Series David Olio: Case Study of a Teacher: Author's Choices: Collaborating in Close Reading


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RL:  Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • 11-12:  11th & 12th Grades
  • 3: 
    Analyze the impact of the author's choices regarding how to develop and
    relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • W:  Writing Standards 6-12
  • 11-12:  11th & 12th Grades
  • 2b: 
    Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas,
    concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection,
    organization, and analysis of content.

    a. Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so
    that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified
    whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and
    multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

    b. Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant
    facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information
    and examples appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic.

    c. Use appropriate and varied transitions and syntax to link the major sections
    of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex
    ideas and concepts.

    d. Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary, and techniques such as
    metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic.

    e. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to
    the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

    f. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports
    the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or
    the significance of the topic).

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • SL:  Speaking and Listening Standards 6-\x80\x9312
  • 11-12:  11th & 12th Grades
  • 1a: 
    Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one on
    one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-\x80\x9312 topics,
    texts, and issues, building on others'\x80\x99 ideas and expressing their own clearly and

    a. Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under
    study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts
    and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well reasoned
    exchange of ideas.

    b. Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision making,
    set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as

    c. Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe
    reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a
    topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote
    divergent and creative perspectives.

    d. Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims,
    and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when
    possible; and determine what additional information or research is required
    to deepen the investigation or complete the task.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Author's Choices: Collaborating in Close Reading

Lesson Objective: Use close reading strategies to analyze an author's choices
Grades 9-12 / ELA / Analysis
12 MIN
ELA.RL.11-12.3 | ELA.W.11-12.2b | ELA.SL.11-12.1a


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does the "Interrupted Passages" strategy encourage deeper analysis?
  2. What kinds of collaboration strategies do Mr. Olio and his students discuss?
  3. How does Mr. Olio interact with his students as they work?


  • Private message to Thomas Gorman
QPA stands for quick passage analysis. I ask students to identify and analyze a term taught in a unit. For example, one group analyzed hubris when examining a section of Oedipus the King.
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Satnick Morgan
What are the QPA prompts and what does Q P and A stand for?
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Shellie McAllister

I found this summary of QPA5 that might be helpful:

QPA- 5 (Quick Paragraph Analysis in 5 Sentences)
1. Create a strong topic sentence that sets up the claim.
2. Select effective textual evidence to support the claim. Use citation (line #) or (p. #)
3. Analyze the significance of the evidence itself.
4. Critique the author’s craft of syntax, diction, rhetorical strategy, or literary device.
5. Strong argument on why this textual evidence and author’s technique proves the claim.

Recommended (1)
  • Private message to Noemi Gonzalez
I am teaching AP Lit for the second year and needed strategies to teach a deeper analysis of the text. This is perfect! I have a question about the QPA. Is the first sentence always a question? Is this question student generated? Thank you!
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to J. Thomas Son
Directing students' attention to specific passages for analysis is typical of my process with my students during a close reading exercise, but image-,figure-,or symbol-rich passages are still very challenging for my standard seniors. They tend to miss the potential significance of the details of the passage. I can see some real help for that through Olio's "interrupted passage" approach. We're reading The Bean Trees now. I'll look forward to using this approach with some of Kingsolver's complex use of contextual symbolism.
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Kevin Rigsby
The feedback from students is always, "More group work..." and many teachers will just create group assignments and not necessarily create and effective or efficient lesson. Your lesson is not group work for the sake of group work. I like the idea of the collaborative process being used to get students to get more from each other. Also, what you call interrupted reading passages is great. We call it chunking and it works very well. Even the best students can be overwhelmed at times but interrupted passages or chunking is an excellent strategy and we use it to help some of the lowest achieving students read some complicated texts.
Recommended (0)


  • Author's Choices: Collaborating in Close Reading Transcript

    Teacher [class]: We, today are going to be working with Beloved and we've been

    Author's Choices: Collaborating in Close Reading Transcript

    Teacher [class]: We, today are going to be working with Beloved and we've been doing work all year for this novel.

