Close Reading is a subject that is both old and new at the same time. Educators and reading experts are constantly implementing tips and tricks to get students to pay closer attention to the text they are reading.
We talked to 21 experts who have implemented close reading tactics in their classrooms and asked them the following question:
What is your ONE favorite strategy to get students engaged in close reading?
1) My favorite strategy to get students engaged in close reading is using colored sticky notes. Each color represents a specific part of the close reading experience. The color-coding makes it easy for the students and teacher to keep track of what type of thinking is being done as they read through a text.
Performing in Fifth Grade
2) Give students a choice about what they read. Letting kids pick texts they find interesting leads to greater student engagement.
The Corner Stone for Teachers
3) One of my favorite close reading strategies is getting kids to find the big “So what?” After reading the entire passage or section to get the gist of the text, reread it, stopping after each paragraph or every few sentences and ask yourself, “So what?” Explicitly teach readers that this “So what?” question implies several other questions such as, “Why did the author include that?”, “Does any part stand out and why?”, “Is this section more or less important than another one?” Breaking down this metacognitive thinking is at the heart of close reading!
Mollie Cura, M.A
4) I show them “So You Think You Can Dance”. We read lyrics, listen to song, and then watch the performance. This opens the conversation as reading as a form of creation. As a result, we focus on seeing the details that both help us create ideas and the ones that help others see our ideas clearly.
Public Relations Senior Specialist (Former English teacher)
Tri-Rivers Educational Computer Association (TRECA)
5) I used to have my students start with a text-based question and use it to read for meaning. As a group they would take notes and write constructed responses based on what they found. I ran it like a reality show–“Who’s Got The Gist?” They enjoyed the competition when they were in groups, and the ones who didn’t think they could read well for information write well about it found they could. It worked well.
Former Language Arts Teacher
Go Teach Go
6) Poetry! I usually started with a teacher read aloud of the poem followed by partner reads and then a close analysis of every sentence for meaning. Then students write their own poems. The Road Not Taken would be perfect for this!
Former Middle School Teacher
Educational Representative at Benchmark
7) My favorite close reading tip is to use song lyrics for close reading. Looking at that kind of engaging text makes kids willing to go back and look closer and closer for patterns and author intent.
Once Upon a Teacher
8) One of my favorite strategies for close reading is getting kids in the habit of looking at everything more closely. For our youngest learners, they most successful close reading strategy is having them observe, describe, analyze and infer pictures and real objects as shared group reading activities with language and thinking scaffolding from the teacher.
9) Mark it up! Take a passage from a difficult piece of writing and circle unknown words, underline main ideas, visualize a descriptive sentence with a drawing next to it! Use your own words to write what you see hear or feel, write all around the white space around a paragraph to interact with the words, cull meaning, and find metaphor. Works great in small groups who share what they find as a group, and then with the class.
10) I think offering choice is key for students to engage in any type of reading.
2nd Grade Teacher
11) Our favorite close reading strategy is the “Mindfulness” strategy that appears in our new book, Reading Wellness: Lessons in Independence and Proficiency. The teacher engages in a series of breathing exercises that illustrates how breathing can get deeper and deeper. Then students look at a piece of visual art three times, noticing how their observations deepen with each examination.
Dr. Jan Burkins & Kim Yaris
12) I think good questions that allow students to access the text, but lead to deeper thinking are the way to go. I love using “The Boy with Five Fingers” for this, and start the students off with thinking about setting, which leads to a discussion on the narrator, which leads to deeper investigation of the characters, which leads to the students figuring out “what happened”, which leads us back to the setting and theme. I love it when I get to see the “Aha” moment when students put all of the pieces together!
13) My favorite strategy is to model close reading while reading a popular book with the class. When students see the layers of understanding and “secrets” they can uncover in reading, it makes it that much better!
14) Model close reading by placing the excerpt of text on a document camera or projecting with a Smartboard, thinking aloud about how you are making sense of the text, and then writing helpful annotations. This is helpful to students who are visual as well as auditory learners.
Sunday Cummins, Ph.D
Literacy Consultant and Author
15) My favorite close reading tip: Have the student’s compose their own assessments for other students. Highly successful.
Dr Bruce Cruicks
Developer and Owner
16) I have found with younger students (first and second graders) that the use of highlighters is highly motivational. Students highlight key details within the text. Often these facts lead to a deeper discussion as we discuss how these key details help to support the main idea. These facts that we identify within text can also lead to higher level thinking and questioning. These are important skills as young children learn how to pull details they need from informational text to support their thinking, answer questions, and explore topics more.
A First for Everything
17) To get students engaged in close reading, I love explaining the what and the why. My students need to know why I’m having them read a text closely, and then what I’m wanting them to look for (e.g., statements they disagree with, or three keys to al-Baghdadi’s rise to power).
Dave Stuart Jr
Teaching the Core
18) My students annotate everything they read – on paper and online. On paper they use sticky notes and employ traditional annotation strategies. Online they use Diigo to transfer those classic pen and paper annotation strategies to the digital space. In addition, I use Padlet Walls to engage entire classes in collaborative close reading activities. For example, we are currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and I asked students to identify a central theme and support their selection with textual evidence (direct quote and citation) and analysis. They posted their theme, textual evidence and analysis on a shared Padlet Wall so everyone could benefit from the work done.
English Language Arts Teacher
19) As we introduce close reading skills in our classrooms, we begin by using high interest passages. We make sure the topics we choose will grab the attention of our students and make them have interest in digging deeper.
Jill & Cathy
20) Marking the text is one particularly strong strategy, mainly because it can facilitate so many other close reading strategies like questioning the text, stopping, inferencing, and more. It also helps the reader physically engage–at least one a minor level–with the text, and gives them a record of their thinking-while-reading as well.
21) Give the students an interesting passage based on something that the students can relate to. Initially at least ensure that the difficulty level of the passage is low and then start giving them grade appropriate passages which includes grade appropriate vocabulary. Encourage them to sit in groups and pear assess each other’s work. One easy way to hook them up to the exercise is to give them a passage that they are familiar with, like for example an excerpt from a novel, or a poem, or a non-fictional work that they have read. This way the learners will not only be learning how to use vocabulary and understand word meanings, but also revise syntax, and semantic rules. When you give them an extract from something they have already read as a close gap exercise, then you are also reinforcing what they have understood from their reading of a previous text.
Rodrick Rajive Lal
The Heritage School, Gurgaon
That’s it! 21 practical close reading tips from educators with hands-on experience in the classroom.
We hope these close reading classroom strategies give you some ideas to implement in your own classroom! If you have more ideas or like something you’ve read please tell us in the comments.