Close Reading asks students to dig deeper into a text, to pull out greater understandings from it. I think it’s a great strategy but might be likened to salt…a little is good and a lot is terrible.
It is a strategy that should be used sparingly and definitely not with every read.
A few times a month is a nice amount in my opinion because each time you do this strategy, the students re-read the text, so most likely you are taking several reading sessions to complete this.
If you did this strategy all of the time, you might just suck the joy out of your kids as readers.
Not to say that your students won’t enjoy Close Reading because hopefully, you have selected a really high-interest passage to use, and most likely you can lead the lesson with enthusiasm but this process is a bit like brushing your teeth… you know it’s good for you and maybe you enjoy the fresh minty breath it provides, but it’s not something you really want to do for fun!
1. There’s more than one way to do close reading!
Actually, there are a multitude of ways to do Close Reading. Some do three reads, some do four. Some start with the teacher reading aloud and others start reading independently. My advice to you is to find what works for you and stick to it!
I have researched it a great deal and have decided how I like to do Close Reading. I prefer a three reading model which is detailed on this handout, and is also included in my Close Reading Using Informational Text Unit.
2. Resist the urge to introduce the passage!
More details… I know when I went through teacher training, we were taught to front-load stories to help kids connect to them and to understand them better. We might have told some background information or explained some of the more challenging vocabulary.
Close Reading, however, is never to be front-loaded in that way. The whole idea is for the kids to do the work to come up with their own understandings and if we just hand it to them on a platter, it’s like giving a new farmer a bushel of corn but not allowing him the joy of growing it.
So, resist the urge and trust that with this process, they will be getting what they need.
A big part of Close Reading is annotating the text. I created a handout for my students that I also included in the unit with some suggested markings. Of course, you can make up your own or add to this. Nothing is set in stone.
About questioning…Close Reading uses questions that are “text-dependent”. This means that kids must have read the text to be able to answer this.
For example, even though we ask kids to make connections all of the time – Text to Self, Text to Text and Text to World…this is, after all, a good reading strategy, but asking about a child’s connection would not be a Close Reading type of question because really someone could come up with a connection by reading the title or even partially reading the text.
The questions used in Close Reading try to force kids to go back to the text and to dig deeper to find answers.
More about the questions… After the first read, students will answer Key Ideas and Details types of questions. These questions ask basic information about key details, characters, setting, main idea or who/what/when/where types of questions.
After the second read, the questions are ramped up a bit and deal with the passage’s Craft and Structure. Students will be asked about vocabulary choices, text features, text structures, and point of view.
When the third text reading is complete, students will answer even higher level thinking questions called Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. These questions ask them to compare and contrast, to find cause and effect relationships, to synthesize and analyze information from the text.
To be able to have good questions on hand, I have created my own separate set of “Task Cards: Close Reading Questions for Teachers” that can be used with any text.
They are titled as well as color-coded and are the size of task cards, which makes them handy. That way if you’re using your own text, you can easily find questions at each level that will match the passage you’re focusing on.
5. Free Posters
Here is one of the four free posters that are also included in the Close Reading Using Informational Text unit: Click here for Four Free Close Reading Posters
You can do this!
So…now you’re ready to jump in (I hope). If it’s any comfort, think about some advice I received when I had my first baby…the good thing is that they don’t know if you’re doing it right either!
Let that be a comfort to you as you start using Close Reading. You will grow as you go in your ability to use this reading strategy.
I also love this resource…It’s a set of 148 task cards that have close reading questions stems you can use with any text. Some are specifically made for fiction and others are for informational text but they are all text-dependent questions. They are also color-coded by complexity.
Thanks for stopping by!