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Close reading strategy #1

Learning goals

  • Unpack and analyze features of the text, including understanding complex sentence structures.

  • Show how meaning can be determined by context.

  • Understand when the author is speaking rhetorically, using a metaphor, or an analogy.  


Use a highlighter to highlight words whose definitions you don’t know.

How do you know if you really understand a word’s meaning? You can clearly explain what  it means to someone else, in a complete sentence, without using that word.

On a separate piece of paper, write each highlighted word. Without looking them up in a dictionary, try to figure out what it means by context, and write what you think the definition is.

Read the sentence in italics, and notice the bold-faced word.  In this sentence, what is the purpose of the boldfaced word?  Write your answer on your separate sheet of paper.

Now use a dictionary to look up the meaning of the boldfaced words. Compare the dictionary definition to the one you inferred through context


Understanding how hibernators, including ground squirrels, marmots and bears, survive their long winter’s naps may one day offer solutions for problems such as heart disease, osteoporosis and muscular dystrophy.


Nearly everything about the way an animal’s body works changes when it hibernates, and preparations start weeks or months in advance. The first order of business is to fatten up. “Fat is where it’s at for a hibernator,” says Matthew Andrews, a molecular biologist at the University of Minnesota Duluth who studies 13-lined ground squirrels. “You bring your own lunch with you.”


Packing lunch is necessary because the animals go on the world’s strictest diet during the winter, surviving entirely off their white fat. “They have their last supper in October; they don’t eat again until March,” Andrews says.

Bigger fat stores mean a greater chance of surviving until spring. “If they go in really chunky, nice and roly-poly, that’s going to be a good hibernator,” he says. Bears also watch their waistlines expand in the months before settling in for the season. The brown bears that cardiologist Ole Fröbert studies pack on the pounds by chowing down on up to 40 kilograms of blueberries a day. Such gluttony among humans could have severe consequences: Obesity is associated with a greater risk of heart attack and diabetes, among other ailments.

To see how fattening up affects Scandinavian brown bears, Fröbert and his colleagues ventured into the wilds of Sweden following signals given off by radio transmitters or GPS devices on tagged bears.

Bears can be dangerous close-up. Even hibernating bears can rouse to action quickly, so

scientists tracking down bears in the winter use darts to tranquilize the animals from a distance. Scientists studying the bears in the summer tranquilize them from a helicopter.


Once a bear is under the tranquilizer’s influence (which takes about five minutes), the scientists have 60 minutes max to get the animal from its den, weigh and measure it, draw blood samples and do minor surgeries to collect fat and other tissues. The bear is returned to its den by minute 61.

Precious materials collected during this high-pressure encounter need to be analyzed within 24 hours, so the researchers often test for levels of cholesterol or certain proteins in the blood while working in the snow or at a nearby research station.  A pilot sometimes flies samples from field sites to a lab in Denmark in order to meet the deadline, Fröbert says. Samples such as bones and arteries that can’t be collected from live bears come from bears killed by hunters during the legal hunting season.

Recent analyses revealed that Scandinavian brown bears spend the summer with plasma cholesterol levels considered high for humans; those values then increase substantially for hibernation, Fröbert and his colleagues reported. These “very, very fat” bears with high cholesterol also get zero exercise during hibernation. Lolling about in the den pinches off blood vessels, contributing to sluggish circulation.

“That cocktail would not be advisable in humans,” Fröbert says. It’s a recipe for hardened arteries, putting people at risk for heart attacks and strokes. Even healthy young adult humans can develop fatty streaks in their arteries that make the blood vessels less flexible, but the bears don’t build up such artery-hardening streaks. “Our bears, they had nothing,” Fröbert says.

It’s not yet clear how the bears keep their arteries flexible, but Fröbert hopes to find some protective molecule that could stave off hardened arteries in humans as well.


Note taking skills

Three main ways to take notes: Cornell notes, Guided notes & Harvard notes

James Kennedy Annotated notebook

No one note-taking system is always best. The type of notes that helps one the most depends on the subject and material.


