Top 10 Tips for Close Reading Activities

If you are looking for a way to take your student’s comprehension to a whole new level in any subject area, Close Reading is just the strategy for you! It is a very simple and easy way to take students through multiple readings to increase comprehension and encourage metacognition. This is something I do in my sixth grade ELA classroom weekly.

close reading tips for close reading activities infographic

This is a sponsored guest post by SNAP Learning @SNAPLearning and authored by Heidi Morgan @heidiamorgan, 6th grade ELA teacher in New Lenox, Illinois. As Heidi and I talked, I wanted her to share her classroom experience with using the Close Reading technique she uses. (You can get a free demo of Snap Learning here.) They also made a very cool, pinnable infographic explaining close reading strategies that you can pin and use as you teach close reading. — Vicki Davis

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What is close reading?

Close Reading is a way of reading text that encourages students to read and reread with a purpose each time in order to help students achieve deep comprehension. According to PARCC,

“Close, analytic reading stresses engaging with a text of sufficient complexity directly and examining meaning thoroughly and methodically, encouraging students to read and reread deliberately. Directing student attention on the text itself empowers students to understand the central ideas and key supporting details. It also enables students to reflect on the meanings of individual words and sentences; the order in which sentences unfold; and the development of ideas over the course of the text, which ultimately leads students to arrive at an understanding of the text as a whole.”(PARCC, 2011, p. 7)

The goal of Close Reading is to teach readers how to read and reread with a purpose. As time goes on, and students become more familiar with the close reading strategy they will begin to read and reread independently. Thus, mastering the strategy and having a deeper understanding of the content of the text they are reading.

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10 Tips for Close Reading Activities

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Close Reading Tip #1: Select Short Passages

These short passages of high interest text should be long enough to be meaningful, but not too long for students to lose focus or get lost in the reading.

Close Reading Tip #2:  Make Your Focus Intense

Pick a skill or literary element, like cause and effect or figurative language, you want to focus on and make sure that the text has an adequate amount of this skill or element in it.

Close Reading Tip #3: Extend Focus Through the Text

The focus should extend from the passage itself to other parts of the text. Once students begin to notice or see the focus skill or element, they should be able to find it throughout the text.

Close reading samples on the IWB

Modeling is so important when you’re teaching reading strategies. This is what makes the portfolio approach fit so well with close reading – you have texts students can mark up and teaching materials to help share and add emphasis.

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Close Reading Tip #4: Students Markup the Text as They Read

As students read they should mark up the text with symbols that help them think through what they are reading. (Use this Sample Mark It Up Poster with students.

Close Reading Tip #5: Encourage Exploratory Discussions

Encourage exploratory discussions between students between reads. Students talk about what they read, what things they marked up, and about the focus skill or literary element. The Think, Pair, Share strategy works well with close reading discussions.

Close Reading Tip #6: Encourage Rereading

Students read the text at least three times with a different focus each time. (See below for more info on how this works in my classroom.)

Close Reading Tip #7: Read in Every Subject Area

Use the close reading strategy in all subject areas.

Close Reading Tip #8: Annotate the Text

If you can not physically mark-up the text (like in traditional textbooks) use sticky notes.

Close Reading Tip #9: Use Close Reading Marks Independently

Encourage students to use close reading marks in their independent reading to help them focus and comprehend. Once students see the value in close reading they will begin to use the strategy on their own.

Closed Reading Tip #10: Use Close Reading Strategically in Small Bites

Don’t over do Close Reading. Use articles, short passages and short texts, don’t close read a whole novel.

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An Excellent Close Reading Resource

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I think SNAP Learning’s Close Reading Portfolio can guide any teacher through the Close Reading process with amazing success. It is a well planned and constructed portfolio of short, high interest, nonfiction text that kids want to read. It is perfect for any day, but really great to take the stress out of those three-day weeks when you can’t get  a whole week’s unit in.

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Here’s an example of how I use SNAP Learning’s Close Reading in my classroom.

First Reading: Get the Gist

As students review and explore the text in the first few minutes of the lesson, they are drawn into the text and want to read it because of the nonfiction topics and images associated with the text. During the first read students read through the text to get the gist of what the text is about.

Second Reading: Digging Deeper and Marking It Up

During the second read students dig into the text and focus on analyzing the meaning of a passage of text at the word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, and passage level. Thus exploring the author’s craft and how specific words and phrases make meaning.

Close reading portfolios give you work for students to mark up

Close learning is an excellent technique to help students learn to read deeply (especially non fiction texts). I like the approach of Snap Learning, the sponsor of this post, because it gives you materials to mark up (most schools would frown on having their textbooks marked up for close reading.) I thought this would be something many of you would like. — Vicki Davis

Third Reading: Looking for Evidence

During the third read students use evidence in the text to determine and support an answer to a question. This skill is so important in a world of CCSS and in light of the upcoming PARCC test.

Following the third read, the student is given the opportunity to respond in writing to the text. What SNAP Learning’s Close Reading Portfolio does that is unique is that it gives the students fluency practice. It is a fact that fluency is an indicator of comprehension and this added piece is very valuable to all teachers. The last piece of the Close Reading Portfolio is a culminating activity to show how well students are able to answer text dependent questions and demonstrate proficiency.

