Close Reading Task Cards

If you are new to close reading be sure to go back and read my previous post – Close Reading in Science.

In my previous post I mentioned the different steps that I teach my students for close reading. Close reading could also be called annotation, but in essence you are reading more than one time and taking notes around your article. It is very interactive.

Sometimes it is hard for my students to remember all the steps or simply what step they are on. So, I created some annotation task cards.

Currently I have printed out 12 sets on card stock and laminated. I also put them on a book ring. With that number I have enough for one set per pair. Students then have a quick reference for close reading and I also know what step they are on as I cruise around the room.

It is simple to make the task cards and the steps are on my previous post. However, if you would like mine, you can find them by clicking the image below and going to my TpT store.



Thanks for visiting. How do you use annotation or close reading with your students? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below!


Close Reading in Science

Everyone is a reading teacher. This is an idea that I don’t think I understood in my early days as a teacher. Before I taught science, I majored in ELA and never thought about hos the strategies that I used in ELA were actually valuable tools for my colleagues in other content areas.

However, now that I’m in my eighth year of teaching, I realize that we are all reading teachers in some way, shape or form. Reading is the key to our content and we cannot teach without it.

A few years back I realized that my students needed a way to comprehend text. They would read an article and get to the end of it without knowing what they read. After a lot of research I found the close reading strategy, and it is a strategy that now frequents my classroom.

What is close reading? 

Close reading is a way of breaking down the text into bite sized chunks and then adding annotations to the side. The steps to close reading differ from person to person. Here are the steps that I teach my students.

  1. Circle the Title and make a prediction about what the article will be about.
  2. Chunk the Text and number your Chunks.
  3. Underline or Highlight key words (could be words you don’t know or vocabulary words)
  4. In the Right Margin – write the main idea of each chunk
  5. In the Left Margin – make connections (what does this remind you of, do you have a question about this chunk, etc)
  6. Central Idea – at the end of the article tell what the article was about in 1-2 sentences.

Now, I don’t just give my students the steps and let them loose. Usually I model this process several times before allowing them to do it on their own. Check out these pictures of what articles look like after close reading:


When I finally let my students try this on their own we read the article once as a whole class and then they go through the article with annotation task cards. The more students interact with a text – the more they comprehend!!

Want more help with close reading? 

FREEBIE – this is my quick guide to help you launch close reading in your classroom. Includes an example, the steps mentioned above and a foldable to use with any article!

Close Reading in Science Quickstart


Thanks so much for visiting my blog! What are some strategies that you use in your classroom to aid in comprehension? Leave your ideas below!





Keep Calm We Passed the Test!!

So lately I have gotten some great data back from my kids. We use the STAR reading assessment to measure reading growth and I am happy to say that all my classes grew an average of 1.2 years. This is amazing for me as their teacher, but also for them as students. They entered my room being way below their grade level in reading so this gain, while not a fix all, is a giant step in the right direction.

Some people have asked me how we got to this point. I really point to building relationships with my students. I found out what they were interested in and tried to find them stuff to read based on that. It was not easy my students were very reluctant to read. I also gave incentives reading, so students could earn rewards for reading. Bottom line it comes down to knowing your students and what works for them.

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In other recent happenings, yesterday we celebrated the students who passed their state tests at proficient or advanced levels. We had about 46 students who scored proficient or advanced in our school (our school is small we have about 150 students). The trip was phenomenal!

Our first stop was Gattytown, which has laser tag, a huge arcade, and a pizza buffet. I really amped up laser-tag and told all my kids I was going to beat them! Thankfully I had a great team and we beat our team in laser tag by 800 points – Whoop Whoop!!


The trip did not stop after our laseriffic time at GattyTown. We departed, after a horrendous rain storm, and wen to the movies. My group decided to see Pitch Perfect 2. It was  the perfect movie to watch with my group of girls! We were singing and dancing in the theater (we were the only people in there). It was so much fun, because we got to share laughter!!

We ate dinner at Longhorn’s (I know, I was floored when I found out we were eatting there). It was fun to see our students react to being in a nicer restaurant. After dinner we headed back to the school, and go back rather late.

I am so glad that I got the opportunity to share these moments – rewarding our students for their successes – in my last few days at my school.

