By: Jan Bryan, EdD, Vice President, Renaissance
Our brains thrive on repeated experiences. This explains why we seek to watch the same movies again and again and re-read favourite books. According to the health blog, “The Body Odd,” the drive to re-experience is a conscious effort to find deeper layers of significance in the material by revisiting it in the updated context of our own personal growth (Wolchover, 2012). In other words, as we watch a beloved movie many times, we ponder the images and story through a lens expanded by experiences encountered since the previous viewing. We may even recite dialog along with the actors. In doing so, the brain strengthens existing neural pathways, the film takes on new shades of meaning, and our understanding of it becomes richer.
It seems that this innate function of the brain—the conscious effort to find deeper layers of significance—is at the heart of what has become a potentially controversial concept; close, repeated reading as described in the US Common Core State Standards. While some express concern that the CCSS focus on explicit meanings of text may devalue students’ personal experiences, others suggest that close repeated reading requires educators to bring readers and text close together through repeated, meaningful engagement with the text (Beers & Probst, 2013).
We see similar outcomes posed in our own Australian Curriculum. With regards to fluency in Reading and Viewing, students are required to read “aloud a range of moderately complex and sophisticated texts which include multisyllabic words and complex sentences with fluency and appropriate expression” and “consistently and automatically integrate(s) pausing, intonation, phrasing and rate” – it would not be a stretch to assume that these skills would be readily developed with rereading and repetition.
Regardless, the brain continues to crave close, repeated experiences with text. As we engage with the text through multiple readings and re-readings, the brain builds deeper layers of understanding about the text and our connection to it. What is intriguing here is that the distance between the reading and rereading need not be significant in terms of time. The distance need only to be separated by personal experiences that bring reader and text close. Educators understand the value of close work with texts such as strengthening reading fluency through reading practice, developing vocabulary, listening as texts are read aloud, reading with others, discussing the text with peers either in traditional face-to-face formats or in digital formats and forums with the large shift to remote learning.
With Franklin and Lincoln in mind, get close to CCSS College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard 1 regarding close, repeated reading: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions draw from the text. Read and re-read to get close to the opening phrase in Anchor Standard 1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly. Read it aloud. Read it to a colleague and ask how we lead students to arrive at what a text says explicitly. Experience close, repeated reading lesson exemplars, speeches and poetry can be incredibly effective text types for this practise.
Bring the reader close by listening to a recitation of poems. Read along silently as you hear it recited again. Read the first stanza aloud with your colleagues, seek meaning through discussion. Read closely to determine what the poet is saying—explicitly saying. Continue; as your brain will crave more.
Curious to learn more? Explore the power of Renaissance Accelerated Reader
Beers, K. & Probst,R (2013). Notice & note: Strategies for close reading. Heinemann Press. Portsmouth, NH.
CCSS CCR Anchor Standard 1 http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/CCRA/R
Wolchover, N. (2012). Why books and movies are better the second time. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/why-books-movies-are-better-second-time-1C6436931?franchiseSlug=healthmain).