What a beautiful craft to be able to provide context and meaning to text in ways that help students improve their understanding, vocabulary, conversational techniques, and (bonus!) test scores. That’s just what close reading does, and it’s something to consider for all types of curriculum and ability levels.
Close Reading in The Upper Grades: Gaining Mastery
“Now that this skill set has caught on in earlier grades, we’re looking forward to seeing how much stronger our students will be,” says Angie Kratzer. “At the high school level, AP English is all about close reading. Close reading is about interacting with the text, getting inside the mind of the author, and mapping out the rhetorical triangle.”
“Close reading is an important critical thinking skill that is very necessary for success in high school English. I like to present it as a puzzle activity — we have to piece together all the pieces in order to get a good picture of the whole. It’s a process that must be modeled with the kids so they can see the steps necessary in figuring out author purpose and technique,” says Room 213.
From Arlene Manemann: “I love the close reading system. The idea is to first allow the student to reflect independently, for which I create a graphic note page with a few subtle hints as to what they might write. Only then do they go back and start reading ‘closely.’ As students read more closely and answer questions regarding different topics, they might change their minds about their first reactions, reinforce their impressions, or both.”
More Close Reading Resources for The Upper Grades
Close Reading in the Middle Grades: So Much to Explore
Catch the Buzz explains, “In my middle school classroom, I just test-drove a close reading activity in our Greek unit… close reading REALLY lends itself to primary source documents along with science and social studies articles because those resources can be complex and not easily understood in one reading. My students really enjoy working with complex texts and close reading… it’s like peeling back layers of an onion for them. I’m just careful to not overdo it and burn them out.”
“As an avid reader,” says That Rocks Math Science and ELA, “I interpret close reading as reading on many dimensions. There’s always the obvious literal meaning, but digging deeper can be fun, too. I realized this first-hand when I read Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen aloud with two 6th grade classes. We read this story to be entertained by the plot. We read to learn about mandatory curriculum things like protagonists and antagonists. We read to learn about how an author crafts a text and really chooses words carefully. We read to learn more about ourselves, others, and even society.”
“I tell students that close reading equals deep thinking, and it requires me to give them some strategies and then step back, while they take control. I’ve seen a lot of changes in my students’ reading abilities. I love watching light bulbs go on during these lessons,” explains Darlene Anne. ” I’ve used them with classic literature and complex nonfiction texts that I would have deemed too difficult before. I’m positive that the reading strategies I share with my students will be some of the most useful skills they’ll leave my classroom with at the end of the year.”
Close Reading in Elementary: Getting Down to Basics
From Panicked Teacher: “Last year I started experimenting with close reading in my 5th grade class. I needed to help students build their ability to read, respond, and retain text. I wanted to, in some way, capture their reactions and hopefully build their abilities to make inferences. I love that close reading allows students to read, reread, and revisit smaller passages that contain complex vocabulary and information. It provides students with multiple opportunities to interact with text. Students have the opportunity to find evidence in the text they’ve read to support their thinking and understanding.”
Even the youngest students benefit from close reading, says Little Bird Kindergarten. “I’ve been doing close reading in my kindergarten class for about two years now. In kindergarten, it begins as ‘close listening’ and has become such an important part of my instruction. I’m still amazed by how many standards can be integrated into one close read. The RI and RL standards are the obvious ones, but I love using the conversations that take place during close reading as building blocks for my little learners to become expert conversationalists using academic language and vocabulary in context (integrating the speaking and listening standards). It’s during these content-rich conversations that the students learn to participate in natural and authentic dialogues and practice speaking behaviors that carry over into every other part of our day.”
You can see Little Bird Kindergarten’s Fall Close Read bundle in action in the cover photo at the top of this blog post.
Fifth in the Middle explains close reading this way: “Close reading is multiple readings of the same text for different purposes. I tell students that the first time through, I want them to interact with the text and make annotations. That’s why it’s good to either photocopy the text from your textbook or provide some sticky notes. The second time through, we’re looking to get a deeper understanding of the text by looking for evidence that supports their answers to a particular question. The third time, we usually focus more on structure of the text. For the second and third reads, we skim the text to find the evidence we want to use. Then I usually provide some sort of writing response where they can combine their thoughts and text evidence.”
Blog Posts Take a Closer Look at Close Reading
Performing in Fifth Grade says, “I’m the resident close reading expert at my school. I didn’t just jump on the bandwagon; I’m driving it.” Take a look at her recent blog post about finding evidence of theme using close reading. And be sure to grab a (free) Close Reading book mark while you’re at it!
Implementing close reading in your early elementary classroom? Here’s what Susan Jones TGIF has to say, “Ahhhh — close reading! I was so skeptical about how this difficult skill could be made accessible to my little 1st graders, but I found a way to make it work in my classroom, and I love sharing it with others. I hope it can help some other skeptical primary teachers!” Get her popular Close Reading Bundle in her TpT store and her Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Close Read freebie on her blog.
Learning how to annotate while Close Reading is tremendously important says Teacher-Author jivey who writes the popular blog ideas by jivey: “During close reading, students should annotate the text to help leave tracks of their thinking as well as to help with their purpose for reading. How you have students annotate (the marks they will make) is totally up to you, but making sure their marks are purposeful is what is most important to teach them.” She uses her Bats, Owls and Spiders Paired Texts Grades 4-8 (Constructed Response) resource in her own 4th grade classroom.
This has been such an enjoyable topic to write about. I’ve learned more about close reading and I hope you’ve found something to take away and use in your own classrooms. Be sure to check out more Close Reading resources on Teachers Pay Teachers.
“No two persons ever read the same book.” – Edmund Wilson, writer