    Teacher [interview]: This is David Olio from South Windsor High School. This is my Senior AP literature class and this is an examination of text through collaboration.

    Teacher [class]: Overall, today, we want to be able to look at Morrison's choices using close reading strategies. These are elements of our close reading. Does anyone - would you like to comment on any one of these elements that helped you to think about a text.


    Student: Well, we were talking yesterday about point of view and I thought once we did adjust that the author's jumping around between people and the narrator, I thought it was much easier to notice when she did it and understand what she was trying to do when she did it.

    Teacher [interview]: This is an exceptionally challenging book because it really forces the kids to rely on a lot of strategies that they have been working on throughout the year. Beginning in the notion of close reading...

    Teacher [class]: We want to be able to go in as a group and close-read these passages for the purpose, of course of ultimately being able to examine Morrison's art.

    Teacher [interview]: We want to be able to engage in some careful analysis so we began talking and reviewing the steps about to go through that.


    Teacher [class]: Why on our paper are the lines separated?

    Teacher [interview]: The interrupted passage strategy takes a chunk of text and puts it on a sheet of paper and provides space in between certain lines. So the interrupted reading passage then forces a student to contend with just that one line at a time then it allows them to annotate with more detail and notes ad things of that nature.

    Teacher [class]: So, I'm hoping that there's space there in this interrupted reading for us to use as a strategy to slow down and linger over the passage, right. So, that's gonna be one strategy that we're gonna be using. The other, of course, is collaboration.


    Teacher [interview]: We will spend a lot the year working on specific strategies to be able to collaborate. Collaboration, of course, meaning that individuals would bring their own perspectives and ideas into a group where that idea then is put into the hopper, wrestled with and then each student emerges with some new idea of their own.

    Student: I think she's suggesting that slavery - even when it ended - had long-term effects.

    Teacher [interview]: Because cooperative learning typically is looking for one and product. But collaboration - if I have 24 students in my class - there will be 24 different ideas that leave that classroom.

    Teacher [class]: How do you do that as an individual in a group? What are some of the strategies that you would use as a collaborator to help you?

    Student: I have to always ask if I don't understand something. Even when I do this, we give little detail and we need more so I'm always like asking for more.


    Teacher [class]: What a great way to say that - I love what you just said, "can you please give me more" - you press each other. You ask...

    Teacher [interview]: When we reviewed the collaboration process, we really did take time to discuss very specific acts that students could perform in a small group such as making eye-contact, asking probing questions, taking notes on what another says.

    Teacher [class]: And we want to have the conversation, develop some thinking about that, using these strategies we just talking about and then get down to the QPA where we write that quick passage analysis paragraph.


    Teacher [interview]: QPA is a writing strategy in which students - in five sentences - need to do a complete analysis. It involves a topic sentence where students examine an author's use of some literary device. Then it moves to a sentence with evidence. Then it's followed by a sentence of analysis of that evidence. Followed then by a sentence about the device itself as how it reaches the idea and then the last sentence which is the theme or the idea itself. QPA is a scaffolded strategy to help students think deeply as writers.

    Teacher [class]: Okay, so let me let you go. I'll come in and sit in with you all.

    Teacher [interview]: Once we determine that everyone was clear on the directions and the purpose for the lesson, the students began working in their small group by examining a passage from the novel. Each group had a different passage and they got down into the passages and began wrestling with the language.

    Student: Do you think that she states that she didn't have enough money. Like, too beloved. Because that's what you get for being part of slavery.


    Teacher [interview]: Common Core asks us to look at evidence and to be able to use evidence. The collaborative strategy and, I think the interrupted passage really facilitate students going back to the text, using that text in order to generate ideas.

    Teacher [class]: Tell me what you just wrote there about mother's milk.

    Student: It said that the mother's milk could be reoccurring in the story because it was such a big part in the beginning of the story about how the milk was stolen so I just took note of that.

    Teacher [class]: Awesome. What do you make of that phrase, "mother's milk?"

