How to Implement the Close Reading Protocol Teaching Strategy in Your Classroom


The close reading protocol method asks learners to carefully and purposefully read and reread a text. When learners “close read,” they concentrate on the author’s message, what the author’s purpose is, what the words mean, and what the format of the content tells us. This approach ensures that learners understand what they’ve read. We ask learners to carefully investigate the content to make connections to essential questions about history, human behavior, and ourselves. Skillful close reading is also a crucial foundation in helping learners to develop the ability to back up their claims in class discussions and writing assignments with corroborating evidence. A typical close reading activity utilizes some or all of the steps in the implementation section below.


  1. Read Aloud Text: You or a confident learner reader can read the content aloud. Learners must follow along with the reading. Ask learners to circle unfamiliar words as they listen. After the read-aloud, as learners share these words with the class, decide which words to define instantly to limit confusion and which descriptions you want learners to uncover through careful reading.
  2. Learners Read Silently: Ask learners to read silently and write down words or phrases that seem striking to them for any number of reasons: because they are strange, interesting, confusing, funny, troubling, challenging, etc. Share some of these as a class. Particular questions to ask learners at this stage of the reading are:
    • What can you deduce about the author of this content?
    • How is the content formatted?
    • Does this format make it easy or difficult to make meaning?
    • Does this format tell us anything about the author’s style or purpose?
  3. Learners Answer Text-Dependent Questions: In small groups, have learners read the content in chunks and answer a set of content-dependent questions. Content-dependent questions are those that can be answered based only on careful analysis of the content itself.
  4. Learners Create a Visual Image: In small groups, have learners create a visual image on paper that captures the essence of the content. Ask learners to include a three-word or one-sentence summary of each section of content. Groups can be given either the entire content or parts of the content for this section of the close read.
  5. Learners Participate in a Gallery Walk: Ask learners to complete a gallery walk of the pictures that have been created.
  6. Transition to Discussion: Consider organizing a class discussion so that learners can make connections beyond the content. This discussion can be informal, or it can utilize the format of the Socratic Seminar or Save the Last Word for Me strategies. You can prepare some questions, use the essential questions from the classroom, or have learners create the questions for a discussion. To do this, you may guide the learners by asking them to find connections between the essential questions and the content or to write questions based on what resonates with them.
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