what they notice about the lyrics my students always seem to be amazed that the song looks exactly like a poem.

    Close Reading with Holiday Songs and BooksClose Reading With Favorite Holiday Songs and Books

    • Using the holiday-inspired version of my Close Reading sheet below, my students read through the songs with their reading partners three times. They share what they have learned on the I Read, Think, Understand sheet which I’ve copied onto the back of the I Hear, Think, Wonder sheet, all of which can be downloaded and printed by clicking on the image below. 

    Close Reading with Holiday Songs and Books

    Close Reading with Holiday Songs and Books

    • Finally, students use the lyric sheet to answer some text dependent questions. For my third graders, this part of our close reading routine just may be the most beneficial as they need to use evidence from what they have read in order to respond. 

    Close Reading with Holiday Songs and Books

    Download and print my lyrics and questions for:

    "Winter Wonderland"

    "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"

    Tips for Writing Text-Dependent Questions

    When writing text-dependent questions for my students to answer, I frequently include sentence stems such as:

    • What key ideas can you take away from the story?

    • What specific examples from the text support the main idea?

    • Retell the story. What is the song about?

    • What were the major events in the song?

    • What did the author do to show the reader____?

    • How did the author help you understand/visualize the story?

    • What might have happened if_____?

    Tips for Choosing Songs

    Ideally, close reading should be done with complex text. When looking for songs to use with my class, I look for lyrics with more sophisticated vocabulary and a storyline that leaves my students pondering.  When you consider a song to use with your class, ask yourself if the text:

    • Tells a story that students can relate to and understand after several readings.

    • Offers new ideas that will leave your students thinking of the song in a different way.

    • Follows familiar language conventions and text structure.

    • Includes interesting vocabulary and word choices.

    • Is an appropriate reading level for you class.

    Songs I've Tried:

     

    Try Close Reading with Holiday Books

    If close reading with books instead of songs is more your style, choose your favorite holiday story or poem and use the same strategies I shared above. A few organizers you may like to use with your books are below.

    Close Reading with Holiday Songs and Books

    More on Close Reading

    If you are not familiar with close reading techniques, read my post "Digging Deeper With Close Reading" where I share the basics of close reading instruction.  

    Also, be sure to check out Rhonda Stewart's post on "Close Reading Using How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

    Other holiday resources from Scholastic:

     

    And please accept this 25 percent off offer from The Scholastic Store. Just click on the coupon and use the promo code!

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