Close Reading with Oreo Cookies
Years ago, while scouring the internet, I came across an activity that used Oreos to introduce the concept of close reading.
As one who enjoys the crispy wafer sandwich from time to time, I was excited to incorporate this activity into my lesson planning.
Since then, the lesson has always been a hit with my students and it has seemed to help get across the importance of close reading.
1. Without explaining, I simply begin class by taking out the package of Oreos and passing out one to each student. If they ask why they're getting Oreos, I usually just explain that I'm a nice teacher and enjoy giving my students sweet things. I tell my students to quickly eat their Oreos so that we can begin class.
2. Once all students have eaten their Oreos, I ask them to write down what they just ate. They usually stare at me blankly and then I repeat myself. "Go ahead. I know it sounds simple. But what did you just eat?" They all write down Oreo (sometimes you'll get a kid who writes down "cookie.").
3. Next, I pass out a second cookie to each of them, telling them to not eat this one yet. Once each student has a new cookie, I ask them to observe the Oreo before tasting it and eating is very slowly. I ask questions like:
What does the Oreo look like? What patterns do you observe on the cookie?
What does the cookie smell like?
As you eat the cookie slowly, what do you taste?
How would you describe the taste to someone?
What is the texture like?
What do you notice about the wafers and the cream?
4. As they are observing their Oreos, I ask them to write down their observations. They then share with a partner and then out to the class.
5. We then talk as a class about why their observations were more detailed the second time around. Why was this second "reading" of the Oreo better? Most students explain that because they took the time to really look at the Oreo, to observe it up close, they were able to uncover details they never noticed before: The smell, the artificial taste, the wreath-like pattern, the Nabisco logo etc.
6. We then talk about questions they now have. Did they wonder what the symbols are on the Oreo stamp? How long has it been the same stamp? Who created the stamp? How long have Oreos been around? What ingredients are Oreos made from? Have the ingredients stayed the same all these years? (If you're as curious as I was, you can read about the Oreo here.)
7. We discuss why this second, closer reading of the Oreos provoked so many questions, and how when we complete a close reading of a text, it often is the same.
8. We then discuss how this relates to reading. Why does a second, closer look at a text reveal more to us as reader? What kinds of things should we look for when we reread a text and take a closer look? We make a list of "Techniques Writers Use." This becomes a working list that we add to as we move through the semester and learn new literary devices and writing techniques.
Overall, this is a fun (and tasty) activity - to introduce what can be a complex and tedious concept - that my students often remember for years to come.