Close Reading: Everything You Need to Know

This is a reading method whereby the teacher directs the students as they read a material, be it in whole or in part, several times and totally helps them throughout the course of their reading. In close reading, students read and reread a material purposefully and carefully. When they “close read,” students focus on what the author is trying to say and what his intention is, what the words mean, and what the material’s structure tells them. This way, close reading ensures that students truly comprehend what they’ve read.

Close reading involves critical and thoughtful analysis of a material. It focuses on significant patterns or details to help students develop an in-depth and precise understanding of the material’s meanings, form, craft, etc. Typically, close reading includes:

  •         Focusing on the material itself
  •         Using excerpts and short passages
  •         Diving right into the material with limited pre-reading activities
  •         Reading with a pencil
  •         Rereading intentionally
  •         Taking note of things that are confusing
  •         Discussing the material with others (in either small groups or with the entire class)
  •         Responding to material-dependent questions

Selecting the material for close reading needs careful screening as not all are suitable. For instance, though students will enjoy stories with simple vocabulary and storylines like The Wimpy Kid series, they aren’t fit for close reading. The reason is that once they have been read, they don’t leave room for thought-provoking messages or pondering upon deep ideas.

Typically, materials that are close read-worthy include concepts that are complex enough to explore and discuss for one or more days, guided by the teacher’s instructions. Close reading is often a multiday commitment to a material that offers an adequately rich vocabulary for students, ideas to ponder upon, and information to read, analyze, and discuss over a few days without feeling as if they’re beating a dead horse.

When choosing a material, teachers should consider the three key components of complexity:

  •         Quantitative measures
  •         Qualitative measures, and
  •         the task and the reader

For quantitative measures, teachers should decide if the material has a suitable readability level for their students and find ways to ensure their success with this material.

Qualitative measures include checking if the material offers information or ideas that further students’ understanding of the topic, follows familiar language conventions, etc.

Under task and reader considerations, questions like how interested the students are, what’s their level of prior knowledge about the topic, and how difficult it would be for them to read the material should be answered.

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