To meet the Common Core ELA Standards students must “readily undertake the close, attentive reading that is at the heart of understanding and enjoying complex works or literature.” The purpose of close reading is to build the habits of readers as they engage with complex texts, developing their stamina and skills for being able to do so independently.
Close reading looks different at different ages and content areas. The basic components of close reading include:
- Complex, short text passages
- Limit pre-reading activities
- Rereading of text
- Text-dependent questions
- Peer Collaboration
- Response to text
Close Reading is a strategy that will look different for different texts based on the genre, purpose for the reading, the text complexity, and the student’s ages. Here’s one possible sequence of events.
1. Students Read and Annotate: Students read complex text passage silently and annotate it and they read. Text can refer to short stories, poems, news articles, photos, paintings, etc. They may circle words or phrases that are powerful, underline those that are confusing, indicate big events or when a character shows strong emotion, and write questions or thoughts. Students can use metacoginitve markers or “Thinking Notes” as a means to move beyond just highlighting. These annotations will be reviewed by the teacher and used by the students for group discussions and writing.
2. Peer Collaboration: Students further clarify their understanding of the text through peer collaboration in which they share their impressions, observations, and confusions. Use group strategies such as Kagan’s Think-Pair-Square to allow students to discuss the text first with a partner, then with another pair of students as a group of four. Each group shares a summary of their conversation with the class.
3. Answer Text Dependent Questions: Students read the text again as they seek answers text dependent questions. Answers to questions must be supported with evidence from reading.
What to look for:
- Language: word choice
- Narrative: who’s telling, point of view
- Syntax: order in which words appear, how they appear
- Context: author’s background, when published
- What does this author want me to know? What does the text teach me?
- What does this piece want me to understand? What new ideas and concepts does the text suggest?
- What does the author want me to feel? What emotions does this passage stir up?
- Whose perspective is represented?
- Whose point of view is most fully explored?
- How does the perspective in this text compare with others on this issue?
- How does the author use persuasive techniques, literary devices, or writerly craft to convey meaning?
4. Response to Text: Students complete an independent writing task in which they draw conclusions and make interpretations that are supported by evidence from the text. This task should include mastery of one or more standards and capitalize on the key ideas, essential questions, or their understanding.
To scaffold the lesson you could include these additional steps after the student’s annotate the text:
- Teacher reads: Teacher then does smooth, fluent, and expressive oral reading of a text for the students with no interruptions.
- Think Aloud: Teachers reads aloud a second time, modeling by stopping to share thoughts. The modeling can be guided by what the teacher observed in the students annotations.
In the video below students closely read a complex text. The teacher uses text-dependent questions, annotation, and student discussions to foster their thinking and understanding.
Close reading doesn’t mean that you simply distribute a complex reading and have students read it again and again until they understand it. It should be include by purposeful, scaffolded instruction. Close reading won’t be used with with every reading task, and the steps may vary.