I think we can all agree that we want our students to be strong and confident readers. But how can we build our students’ reading skills? Close reading is an often talked about reading process that has big benefits for students. I want to share the steps for close reading and activities you can use to practice.
What is close reading?
Close reading is careful and thoughtful reading of a text. It includes searching for details in a text and rereading multiple times for greater understanding. Essentially, it is a reading strategy that is used to comprehend and analyze a text closely.
The purpose of close reading is to go beyond just a standard reading and “glazing over” of a text. In a typical reading setting, students will read once and only take away a snippet of understanding and detail from the text. By engaging in close reading, students will follow a six step process to gain better understanding.
What are the steps for close reading?
There are six steps for close reading. The goal of these steps is to scaffold and break down the reading for students, so they are able to gain deeper understanding and comprehension. The best part – the steps are pretty simple!
I highly recommend having these steps written on an anchor chart, white board, or even printed on a bookmark for students. You want them to have easy access to these steps.
Step 1: Read the Text
For the first step, simply have students read the text. This is their initial read. Unlike in traditional reading where you might bring in prior knowledge, introduce vocabulary, or use other pre-reading strategies, you will not do that in close reading.
I know it may seem backwards to eliminate pre-reading strategies since we are trying to gain deeper understanding, but the goal is that students discover these elements on their own.
Step 2: Markup the Text
This step goes along with step one. As students are doing their initial first read, they will also be marking up and annotating the text. Be specific with students about exactly what they should be looking for and annotation.
Here are some items I typically have students annotate –
- Circle unknown words
- Put a ? next to confusing statements or paragraphs
- Put a ! next to an important fact or moment
- Underline key details
This step for close reading is only after one initial reading, so don’t expect students to have a completely marked up text yet. They will notice more things on their next reading.
Step 3: Read the Text Again
Now, students will read the text a second time. In this step for close reading, students will continue to markup and annotate the text using the same annotations we talked about above. The goal for the second read is that students notice and note more items, but also, that students have a better understanding of what they are reading.
When my students read for a second time, I ask them to pay close attention to the sections they circled or put a ? next to. If they still are struggling with those areas, I ask them to mark it again – so it looks like ??. The reason for this is so students know what items to seek clarification on.
Step 4: Define Unknown Words
Next, students will look at the words or phrases they circle and define them. They can use a dictionary or context clues to define these words.
Make sure you review dictionary skills before asking students to complete this step. If we are being honest, sometimes the dictionary does a poor job of making things easier to understand. So, give students tips for using the dictionary.
Step 5: Read the Text Again
Students will now read for a third time. That may seem like a lot, but there is a reason the steps for close reading include multiple read-throughs! It’s ultimately how students will deepen their comprehension and understanding.
As they read, again ask students to note any details they may not have noticed the first two times. You can also have them write any thoughts or notes about areas they are starting to understand more. Lastly, have them write another ? next to areas they need clarification on.
After this third reading, talk with your students about the text. Ask them what they understand about the text so far and help out with any areas they are struggling with.
Step 6: Respond to the Reading
The last step in the close reading process is reading response questions. You can include some comprehension questions to check for understanding, but you should also include deeper, critical thinking questions. This will not only test students comprehension, but their ability to think beyond the text.
For struggling students, you can complete these reading response questions in a teacher group while the rest of the class works independently.
Close Reading Activities
Because of the multiple read throughs involved, close reading is best practiced on paragraphs or short passages. If you need some help finding close reading passages, I have two resources that can help you get started.
The Highly Engaging Close Reading Bundle includes 10 non-fiction texts over engaging topics, such as why do we burp and why does mold grow? It will be a hit with those elementary curiosities!
I also have a Science Close Reading Bundle. It includes 47 informational texts that cover all of the science standards for 5th grade! This is a year-long bundle that you can use in centers, to review concepts, or even do cross-curricular integration.
Each bundle comes with multiple choice questions for each text (10 for each passage) and seven graphic organizers.
I hope that now you know the steps for close reading, you can seamlessly integrate it into your classroom!