From the very useful Keys to Literacy Newsletter:
What is “Close Reading?”
- Something readers do to understand high quality, challenging text
- A process one uses to deeply comprehend
- An intensive analysis of a text to determine what it says, how it says it, and what it means
- Thinking about the words and ideas in the text to determine meaning (Shanahan,2012)
- Some descriptions of close reading you may have heard:
- Deep reading
- Slow reading
- Critical reading
- Unpacking the text
- Dissecting the text
- Figuring out a text
- Reading like a detective
- Dwelling in the texts we read
- Uncovering the information
- Uncovering the mysteries of the text
During a close reading lesson, students and teachers repeat this cycle: read a little, think a little, talk a little, write a little.
From Common Core 2010, p.3:
“Students who meet the standards readily undertake the close, attentive reading that is at the heart of understanding and enjoying complete works of literature.”
The following reading standards relate to close reading:
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text relate to each other and the whole.
“The CCSS focus on text complexity will require students to understand the text, interpret what the author is saying and be able to support their ideas and opinions with evidence from the text. During a close reading lesson, students practice extracting meaning through careful and thorough analysis and re-analysis with a particular focus each time students return to the text.” [Meeting the Challenge of Common Core: Planning Close Reading, Tim Shanahan, 2013.]
Tips for Teaching
There is no set way to teach close reading, and there is no research showing that one particular way works best. However, there are some common characteristics of an effective close reading lesson:
- Use of short, quality, content-based text or passages, including different genres in literature and informational text
- Preparation of text
- Minimal pre-reading activities
- Multiple readings
- Modeling through think alouds
Recommended further reading on this topic:
Boils, N. (2013). Closing in on Close Reading. Educational Leadership, 70, (4), 36-41.
Ehrenworth, M. (2013). Unlocking the Secrets of Complex Text. Educational Leadership, November 2013.
Frey, N., & Fisher, D. (2012 A). Close reading. Principal Leadership 13(5) 57-59.
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