Tracking Reading Progress

I am so proud of my 6th graders. They are leading the school in meeting their reading goals. Recently I started tracking their progress based on the number of AR points they have earned. I have been amazed at the increase in performance just based on the public trackers. Students have even been asking when I will put up the new trackers.

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For my public AR Class Tracker I created ships and buoys. Each buoy has a point amount and the ships travel to a new buoy when the class AR point average goes up. This was so simple, but it has been very rewarding in class culture around reading.


Independent reading has been something that I have struggled with as an educator. However, this year I am having a break through with my students.

Today was a beautiful day for independent reading. I started my intervention class by announcing the current AR standings (and my classes are leaps and bounds above the others in school #proudreadingteacher). That is when my students erupted and were like “Can I take a test?” “Can I check out a book?” It was a frenzy of excitement. Then we looked at a prezi presentation that talks about the importance of reading. After that students had the opportunity to check out books. They each grabbed three books to preview. I announced to the class to find a comfy place so they could get in the “reading zone.” My students then silently read for 30 minutes!! 30 minutes!! Can you believe it!! At the end of the time they started discussing what page number they were on and what had happened in their book. I even got to read my own book for a few minutes. It was beautiful!!

Later in the day one of my students said, “Are we going to do what we did in intervention again in class?” He was so disappointed when I told him no! Tomorrow my students are bringing in blankets so they can make a comfy place to read. They are literally excited about our reading time. I could not be more thrilled as their reading teacher.

Why I Teach ELA

Stories have permeated my life. When I was a little girl my granny told me the story of the three little pigs whenever I was at her house. My mom also read me a story every night. At family gatherings I would listen from the sidelines to my uncle’s recount the glory days of high school football. At that time I could not wait to learn to read and join the world of stories that swirled around me.

I believe in the power of stories. Stories both read and told; both written and unwritten. Stories give us the power to learn and the power to have our own voice.

I remember distinctly the day my granny gave me my first chapter book. Excitement pulsed through my veins as I dove into the first chapter. This chapter book was different from all the others books I had read. It didn’t have any pictures. My granny explained to me that this book was better, because my mind and imagination would paint the pictures.

As I continued to develop as a reader, I read everything I could get my hands on (shampoo bottles, encyclopedias, can food labels). And in those moments I realized that I did not want to be just a consumer of stories, but a producer of stories. Since then I have read, written, and told stories. I have also began to teach. I have met new and inspiring people and lost those who inspired me most as a child.1931312_1080739099979_5999_n

My granny is gone, but she left me with her passion for stories. A passion for reading, writing and telling stories. A passion that I hope to pass on to my students. And that is why I teach!!


Spring Semester has been a time of many, many breakthroughs for me as an educator. I honestly think that I was in a place of treading water last semester. What I mean by that is, I did not look forward to going to work each day and work felt like work. Now, I have finally come to the place where I am looking forward to going to work each day. Wooowho! (it doesn’t make teaching or managing my classroom any easier at times, but it does make me feel 10x better!)

As I mentioned earlier I have experienced many breakthroughs with my students. We have gotten incredibly close, and some of them call me ‘MA’ – which I equate with Freedom Writers. We have read some Holocaust literature and my students were very empathetic and dove deep into their reading. I was able to get some AMAZING writing from them.

Since spring break (the second week of March) we have been reading The Freedom Writers Diary and each student is required to keep a journal. I thought that this would only be another of my failures to add to my list. Surprisingly my students love their journals. We write about topics we are reading about and they can add their own writing at any time.  The main thing that I keep in mind with journal prompts are the themes we are reading about and how relate-able it is to my students.

A week or so ago we had a journal topic about labels. What labels did people place on Ms. Gruwell and her students? What labels have people placed on you? During our discussion my students were not completely understanding the labels aspect of themselves. So I offered myself up as a guinea pig. I asked them what labels they could place on me. They started listing some personality traits and so forth. I redirected and said, “Okay, I walk into a room and you have never met me.” Silence. “Come on guys, I’m White!” Then one of the most amazing and profound thing happened. A student raised her hand and said, “Nuh-uh, Ms. Caldwell – You’re our color!”

I was and still am speechless. I have went through so much with my students just trying to give them a little taste of my passion for learning. It is nice to see how far we have journeyed! I am looking forward to our final moments of the year as bittersweet as they may be! Until next time…

Black Out

We are currently studying poetry in my class. We learned a song for the elements of poetry (set to the song “Take a Bow”). During writing I have been teaching different poetic forms and how to construct poems. I found several great resources on TeachersPayTeachers. One was a prezi presentation on blackout poetry. After their test on Friday my students did an amazing job creating their own poetic art.

