Close Reading Made Easy

Think for a moment about how you approach a new book, journal article or reading assignment. One of the first things you likely do is to ask, “What is this about?” If the text is a work of fiction, you may read the title, the back cover of the book and the first paragraph or two. You do this in order to:

Decide if it’s something you want to read (if you have the option to choose).
Get an overall idea or ‘gist’ of what the book is about, which helps to frame your understanding as you read the text. If the text is non-fiction or informational in nature, you will likely scan the title and any subheadings and will hunt for sidebar items such as photos, diagrams, charts or other features intended to help illustrate the author’s meaning. After this initial ‘read’ or scan of the text you will begin at the beginning and read closely in order to gather details. If the text is challenging or on subject matter unfamiliar to you, you will read it at least once more in order to fully comprehend its meaning.

Through the deliberate teaching of close reading strategies such as these, students as young as elementary school can become successful, independent readers too. We need to shift the focus of reading instruction in the elementary grades from encouraging students to make personal connections to text (which can quickly lead them off track) to teaching students how to examine text closely and allow it to speak for itself. For an introduction to close reading, it is worth taking a few minutes to view this brief video from TeachLikeThis, which does a thorough job of explaining the key points.

Ready to get started with close reading in your classroom? One approach is to give students a graphic organizer that leads them through the close reading process. Close Reading Informational Text, a free resource from Lessons From The Classroom, is here to help. It begins by guiding students to scan an article to make an estimation about its gist. Next students do a close reading during which they note new or interesting vocabulary and are instructed how to make sense of these words. Finally, students answer open ended questions requiring them to delve more deeply into the text, which further builds comprehension. Teachers are encouraged to conclude the close reading experience with partner or small group discussions. This allows students to solidify comprehension as they examine the text even more closely through collaborative learning.

For more information about close reading, including how to design text-dependent questions specific to a particular text, see Nancy Boyles’s Closing In On Close Reading in a recent issue of Educational Leadership.

Looking for engaging informational text and activity sets for your students? Look no further! Lessons From the Classroom has it covered with highly-rated, complete print-and-go lesson packages on a wide range of topics students really want to read…from holidays to sports, social studies, history and much more.

Happy (close) Reading!

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