Cornell Notes

A systematic format for condensing and organizing notes. The student divides the paper into two columns: the note-taking column (usually on the right) is twice the size of the questions/key word column (on the left). The student should leave five to seven lines, or about two in (5 cm), at the bottom of the page.

Notes from a class are written in the note-taking column; they consist of the main ideas; long ideas are paraphrased. Long sentences are avoided; symbols or abbreviations are used instead. To assist with future reviews, relevant questions (which should be recorded as soon as possible so that the lecture and questions will be fresh in the student’s mind) or key words are written in the key word column.

Within 24 hours of taking the notes, the student must revise and write questions, and then write a brief summary in the bottom five to seven lines of the page. This helps to increase understanding of the topic.

When reviewing the material, the student can cover the note-taking (right) column while attempting to answer the questions/keywords in the key word or cue (left) column.
_ Wikipedia

The Cornell Note Taking system (2 page PDF file)


Guided Notes

“Sometimes lecturers may provide handouts of guided notes, which provide a “map” of the lecture content with key points or ideas missing. Students then fill in missing items as the lecture progresses. Guided notes may assist students in following lectures and identifying the most important ideas from a lecture. This format provides students with a framework, yet requires active listening (as opposed to providing copies of powerpoint slides in their entirety). Research has shown that guided notes improve students’ recording of critical points in lecture as well as their quiz scores on related content.” – Wikipedia

Example of guided notes for a biology class:

Guided notes


Harvard Notes

This is a very well organized and common note-taking system. When taking notes from a book or lecture:
 Write down the main idea of at least every other paragraph.
 Use phrases, not complete sentences
 Where you have a I, you have to have a II; where you have an A, you have to
have a B
 You don’t need sub ideas


Harvard notes

Image from hicksvillepublicschools.org, note taking systems.



Here is a example from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Center for College and Student Success, note-taking methods.

Harvard outline example


Related articles

For Note Taking, Low-Tech is Often Best; In college lecture halls, evidence suggests it’s time to put down the laptop and pick up a pen. By Susan Dynarski

Wikipedia text is from “Note-taking.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 5 Mar. 2018.

Distinguishing Fact, Opinion, Belief, and Prejudice

Adapted from: Fowler, H. Ramsey. The Little, Brown Handbook. Boston: Little, Brown, 1986



are verifiable things that really occurred, or are actually true. We can determine whether it is true by researching, by examining evidence. This may involve numbers, dates, testimony, etc. (Ex.: “World War II ended in 1945.”) The truth of the fact is beyond argument if the measuring devices, or records, or memories, are correct. Facts provide crucial support for the assertion of an argument.

In science, a fact is a repeatable careful measurement (by experimentation or other means), also called empirical evidence. – Wikipedia

In history, a historical fact is a fact about the past. It answers the very basic question, “What happened?” Yet beyond merely listing the events in chronological order, historians try to discover why events happened, what circumstances contributed to their cause, what subsequent effects they had. – Norman Schulz

Facts by themselves are meaningless until we put them in context, draw conclusions, and, thus give them meaning.


are judgments based on facts. Opinions should be an honest attempt to draw a reasonable conclusion from factual evidence.

For example, we know that millions of people go without proper medical care, and so you form the opinion that the country should institute national health insurance even though it would cost billions of dollars.

An opinion should be changeable: in science, we are actually supposed to change our views if we have new evidence

By themselves, opinions have little power to convince. You must let your reader know what your evidence is, and how it led you to arrive at your opinion.


are convictions based on cultural or personal faith, morality, or values. Statements such as “Capital punishment is legalized murder” express viewpoints, but are not based on facts or evidence. They cannot be disproved. Since beliefs are inarguable, they cannot serve as the thesis of a formal argument.

There is nothing wrong with having beliefs – we all have them. But we should be careful to distinguish between opinions and beliefs – or clearly explain to the reader what our view is, and what is based on. – RK


are half-baked opinions based on insufficient or unexamined evidence. (Example “Most women are bad drivers.”)  Unlike a belief, a prejudice is testable: it can be analyzed on the basis of facts.

To some extent, all people form some prejudices or accept them from others–family, friends, the media, etc.–without testing their truth. At best, prejudices are oversimplifications. At worst, they reflect a narrow-minded view of the world. They are not likely to win the confidence or agreement of your readers.


