Using "Unusable" Space

In my past two classrooms, I've had huge windows along one entire wall. And in both cases, due to the location of my room (near the playground, near the front door), I have to keep them closed the majority of the time. Here are some ways that I've thought of to use that space, even if you don't have to keep everything closed.

If you have horizontal blinds, angle them to that the slats point up. Take a clothespin and clip on your anchor charts, posters, presentations, rubrics, whatever. The good news is that you can also open your blinds if you put the clothespins up high enough.

If you have shades or blinds, you can take a couple of Command hooks, put them on either side of your window (which you can't see in this picture), and connect them with a cord. Then use clothespins to hang whatever. Caution: If you do a zig-zag with one long cord, take a binder clip or something to hold the cord in place (the left point midway down is actually attached to the flag holder on my wall) because everything hanging on it can make it heavy. This also allowed me to open the shades when recess wasn't going on outside.

Clothespins and mini blinds can give you some display options that you many not have considered

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What is Close Reading?

Read to find out what close reading is and how to implement it in your classroom.
As you know, I am a big fan of close reading. I think close reading engages students so much more than traditional types of reading instruction. And it's not something that you need a special product to incorporate.

What is close reading?
Close reading is when a text is read for a specific purpose. Whether you're asking students to make connections, cite text evidence, or figure out a meaning of a word, close reading is very flexible. It is NOT simply asking students to read the same text over and over again for no apparent reason. If you do that, the students will hate it.

What is a good text for close reading?
Anything! But I try to create or find something short (or something larger broken into parts) and high-interest. If you do use something from your basal, it is my recommendation that you make copies of the part you want to focus on. I try to get 2 pages to a side and copy them front-to-back to save on paper.

What do you do on the first read?
I have my students either read it independently or I slowly read it aloud. In either case, students are responding to the text and making connections by writing on the paper using these symbols:

After a few paragraphs or the whole text (depending on length), I give students a few minutes to share with a partner.

What about second and third reads?
This is usually a targeted skill, such as finding text evidence to answer a question, transition words, similes, pretty much whatever you are studying. ALWAYS have students highlight, underline, or otherwise mark the text to find these things. They love doing it, and it helps to make the activity more interactive. This is also a great opportunity to discuss how to highlight, ie. just doing a few words as opposed to entire paragraphs.

Anything else?
I usually wrap it up with a short writing prompt, maybe just a paragraph or two. I ask some sort of question related to the topic, usually some sort of connection that they can pull from their own experiences. Another idea is to ask a question that requires them to think deeper about an idea or why something is.

Those are pretty much the basics!

If you need some resources to get you started, check out my {close reading freebies}!