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Snap Learning Resources (Have a free demo)

If you want to know more about the Close Strategies I use in my classroom, you can take a look at the presentation I did at the Raising Student Achievement Conference in December 2013.

9 Essential Close Reading Resources to Learn More Strategies


  1. Teacher’s Guide to SNAP Close Reading Portfolio
  2. Closing in on Close Reading [ASCD]
  3. Pinterest Close Reading Board
  4. Snap Learning Teacher Resource Page (Placement Test, Beginner’s Tutorial)
  5. Fisher and Frey YouTube Channel
  6. Close Reading of Literary Texts [Read-Write-Think Strategy Guide]
  7. Newsela
  8. Readworks
  9. Notice and Note Strategies for Close Reading

References


Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. (2011). PARCC model content frameworks: English language arts/literacy grades 3–11. Retrieved from www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCCMCFELALiteracyAugust2012_FINAL.pdf

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12 thoughts on “Top 10 Tips for Close Reading Activities

  1. I really enjoyed this post and it fits so well with the work that we are doing in my building. I have already tweeted it and forwarded it to my colleagues and plan to return to it in the fall as we revisit reading and writing across the content areas! Thank you so much for sharing this information in such a user-friendly manner!

  2. It’s not clear to me what level of readers these are. Are these fluent readers and you want to use close reading to take them to some higher point? Or are these struggling readers and you want to use close reading the make them fluent readers, that is, to complete their literacy training?

    • Bruce, I will ask Heidi about her situation.

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    • Bruce, this strategy can be used with all levels of readers. As the teacher, you should pick texts that would be at the student’s instructional reading level for close reading activities.

      • Yes, but specifically speaking. These six graders are reading at what level?

        Here’s what I’m worrying about. If they can really read–that is pick up a book and read it–they should be encouraged to read longer passages. Close reading is going to slow those kids down. (Perhaps that is the goal in a system that wants leveling.)

        But if they can’t actually read, then close reading is going to be used, accidentally or not, as a screen or camouflage. Poor readers could seem to be engaged in something deep and sophisticated, But all they are really doing is wallowing in one spot for long periods of time. That might be the danger here.

        • Good question. I know Heidi will tune in but I believe this is a good strategy for improving comprehension of non fiction text – and again — the emphasis in the article is not to overuse. I think it depends upon your objective and what you’re trying to do. I do think at some point close reading would be a technique used with almost every student at some point in their elementary/ middle school career.

          Again, I’ll let Heidi chime in here.

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        • My readers range from significantly below level to significantly above level. The key with close reading is picking the right text for what you are focusing on and making sure your activities for each read are of high quality. If you are focusing on cause and effect the text should be one that has many examples of it. The first read would be to get the gist of the whole article. The second read would be to mark it up and notice the cause and effect relationships in the article. The third read would be to analyze the author’s text structure choice and how it helps convey the author’s ideas.

          When I first introduce close reading I do it whole group to get all students into the routine and purpose of each read. While they are reading, marking up, and discussing what they read, I walk around and monitor their work. Once all of the students are understanding the process of close reading, my focus then switches to small groups. This allows me to differentiate the text for students based on their needs. When it is done in small groups I am best able to monitor the interactions with the text, join in their discussions, and make sure they are engaged while not struggling or being bored.

          Also, don’t forget this is not a strategy you would want to use with all of the things we ask kids to read. It is best used in moderation and with purpose. The goal it to get students to be able to read and comprehend what they read. When they attack a challenging piece of text, they can use this strategy independently to help them comprehend. Even our strongest readers need tools to help them comprehend texts that are challenging.

          • I’m sure that any technique can be useful sometimes. My worry here grows out of my cynicism about Common Core. I think they want to keep the whole class muddled around together at the same point of development. I think that’s terrible.

            Let’s suppose kids are learning to ride a bike. They can ride down the street. Would it make sense to keep those kids on the front lawn discussing how to hold the grip, how to make turns, how to avoid holes in the road, and other details that we might call close-biking. I suspect a little of this goes a very long way. I think it’s far preferable to encourage those kids to ride around the block, and then to ride around six blocks. Spread your wings. Do some things.

            For me, close reading makes sense only if the text is just slightly more complicated than where they are. But that’s what English classes have always been about.

          • Hmmm. I’ve heard about Close reading for a very long time pre Common Core.
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          • Bruce, the point of this technique isn’t to read a sentence like “The rabbit went down the hole” and then we wonder “Well where did the rabbit go?” (though I suppose you COULD use it in such a way)

            I use close reading in my AP Physics class of college level readers. Doing a close reading of a dense scientific article can help them not only learn about science, but also about how to compose a proper article. The latter is something that today’s youth is especially lacking. When you take a crack at an article and the first paragraph contains 5 words you’ve never seen, 5 people you’ve never heard of, and 5 physics concepts you only loosely understand, even the best reader needs to slow down and do some thinking.

            Take, for example, the slide that the teacher is presenting in the article. Sure, any kid in that room might be able to read the second paragraph and say “Oh, okay, the Electoral College unanimously elected George Washington.” But do they know why that paragraph is there? Do they know what that information is used for later in the reading? Do they know what the word “college” here means? Etc.

          • Thank you for clarification, Tom. This is helpful to hear.

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