Here are the classic Greek philosophers, who developed rationalist philosophy: a critical, systematic system – reasoned argument – to distinguish between facts, beliefs and opinions.


Good writing and avoiding plagiarism

What are the most common types of plagiarism?

10 most common types of plagiarism

From “Avoiding Plagiarism”, Sparta Middle School Media Center, Sparta, NJ

How do you know if you are plagiarizing?

Infographic plagiarisim by EasyBib


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This section is from Avoiding Plagiarism, MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing. content is free for reuse under a CC Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Reasons to Avoid Intentional Plagiarism

There are numerous reasons why people plagiarize…But there are better reasons for not plagiarizing.

  1. If you do have writing problems, identifying them early will give you plenty of opportunity to improve your skills.
  2. You will engage with the ideas and thus deepen your own critical thinking and writing skills.
  3. You will add authority to what you write by citing sources.
  4. You will learn to question all ideas. Simply using the ideas of others prevents us from questioning or judging ideas, and this approach can lead to a willingness to accept ideas without question (a profoundly dangerous thing to do in any profession or society).
  5. Without struggling to understand, interpret, and argue with ideas, your own ideas never develop fully, and you will tend to see issues superficially.
  6. You will learn to voice your own ideas.
  7. You will avoid the penalties of plagiarism if you get caught.

Advantages to Citing Sources

  • You allow your readers to locate the sources of your information in case they want to pursue it in their own research. After all, in the academic and professional worlds, your research becomes part of the ongoing intellectual conversation about ideas. We all stand on the shoulders of earlier researchers, and we all hope that others will stand upon our shoulders in the future.
    1. An obvious illustration of this standing-on-the-shoulders-of-others is found in technical and scientific writing. Procedures and methods sections of technical and scientific articles and laboratory reports provide readers with information sufficient to replicate both the method and data described in the document. That information is provided not only so that our results can be verified but also so that others might refine our methods or build upon them to make even more discoveries.
    2. For documents in any field, quotations provide evidence for our assertions and ideas for us to argue against. Citations show our willingness to have our interpretations of those other works verified.
    3. For longer papers in other fields, literature reviews provide the intellectual context for understanding our contribution to that ongoing conversation about ideas.
  • Your ethos (your credibility) is profoundly enhanced when you cite your sources. Doing so proves that you are well informed about the topic and that your work can be trusted to be accurate. Doing so also proves that you are honest.

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The following section is from What Is Plagiarism, And Why Does It Matter?, by Michelle Waters, on rethinkela.com

Students who commit plagiarism do so for a variety of reasons, which mainly fall into the following categories: Intentional and unintentional.

Intentional Plagiarism

Intentional plagiarizers typically struggled with time management, a lack of academic integrity, or pressure to achieve better scores than normally possible. Students may also have a blase attitude towards plagiarism, thinking that everyone else does it without being caught and that they should be able to do so, as well. This may be because some teachers do not teach and enforce their school’s plagiarism policy.


The Victim’s Perspective

This may have been the situation when students in a Canadian high school plagiarized my web design work. Before I became a teacher, I founded and managed a web design and hosting company. One of my clients, the owner of a Massachusetts bakery, contacted me one day to report that she found a website using her graphics. Not only did the web designers steal the design that she had purchased from me, they also hotlinked her graphics (which is how she found the plagiarizers).

I researched the site and discovered that it had been built by high school students in Toronto, who wanted to advertise an upcoming bake sale for their business class. Apparently, no one had explained to them that it is a copyright violation to take graphics and text from a website without permission. (Or they just didn’t listen…) I ended up calling the principal and requesting that the site be taken down immediately. It was. End of story.

Similar stories do not end as nicely. Several bloggers recently have been charged thousands of dollars for plagiarizing photographs…. I also found an article by a content marketing agency that was sued for $8,000 for using a copyrighted image, and a copywriting company that ended up paying $4,000 for a photo.

Unintentional Plagiarism

On the other hand, unintentional plagiarizers usually lack an understanding of Internet citations, or do not have a clear grasp on issues of plagiarism. As a teacher, you can clear up any misconceptions these students have ahead of time by teaching them what plagiarism is, showing them examples of student plagiarism, and modeling proper citation.