    Student: I think it goes along with what you said before, the idea of motherhood. How the mother has to be there to provide milk for the child.

    Teacher [interview]: He recognized that this was a motif in the text - that he had seen it earlier. So we began to push and lean on the term, "mother's milk."

    Teacher [class]: Have you heard of the term, "mother's milk," before?


    Teacher [interview]: And that spawned another question from Kelly. Who saw a contradiction later in the line.

    Student: The mother's milk is contrasted with the blood of her sister and the mother's milk is used as the ultimate symbol of motherhood and nurturing a child and that it's along with the blood of her sister, which normally would be seen as something super violent but the way they're put together is almost like they belong together. Maybe it's the author's way of showing that she's trying to understand that in real life the motivation behind the mother's action and saying maybe it was she just cared so much that the blood of her sister really came from the same instinct as the mother's milk.

    Teacher [class]: Great point.


    Teacher [class]: Keep going. You're doing a great job.

    Teacher [interview]: The three shifts in the Common Core really include building knowledge through fiction, using evidence from the text and regular practice with complex text. These strategies allow us to make sure to tap all of those areas for all students.

    Teacher [class]: Do I hear you're paraphrasing yourself for this?

    Student: Yeah.

    Teacher [class]: That's a great strategy. Do you see any of the close reading strategies that you could use in this particular line?

    Student: The word choice, the diction - I noticed the, "I don't," "I can't forget."

    Teacher [class]: Ok. You have a repetition of "I don't," "I can't." Is that what I hear you saying? Those seem contradictory to me.


    Teacher [interview]: Sometimes students are capable of looking at the work and doing close reading. Sometimes they're capable of seeing a device but frequently it's a struggle to pull all three of these things together. What we did is a few prompting questions. The students looked at the contradictions that were part of memory, remembering and forgetting. If I say to myself twice to use repetition...

    Student: Is she trying to convince her own self?

    Teacher [class]: I think so. Do you feel comfortable to sit down and start writing a paragraph?

    Student: Yeah.

    Teacher [class]: Okay, great. So it's a quarter of, why don't you go ahead and grab laptops. All right?

    Teacher [interview]: At that point one student from the group would go over to the cart and bring the laptops over to the group to facilitate the beginning of their writing. The students opened up the laptops and logged into Google docs. Once students then logged on, opened a document, they were to share it with each other in the group and with me. This writing was different that the smaller group discussion. The collaborative discussion now was the individual writers responsibility to process and write a paragraph on. Each student had to make his or her own decisions as to how they would make the paragraph and what evidence they would use and the kind of thinking that they would do about that evidence.


    Teacher [class]: Folks, it's 6 of, doing a great job. I left note cards on your desks. Can you please write down the lead sentence that you just wrote for your paragraph. And, can you please write an appreciation for someone in the group and something specifically that they did or said that helped prompt you.

    Teacher [interview]: To be grateful for what we have is a very important to recognize for students. It's very important for teachers to recognize what students bring to the classroom and by hearing what other people appreciate of other students we also get a better assessment of where students are.

    TC; Hallie appreciated Danny for noting how they kept asking rhetorical questions. It made me think about that. Nora writes that Elyssa helped me to realize that plot incidents is an outstanding characterization device.


    Teacher [interview]: The lesson was about being a really good critical thinker using sharing, collaboration, the QPA as strategies to be able to assist students into that highest level of thinking.

    Teacher [class]: We've got a couple of things we just need to do - I need you to read the other group members QPAs for class. I would also love for you to comment on them.

    Teacher [interview]: Our ultimate purpose will be to share this so that we can draft and then revise and really improve a piece of writing.

    Teacher [class]: Ok. Have a good one.

    Teacher [interview]: Today, we looked at the passages from a reader's point of view. Tomorrow, we're gonna look at it from a writer's perspective.

    Teacher [class]: Thank you very much for your work today. We had a super class and I really appreciate it. We'll see you later. Thank you.



School Details

South Windsor High School
161 Nevers Road
South Windsor CT 06074
Population: 1318

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David Olio


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