Deeper Reading: Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4-12
Publication Type:Web Article
Year of Publication:2004
Mary K. Tedrow, a Virginia teacher, explains Gallagher’s concept of second-draft reading and says she has drawn much useful advice from it.
Citation: Gallagher, Kelly. (2004). Deeper reading: Comprehending challenging texts, 4-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishing.
By Kelly Gallagher
2004 (240 pp./paperback)
Reviewed by Mary K. Tedrow
Millbrook High School
My copy of Deeper Reading by Kelly Gallagher looks like a celebration. Dog-eared sticky notes flutter from the top and the sides. Highlighter colors are sprinkled down the pages. On each post-it are my handwritten notes: "Hamlet – what isn't on the page? motivations? reactions?" "Use with Heart of Darkness;" "Mini-lesson on reading through confusion;" "Introduce diction with this." Yes, this book is a keeper. I've already begun using suggested activities in my classroom with great success.
Gallagher's thesis is one that many secondary teachers share and has been a part of other great books about teaching reading to secondary students: We can't just walk away from students who struggle with upper level reading. We need to scaffold their learning by providing meaningful activities to help students delve deeply into the books and articles that they read — and in all curricular areas. The resulting expansion of critical thinking is a necessary survival skill in an information-rich society. Our graduates must leave school with the competence to read carefully and judge information critically.
Gallagher refers to close reading of text as first-draft and second-draft reading. When students read instructional text — that is, text that they will inevitably need help with — they first read for comprehension and general impressions. Second-draft readings (re-readings) are where students begin to see the craft of the writer, to interpret what's not on the page, and to expand the text into a meaning that impacts their own lives. Teachers should be teaching second-draft reading to all their students.
Getting students to look back at text to discover a truth about the piece has always been a struggle for me and my students. I want them to discover the author's intentions. The students want me to tell them.
Gallagher provides multiple methods for helping students build their understanding of any text. Though his examples come from his specific classroom experience, the activities are broad enough to use with any text. There are enough offered to keep instruction fresh or to match to a teaching style or unit.
The book is organized as a teacher would progress through a unit. First there are activities that frame a reading, setting the context and the purpose for reading. What follows is a large section on helping students return to the text for their second-draft re-reading. Finally, Gallagher extends his deep reading to less traditional texts like advertisements, newspapers, mass-mailings, spam, charts, graphs, and contracts.
Some of the suggestions were familiar, having appeared in other books on teaching reading at the secondary level. But having the activities all in one text, arranged in the order I might progress through a difficult novel with my students, means that this book will be a continual reference for my classroom practice.
Clearly a master teacher, Gallagher also offers his techniques for drawing the best work out of all students in small group activities, and a chapter on the importance of backwards planning.
For those who are ready to jump from being the "sage on the stage" to the "guide on the side," Deeper Reading is a great primer. For those who already see their role as guide, here are multiple, engaging methods for generating the best thinking from students.