In both cases, if students do not learn that they must cite their sources, and how to do so, they will set themselves up for disaster at the collegiate and professional levels.

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ELA Common Core Learning Standards

CCRA.W.7 – Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCRA.W.8 – Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCRA.W.9 – Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Close Reading Strategies

Intro – what are close reading strategies all about?


Close Reading Strategies: www.sausd.us


The Art of Close Reading (Part One) Foundation for Critical Thinking

Slow Reading Makes You Smarter, James Kennedy


Examples of close reading strategies in physics

Literacy in Physics: Reading a Primary Source


Close Reading Selections with Text-Dependent Questions: Boston Public Schools Science Dept

Close Reading and Text Dependent Questions in Science Hot Technology (Physics– HS)



Model close reading for the students: annotating, making notes in the margins, and explain the thought process (think-aloud)


But first understand why you are reading the passage. Are we looking for information? Are we trying to understand how different lines of evidence come together to support a claim? Are we learning how some process works? Are we trying to discover the author’s beliefs, opinions or values? Annotation options:

  • highlight in different colors
  • circle words/phrases
  • put question marks by things you don’t understand.

Write in the margins

James Kennedy Annotated notebook

An annotated textbook, by James Kennedy . https://jameskennedymonash.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/how-to-use-a-textbook-6-rules-to-follow/

notes about what the author is saying, text connections they make, and questions they have.

  • What is the author telling me here?
  • Are there any hard or important words?
  • What does the author want me to understand?
  • How does the author play with language to add to meaning?
Close Reading Technique 1

from Educational Leadership, Dec. 2012, Vol 70 #4. Common Core: Now What? Closing in on Close Reading, Nancy Boyles


Common Core ELA Skills addressed

Common Core English Language Arts and Literacy: Anchor Standards for Reading http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/CCRA/R/


Reading Informational Text: Grade 8, Grade 9-10

Language: Grade 8, Grade 9-10

Standard 10: Range, Quality and Complexity – check various topics within


Expeditionary Learning: Trip to a classic bookstore

Seaport Academy Logo 2

Addressing standards from the American Association of School Librarians:

MBTA Water Shuttle from Flagship Wharf to Long Wharf

Walk to Commonwealth Books, Downtown Crossing, 9 Spring Lane

40,000+ titles. Medieval manuscript, modern fiction, non-fiction, history, science, philosophy, art monographs, poetry, literature.

Walk to The Brattle Book Shop, Downtown Crossing, 9 West Street

250,000+ titles. Founded 1825. Outdoor section plus 3 stories indoors. Americana, Boston, History, politics, religion, philosophy, fiction, non-fiction, rare books and collectibles.

Walk to Faneuil Hall & Quincy Market.

Marketplace and a meeting hall since 1743. Site of speeches by Samuel Adams, James Otis, and others encouraging independence from Great Britain. Part of Boston National Historical Park and the Freedom Trail.

Visitor Center 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.  The Great Hall is open 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Learning Goals

American Association of School Librarians: Standards for the 21st-Century Learner


4.1.1 Read, view, and listen for pleasure and personal growth.
4.1.2 Read widely and fluently to make connections with self, the world, and previous reading.
4.1.4 Seek information for personal learning in a variety of formats and genres.
4.1.5 Connect ideas to own interests and previous knowledge and experience.
4.2.1 Display curiosity by pursuing interests through multiple resources. 4.2.2 Demonstrate motivation by seeking information to answer personal questions and interests, trying a variety of formats and genres, and displaying a willingness to go beyond academic requirements.
4.2.4 Show an appreciation for literature by electing to read for pleasure and expressing an interest in various literary genres.
4.3.3 Seek opportunities for pursuing personal and aesthetic growth.

Tier I, II and III vocabulary

Tier Vocabulary

Tier One – everyday words usually learned in the early grades.

Tier Two – High frequency words, used across content areas, key to understanding directions, relationships, and for making inferences.

Tier II Words list

Academic language from resources.successforall.org

Tier Three – Domain-specific words

Tier III Words list