Phenomenal Instruction: Close Reading

What is Close Reading?

Close Reading is a technique that can be used for small or whole group instruction. To conduct the routine, you take a passage and have kids read it multiple times for multiple purposes. The first read is for literal or basic comprehension. The second read is for a deeper dive into higher-level concepts(Ex: Main Idea, Analyze Characters, Inference). The third reading is for evaluating and synthesizing.

*Ideally, small group Closed Reading is better for on or above-level readers. 

How to Conduct Close Reading

Materials Needed: Post-It, Highlighters(Teacher and Student), Document Camera

Resource: Complex Text

For the purposes of this article, I’ll use a poem to model Closed Reading. 

First Read: Number The Lines, Stanzas and Circle Rhyming Words

Before I have students analyze a poem, they number the lines, stanzas and circle rhyming words. The reasoning for this is to slow scholars down, so they’ve already know the gist in preparation for answering the higher-order questions.

*This should take around 5 minutes. 

2nd Read: Deeper Dive

Stanza 1 Question: What is the speaker describing/telling you about in Stanza 1?

This is a good question to determine if the scholars understand the Main Idea of an individual stanza.

Example Answer: The stanza is describing/telling us about the physical characteristics of the Village Blacksmith. My evidence is that the speaker talks about his hands and the muscles in his arms.

Stanza 2 Question: What does “looks the whole world in the face” mean?

With this question, you get to assess if kids understand figurative language and facilitate a discussion.

Example Answer: Looks the whole world in his face means that he has a serious and mature look to him. 

Stanza 3 Question: Does the Village Blacksmith work hard? If so, what’s your evidence?

This is a good question to further develop scholars ability to analyze and evaluate the text. 

Example Answer: Yes because In the third stanza, the speaker writes “from morn till night.” Hard workers will go all day to complete tasks.

Stanza 4 Question: How does the Village Blacksmith’s kids feel about him?

A good question to see if students can use evidence to interpret Character Feelings.

Example Answer: They love their dad because it says “They love to see the flaming forge.”

Stanza 5 Question: Why does the Village Blacksmith enjoy going to church?

This question requires that the scholars analyze the text deeply.

Example Answer: He enjoys going to church because he likes to hear his daughter’s voice.

Stanza 6 Question: Why does the Village Blacksmith become emotional? 

Again, another question for the scholars to read deeper into the text.

Example Answer: I think he became emotional because his daughter’s voice reminded him of his wife that passed away , and he was reminiscing on past times.

Stanza 7 Question: What is the speaker/author doing in this stanza?

Before the scholars answer the question, ask them to pay attention to each line and word.

Example Answer: The speaker is summarizing the events in the poem up to this point. For example, he/she writes: “Toiling, rejoicing,–sorrowing.”

Stanza 8 Question: Do you think the speaker appreciates the Village Blacksmith?

This question requires that scholars evaluate the final stanza of the poem.

Example Answer: Yes. I think he appreciates the Village Blacksmith because he calls him “my worthy friend.”

Final Read: Divergent Thinking

Whole Poem Question: This is a poem, so it’s written to entertain but what other purpose could it serve?

This is a good question to show students that text can be written for multiple purposes.

Example Answer: It could serve the purpose of informing you about the life of a Village Blacksmith during those times.

Benefits of Close Reading

Interactive: While conducting the Close Reading, scholars are constantly doing something. Reading, Talking, Highlighting, Annotating or Writing. 

Scaffolded: It’s a good routine to support weaker readers with comprehension because the teacher is correcting misconceptions and they hear the thoughts of other classmates while having collaborative discussion.

Purposeful: With each Close Reading scholars learn to ask the proper questions as they read text and organically slow down.

Conclusion: Close Reading is a routine that should be a key component of any ELA(English/Language Arts) Instructional Block 2-12(Not proper for K-1). It aids in students monitoring for comprehension and fosters higher-order thinking. 

Be Phenomenal, Mr. Short

Up Next: Text Analysis

Published by Jeremiah Short

My name is Jeremiah Short, and I'm a educator with six years of experience. I love to teach and the overall craft of the profession. I've written one book on my journey(As I Took My Walk With God Volume I: I Stopped Wasting God's Time) with a second one way (As I Took My Walk With God Volume II: Greatness Was Upon Them). In addition to writing books, I've created several instructional routines: Word Power, T.I.D.E., Bloom's Units: Reading and The Phenomenal Classroom.

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