Why Close Reading?


  According to literacy expert Dr. Douglas Fisher, close reading is an instructional approach that requires students to read and re-read a text several times and develop a deep understanding of the content contained in the text.  However, close reading doesn’t mean that you simply distribute a complex reading and then ask students to read it again and again until they understand it. As part of close reading, students "read with a pencil" and learn to annotate as they go. In addition, students are asked text-dependent questions that require them to produce evidence from the text as part of their responses.

      Close Reading can be described as an encounter with the text where students really focus on what the author has to say, what the author’s purpose is, what the words mean, and what the structure of the text tells us.  Eventually, through close reading, students should be able to read increasingly complex text independently, relying only on what the author provides in the text to support their comprehension and evaluation of the text. 

     Lessons based on close reading of texts have several distinct characteristics:

• Close reading often entails a multi-day commitment to re-reading a text. Each re-reading has a different purpose. Timothy Shanahan, an expert in literacy, teaching, and curriculum, recommends at least three readings of a text, in

which the main purpose for each reading is aligned with one of the three main categories of the ELA Anchor Standards for Reading: Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas.

• Close reading focuses on a short, high-quality text that is appropriate for reading several times (e.g., a text with complex ideas and structure).

Close reading passages should require multiple readings for comprehension, interpretation, and analysis.

* Close reading focuses on information provided within the text – not background knowledge.

Questioning in a Close Read

A major role for teachers in close reading activities is to ask text-dependent questions. Text-dependent questions can only be answered by referring explicitly to the text. Answering these questions does not rely on any particular background information outside of the text. The questions engage students in interpretive processes, guiding them in how to think about the texts and enabling them to practice the type of attentive

reading and thinking called for by the core standards. 

Why Should We Implement 

Close Reading?

     Research shows that the complexity of text students can read is the greatest predictor of success in college. Unfortunately, many students struggle with complex text written at their grade level as defined by the core standards.  Close reading is an instructional strategy that can assist students in accessing complex texts. A significant body of research links the close reading of complex text—whether the student is a struggling reader or advanced—to significant gains in reading proficiency and finds close reading to be a key component of college and career readiness (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, 2011, p. 7).  

     Anchor Standard 1 for Reading states that students must read closely to determine what the text says explicitly, make logical inferences from it, and cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text. Furthermore, 80-90 percent of the TN Core Standards for reading require text-dependent analysis. Therefore, students’ successful and meaningful engagement with text necessitates teachers’ careful planning of close reading.

Scaffolding for Close Reading

   As we move students to more challenging work throughout the year, we must provide support for gaps that occur between a student’s current knowledge and our state standards.  

      To support students in reading the text, we can begin a close read with the teacher or a fluent reader reading the text aloud.  Students can read the text silently for the second reading.  Struggling readers may be asked to read a passage from the text aloud after he or she has heard and followed along with the passage a few times.  

     Teachers must also scaffold students’ meaning-making with the text.  For example, it may be necessary to tell students something about the text genre (e.g., that it is a memoir or science article) to aid in comprehension.  Scaffolding of vocabulary may consist of pre-teaching words that may otherwise block students’ access to the text.  If, however, the meaning of vocabulary can be discovered within the text, teachers should avoid pre-teaching and guide students in the use of context clues.

     Other scaffolding strategies may include:

*Asking guiding questions

*Chunking information

*Highlighting or color-coding steps in      directions or prompts

*Annotating the text

*Color-coding paragraphs to help students         make sense of the text

*Gradual release  - I do, we do, you do