Close Reading

A major focus of current State Standards and the Common Core State Standards is improving students close reading skills.  How do we do this?  Burkins and Yaris of Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy define close reading as “Rereading for the purpose of recognizing details and nuances of text that may go unnoticed during a cursory first read so that new understanding and insights may reveal themselves”.  This definition assumes the reader will read the passage more than once.  For many students, the concept of reading a text one time, let alone more than once is unheard of.  Students will often substitute skimming for fully reading assigned text.  Our students need explicit modeling of close reading techniques.  Teachers must demonstrate how close reading conveys a deeper understanding of the material that leads to greater success when asked to perform a task related to that text. Here are some practical tips you can use with both fiction and nonfiction text.

Quick outline for Close Reading Activity

  • Begin with a short passage.
  • This can be one page from a class novel, a poem, or one subtopic in a textbook chapter.
  • For demonstrating close reading, it is easier to see the techniques applied in a brief text.
  • Set up for success by pre-teaching new vocabulary.  This gives you a sense of your students’ background knowledge while helping them to read more fluently.
  • Read and re-read the text 3-4 times using variety of purposes
  • Different methods should be used such as read-aloud by the teacher, choral reading, and partner reading.
  • Explain the reason for each reading of the text.  For example,
    • The first reading is to get acquainted with the text and use the newly learned vocabulary in context.
    • The second reading may be to develop questions based on the subheadings in a nonfiction text.
    • In a fictional passage, the purpose may be to note a particular literary device that the author uses such as simile, metaphor or hyperbole.
    • The third reading can be to clarify questions and answer them with text evidence.
    • The final reading would be to develop the main idea of the text, supported by the details gathered from the first three readings.

Explicitly model proper note taking.

  • Older students are expected to take notes when reading but this is a skill that must be taught.
  • In younger grades, note taking can be a combination of oral discussion, questioning, and recording on a KWL chart.
  • As students move up in grade level, a two-column format such as the Cornell Note taking method allows for easy organization of the material so that the notes become an effective study tool.
  • Students often mistake highlighting every word and/or writing an extraneous amount for good note taking.

Click the link below for students in younger grades. KWL charts keep students’ thoughts organized and their minds focused on the task.


Click the link below to find a Cornell Note Taker that will allow students to use as an effective study tool.