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December 5, 2014 Close Reading Using How the Grinch Stole Christmas By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    Close, analytic reading stresses engaging directly with a text of sufficient complexity directly and examining its meaning thoroughly and methodically, encouraging students to read and reread deliberately. Directing student attention on the text itself empowers students to understand the central ideas and key supporting details. It also enables students to reflect on the meanings of individual words and sentences; the order in which sentences unfold: and the development of ideas over the course of the text, which ultimately leads students to arrive at an understanding of the text as a whole.” (PARCC, 2011, "Structure of the Model Content Frameworks for ELA/Literacy")

    Simply put, close reading is a deeper examining/analyzing of a text through purposeful rereading. This type of reading works well with short stories, articles, and picture books. 

    Last year I attended a workshop on close reading, and was recently asked to give a presentation about what I learned there. As I was preparing, I said to myself, "Rhonda, you should write your next post on what you are presenting.” With that in mind, I went into overdrive. I began to think how I could make my presentation interesting and timely/seasonal. I had to dig deep. I struggle with the creative, artsy angle in the classroom. It takes me awhile. This is why I am so grateful for my colleagues who I turn to for help with ideas to take what is done in literacy and give it a creative edge.

    For my presentation, I decided to demonstrate close reading using the Dr. Seuss book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Brilliant, right? Cute and clever are also adjectives that come to mind. I was so excited about this idea that I decided to try this out in my classroom. The story fit into the themes of our current curriculum. In writing workshop, we are working on our literary essays. For reading workshop, we are examining social issues.

    Writing Workshop — Literary Essay Themes Reading Workshop — Social Issues          
    Intolerance of others Honesty
    Celebrations are much more than material things Crime
    Rights of the individual vs. rights of the group Loneliness
    Forgiveness for a wrongdoing Housing


    Preparing For Close Reading in the Classroom

    (Please note: For close reading, each student should have a copy of the sharing reading text available for multiple readings and for annotating. I did a quick survey to see how many students were familiar with the story. Based on the results, I decided not to get copies of the entire book for my class. Instead, I just copied and enlarged certain pages of the book. )

    Materials needed:

    A copy of the book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

    Printed copies of the text. (This is so students can work in groups or partnerships to annotate the text. I enlarged the pages to make it easier for the students to work.)

    Close Reading in Action

    It never ceases to amaze me how much middle school students love to be read to. I called my students to the reading area in the rear of the classroom for a read aloud of the story. They were a captive audience, hanging on to every word. This is such a teacher moment: students being able to enjoy a story — PRICELESS!

    After the reading, we discussed what we noticed in the text. I set the purpose for the close reading. We were rereading to understand the Grinch’s emotions and character change from the beginning to the end of the story. Students were given certain pages of the story to reread and annotate with a partner. I was able to circulate around the classroom and listen into the discussions that my students were engaged in. Students participated in a sharing of their ideas and listened to the feedback of their classmates. What a great way to welcome in the month of December!

      Pearls of Wisdom — Create a positive affirmation statement for yourself to ward off the negative Nellies. A smile and a positive attitude go a long way to keeping the stress levels at a minimum especially during the holiday season.


    I would like to thank my team member, Jen, for sharing her Grinches with me! She is the guru of all things Grinch.




    For more in-depth information and resources on close reading, please check out Genia Connell’s post "Investigating Nonfiction Part 2: Digging Deeper With Close Reading."

    Do you have any ideas that work well with close reading? As always, please share! I enjoy sharing ideas that make our lives easier.


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Susan Cheyney