Student Work

Social Security: Think Aloud 1

Watch Lori read closely.

Lori is reading the second document in the warm-up activity, an excerpt from Huey Long’s “Share the Wealth” speech. In this clip, Lori demonstrates two features of close reading, slowing down and asking questions.

After reading Long’s first principle, she pauses to comment that “the wording is . . . beating around the bush . . . it doesn’t seem like it’s really getting to the point.” Rather than let the difficult language stop her, she slows down and rereads to make sense of the tricky passage. In the process of doing this, she not only comprehends the substance of what she has read, but also actively questions what Long’s phrases imply and mean.

First, her careful parsing of the sentence helps her recognize that the two warm-up documents address a similar problem. She rereads, “to limit poverty” and relates this phrase to the 1931 advertisement that she has just read, “it’s trying to get you out of the Great Depression again.” She then pauses on the next significant phrase “every deserving family.” She notices that “it doesn’t specify what that means, that’s not every family obviously,” implicitly asking the question --who is deserving? Who is not?

She continues this kind of careful reading and questioning as she rereads the rest of the passage. Again she struggles a bit with comprehending Long’s phrasing and then almost simultaneously figures out not only the literal meaning, but also questions that meaning. “So I guess everyone is supposed to have over 5,000 dollars and they’ll get it from, but that’s the question is where are they going to get it from. . . does that mean they’re getting it from the government? Is that like a government subsidy?”

Lori rereads and parses language to comprehend prose that she characterizes as “beating around the bush” and “confusing.” In doing this, she is able to understand the substance of the document. As she slows down to understand, paying attention to particular words and phrases, she generates additional questions about Long’s proposal. Many students would skim or ignore a difficult passage like this one, Lori has learned that reading is not always quick or easy and that slowing down, rereading, and generating questions, is a piece of what readers do. In this, she models a sophisticated approach to historical text.