15 Questions on Close Reading and What it Means

Close Reading Questions

What is Close Reading?

Close reading is the process of reading and rereading looking for specific information from the text with each read.
There are five basic characteristics of close reading.

  1. It works with a short passage.
  2. The focus is intense.
  3. It will extend from the passage itself to other parts of the text.
  4. It should involve a great deal of exploratory discussion.
  5. It involves rereading, usually at least 3 reads.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) describes close reading in light of the Common Core State Standards.
Close, analytic reading stresses engaging with a text of sufficient complexity directly and examining meaning thoroughly and methodically, encouraging students to read and reread deliberately. Directing student attention on the text itself empowers students to understand the central ideas and key supporting details. It also enables students to reflect on the meanings of individual words and sentences; the order in which sentences unfold; and the development of ideas over the course of the text, which ultimately leads students to arrive at an understanding of the text as a whole. (PARCC, 2011, p. 7)

Who started it?

Close reading was first practiced as a form of literary criticism by Ivor Armstrong Richards (1893-1979). But, Fisher & Frey (2012) remind us that”the practice of close reading is not a new one, and in fact has existed for many decades as the practice of reading a text for a level of detail not used in everyday reading” (p. 8). Buckley (2011) “as English teachers, we have to empower all our students to use texts to construct and represent meaning skillfully, because by every measure, it gives them a better chance at having a better life” (p. 3). Buckley continues “all students deserve a chance to learn how to demonstrate their ambitious exploration of text” (p. 29), this is also supported by Fisher & Frey (2012) stating “close reading should be accompanied by purposeful, scaffolded instruction about the passage” (p. 8).

Why is important?

Close reading is important for students because it guides them to a deeper understanding of the text that they are reading.

What do students learn?

Students learn a valuable reading strategy that will help them in all subject areas and with any text.

How does it help students prepare for the CCSS?

Common Core State Standards expect students to read and comprehend at a very high level. Close reading allows students to comprehend the very obvious details in the text, but also helps them see the subtle details in text that they would most likely overlook.

Do I have to learn anything new?

Teachers do not have to learn anything new.

How do teachers select passages for close reading?

When selecting a text or passage for close reading, ask these two questions:

  1. Is there enough going on with the language and craft of the text to warrant the attention of multiple readings?
  2. Does the understanding that comes from close reading sufficiently benefit students in light of the larger goals of the course or unit?

Is there a specific methodology involved?

During close reading students read the text at least three times. During the first read students read through the text to get the gist of what the text is about. During the second read students dig into the text and focus on analyzing the meaning of a passage of text at the word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, and passage level. Thus exploring the author’s craft and how specific words and phrases make meaning. They mark up the text and highlight it based on criteria from their teacher. During the third read students use evidence in the text to determine and support an answer to a question. This is the step where students are asked to take their comprehension to the next level.

Can it be applied to fiction and non-fiction?

Yes, close reading can be used in fiction and non-fiction. The key is to keep the passage length manageable. You would not close read a whole fiction book or a whole non-fiction book. A few pages or excerpts are more than enough.

How does it improve vocabulary?

Close reading can help students improve academic vocabulary acquisition and become aware of subtle variances in word meanings due to the multiple readings and increased comprehension.

Do students learn to write better, as well?

The more students study and discuss author’s craft and text structure the more likely they will apply it to their own writing, thus improving their writing ability.

How is this method different from other methods like…. ?

Close reading is different from other methods because it requires at least three reads and has a very specific focus each time the text is read. When students work with a text while close reading, they begin to notice things in the text that they would have missed or overlooked with just one read. Close reading also lends itself to incorporating other reading strategies/activities into the second or third read. Some suggestions would be anticipation guides, concept maps, Frayer models, save the last word for me, and compare and contrast activities like Venn Diagrams and top hat organizers.

It seems a tedious way to teach reading. Won’t students lose interest in the subject?

The key to avoid students losing interest in the subject is to select text that is of high interest and has an adequate amount of the skill, literary element, or text feature you are focusing on.

Does Close Reading require specific materials?

When close reading a text that students can write on or markup it is helpful that they have a pencil and possibly a highlighter. When closing reading a text that students can not write on or markup it is helpful that they have a pencil and sticky notes. Students can place the sticky notes on the page, make their markings or notes, and then remove at a later time.

How long will it take for students to get the hang of it?

Like any skill we teach students, it takes a few times for students to get the hang of it. The first time you do a close reading activity with your students you will need to be very clear with your directions and model each step of the process for and with them. As time goes on you will be able to tell students to read to get the gist for the first read and to mark it up for the second read with very limited help or direction from the teacher. As they get to the third read, they will then focus on what questions you have posed to them. Once students truly understand the process and internalize the steps they will start using the close reading strategy on their own with complex texts or subject area text books. Many students preview the end of section questions in science and social studies text, and then use those questions during their third read. As a teacher, you know your students have learned when you see them using the strategy on their own!


  1. Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. (2011). PARCC model content frameworks: English language arts/literacy grades 3–11. Retrieved from PARCCMCFELALiteracyAugust2012_FINAL.pdf
  2. “Close Reading.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Sept. 2014. Web. 01 Oct.2014.
  3. Buckley, E. M. (2011). 360 degrees of text: Using poetry to teach close reading and powerful writing. Urbana, IL: NCTE.
  4. Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (Jan. 2012). Engaging the adolescent learner: Text complexity and close readings. Newark, DE: IRA.