Close Reading Practice Passages: Middle School (Grades 7 and 8)

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Close Reading of President Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Address
This structured handout guides students through a close reading of a short passage from the address. One page; requires a word processor for access.

Farewell to Manzanar (Houston) and Unbroken (Hillenbrand)
This lesson exemplar will allow students to participate in critical discussion of two stories that illuminate important, yet divergent, experiences of war and conflict. This lesson exemplar will push students to think critically about the experience of wartime as felt by both soldiers and civilians as they navigated specific trials that were a part of their direct or peripheral involvement in WWII. Includes texts. Designed for grade 7. 46 pages; word processor required.

Middle School ELA Curriculum Video: Close Reading of a Text: MLK "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
This is a 15-minute (downloadable) video in which David Coleman, a contributing author to the Common Core State Standards, models a close reading.

One-Page Fiction Readings: Grade 7
Links to 11 printable passages. Adobe Reader required.

One-Page Nonfiction Readings: Grade 7
Links to 12 printable passages with skill development indicated. Adobe Reader required.

"The Glorious Whitewasher" ( Tom Sawyer )
Students will discover the rich humor and moral lesson embedded in Twain's text. By reading and rereading the passage closely, and focusing their reading through a series of questions and discussion about the text, students will explore the problem Tom Sawyer faced and how he "solved" his conundrum. When combined with writing about the passage, students will learn to appreciate how Twain's humor contains a deeper message and derive satisfaction from the struggle to master complex text. Includes close reading passage. Designed for grade 7. 12 pages; word processor required.

Frederick Douglass
Students will explore the point of view of a man who survived slavery. By reading the passage closely and discussing it, students will explore the various beliefs and points of view Douglass experienced as he became increasingly aware of the unfairness of his life. Students will need to consider the emotional context of words and how diction (word choice) affects an author's message. When combined with writing about the passage and teacher feedback, students will form a deeper understanding of how slavery affected those involved. Includes passage for close reading. Designed for grade 8. 22 pages; word processor required.

"My Mother, the Scientist" by Charles Hirshberg
Students will absorb deep lessons from Charles Hirshberg’s recollections of his mother. By reading and rereading the passage closely and focusing their reading through a series of questions and discussion about the text, students will identify how much his mother's struggles and accomplishments meant to both him and the wider world. When combined with writing about the passage—and possibly pairing this exemplar study with Richard Feynman’s memoir "The Making of a Scientist" — students will discover how much they can learn from this mixed genre memoir/biography about what inspires life choices. Includes text. Designed for grade 7. 22 pages, word processor required.

"The Long Night of the Little Boats" by Basil Heatter
Although this exemplar was designed to be used in a middle school Social Studies curriculum, it is appropriate for use in an ELA class as well. By reading and re-reading the text passage, closely combining classroom discussion about it, and writing about it, students come to an appreciation of the need to (a) re-read, paraphrase, and discuss ideas, (b) come to an accurate basic understanding level of a text, (c) come to an accurate interpretive understanding of a text, and (d) build a coherent piece of writing that both constructs and communicates solid understanding of text. Includes text. Designed for grade 8. 35 pages; word processor required.

"Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution" by Linda R. Monk
Students will observe the dynamic nature of the Constitution through close reading and writing. They will explore the questions Monk raises and perhaps even pursue additional avenues of inquiry. When combined with writing about the passage, not only will students form a deeper appreciation of Monk's argument and the value of struggling with complex text, but of the Preamble of the Constitution itself. Includes text, vocabulary. Designed for Grade 8. 13 pages; word processor required.