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Here is a link to the blackout poetry presentation – FREE!! 

Reading, Reading and more Reading!!

So I have been reading A LOT! One of the perks of owning an iPad and a Nook in China is being able to download e-books. It is one of the many ways that I feel I can stay connected to the world. Anywho – as a Hunger Games fan, I find myself drawn to dystopian and science fiction novels.

The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a DynastyUnder the Never SkyShades of Earth (Across the Universe Series #3)

Here are the books that I have read so far:

  1. Partials and Fragments: This is what I am currently reading (while watching the TV series – Revolution). It is about the human race after a race of partial-humans wipe out almost all of humanity. The people who survived all live in NYC and are trying to find a cure for a deadly virus. I have enjoyed it so far, but the first book held my interest more. I am finding the second book a little hard, but I want to know what will happen so I power through.
  2. The Chaos Walking Series (The Knife of Letting Go, Monsters of Men, and The Ask and the Answer): All in all I thought it was a good story line. The first book, to me, was the best. I will not spoil it, but know that I cried near the end.  One thing that I did not enjoy was the use of foul language. I do not use bad language in my daily life, so reading a book with it is a little strange (The author used it to show the decline of language). I would recommend it for the story line, but be aware it has some language.
  3. Shades of Earth (third book in Across the Universe Trilogy): Loved it!! I started reading this series last year and this was a great finale to the series. The trilogy follows a girl in her journey from Earth to a new planet. She is frozen and then wakes up too early. The final book is about landing on the new planet and what they find there. Great read for any fan of space traveling…
  4. Sever (third book in the Chemical Garden Trilogy): I have now read this whole series. Honestly, I could take it or leave it. It had an interesting premise, but the story fell flat in some places. It is about a future world where everyone dies before they reach 21.
  5. Requiem (third book in the Delirium Trilogy): Interesting, but I found myself skipping some parts to find out what was going to happen. The ending was a letdown, because it doesn’t have closure. I like closure J
  6. Under a Never Sky and Through the Ever Night: I was impressed with these books. People are left in bio-domes after a huge war has destroyed the Earth outside. I honestly did not know if I would like this series, but the more I read the more I had to read. These books have action, adventure and a good love story thrown in. Definitely recommend these books for Sci Fi fans.
  7. The Duck Commander Family: Taking a departure from my SciFi/Dystopian books – I decided to read this book about the family from Duck Dynasty. My husband and I love the show and we both found the book equally enjoyable. It was a great read after living in China. It definitely reminded me of where I come from and my southern roots (Georgia Girl all the Way!!).

What’s Next on My Reading List?

  • The Elite – Second in The Selection Series by: Kierra Cass (Release April 23rd, 2013)
  • Happy, Happy, Happy by: Phil Robertson (Released May 7th, 2013)
  • Divergent Book #3 (Release October 22nd, 2013)
  • And other books that strike my fancy J

Already in America?

Conversation from last night:

Me – Honey, I feel like I am on autopilot and just coasting through this semester. Is that bad?

My husband – Sweetheart, that is because your mind is already in America.

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Ever since I got accepted in TFA (Teach for America), I have been working on pre-work and trying to soak in as much information as possible about my placement region. Unfortunately, that has led to a sort of nonchalant attitude toward teaching the students that I have right now. I feel like I have been on auto-pilot. This is not easy to admit. My students deserve to have a great teacher right now.

I guess I am in my comfort zone (more so than I was last year at this time). I am teaching classes that I have already taught and I have a good idea of projects and activities that work. My goal for the rest of the year is to take the stuff that I am learning and apply it to my classroom right now. I started looking at some online resources from Achievement First and they have some excellent ideas about how to keep students engaged (which is my biggest problem with the different levels I have in each class).  I plan to read up on their strategies and start implementing them into my classes. I am also planning to re-read some books from college – The First Days of School and The Cornerstone for Teachers. Both are awesome books about classroom management.

I don’t think that I am doing a terrible job, but I am sticking to what I know works. So I just want to shake things up and have a more engaging class.

What are some ways that you shake up your instruction when it seems to become stagnant?