Close the door on boring close-reading activities. This teaching guide will give tips on how to train your students to be expert close readers who excite you with every essay.

Close reading analyzes the finer details in a text and develops a deeper understanding of its content and meaning. Children analyze a range of texts in their studies from Early Years to Higher Education and will carry these definitive skills into their future lives.

Like an ant with a magnifying glass, close reading gets into the finer details of a text to find precious morsels of meaning.

How can children learn from close reading?

Have you ever been lost in a book you were supposed to analyze because the story was so good? Learning to read and analyze text is not easy, but there are simple and effective ways to turn your students into top-notch little critical readers.

Close reading prose, poetry, or any form of text typically requires multiple reads. Students should do an initial read to become familiar with the topic of the text and formulate initial questions. Then, students should consider the details on the second read, analyze the text, and make descriptive notes.

Imagine you’re back in the classroom, your teacher has dragged a TV from the 70s into the room, and everyone cheers – it’s a relaxing lesson of watching TV. Watching a show in a study is always fun, but there’s typically a deeper purpose. The credits roll up, and your teacher asks you to analyze the endlessly perplexing prose of Romeo and Juliet.

Close reading is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. Instead, you must consciously remember to analyze a text’s features and deeper meaning, whether it be prose, poetry, or even a Shakespeare play.

Close reading strategies for teachers

It is believed that there are five natural steps to adhere to when conducting a close reading, and they should guide students through the process of reading any text.

Step 1. Read the text and make notes of your ideas/ feelings

Step 2. Read the text again and analyze any themes, symbolism, metaphors

Step 3. Develop a descriptive idea about the meaning of the text

Step 4. Construct an argument backed up with examples from the text

Step 5. Develop an outline of the text based on your analysis

Close reading has different outcomes for each age group, but it’s never too early to start. Bring students’ reading to life by implementing engaging and informative strategies.

When starting, one of the main steps in close reading is learning to annotate correctly. So, get excited, kids; it’s time to reach for the highlighters. For each of the following steps, students should highlight the text in a different color. It allows students to engage with the text more thoroughly and notice patterns and structures they might have missed on the first read.

Analyze and Highlight –

  1. Blue – Mark any unfamiliar words and look up the definition. Students can have fun with the highlighters in this step.
  2. Yellow – Mark anything that attracts your attention, including strong use of language or an idea that intrigues you.
  3. Pink – Highlight anything that is repeated that might have a deeper meaning. Does the color red constantly crop up? Is the writer always mentioning the weather?

Question Time –

  1. Make a list of questions you have about the text. Try to make them open questions that can’t just be answered with a simple yes, or no.
  2. First impressions – What is your opinion on the story, characters, and poetry?
  3. Predict the text. What might happen and why?
  4. Are there similarities? Does the text remind you of anything familiar?
  5. Did you notice any key themes, patterns, or metaphors?

The wider benefits of close reading

Close reading deepens into literature, allowing readers to develop their reading comprehension more complexly. Children read for fun at preschool and into F – 2, encouraging language mastering through phonics. However, as children develop their literacy throughout years 3 – 6, they have reached the point where they can extract figurative language or find symbolism in the stories and words they read. At this point, children begin to focus on the bigger picture and can interpret a story’s moral or deeper meaning.

Close reading is an important strategy to encourage a child’s reading comprehension, not just in the books they read but in the world around them. If a child does not begin to understand the meaning of the words and the story within a book they are reading, they will read the words and miss that important connection.

Choose your Reaction!