Teaching Deep Thinking Through Close Reading

Teaching Deep Thinking - Comprehension lessons by the Reading Crew
Close Reading
My students have experienced a lot of success with their reading comprehension using close reading strategies. I've also noticed from FB posts and product feedback is that there are a lot of teachers who want to give close reading a try, but are unsure on how to go about doing it. Good news is that it's probably not drastically different from what you're already doing. In fact, there is probably no "right way" of doing it, and there will be many variations based on your students and your daily schedule. You can even use your reading series, literature circle books, or guided reading materials. As I mentioned in {this post}, the rule of thumb is to choose something fairly short and high-interest.
Attention Grabber
Since close reading focuses on strategies to make meaning from the text itself, it is not necessary to do any pre-reading activities. However, you can build excitement and motivation by taking a minute or two to activate prior knowledge on the topic prior to reading.
The first time I do close reading with my students, I model, model, and model some more. On the first day, I have the kids do a cold read and annotate the text. I model the expectation for annotation by sharing my thought process as we read. I model how to write questions, make connections, and otherwise interact with the text based on my thoughts while reading.
Annotated close reading text
I prefer to write directly on the paper, but if you're using a textbook, novel, or whatever, that obviously isn't a good idea. So if I'm using a story from Wonders, I hand out small Post-It notes students can use instead. Or sometimes I'll photocopy the selection from the book, like maybe just the page about Harriet Tubman. And I saw this really cool idea on Pinterest. Genius.
After annotating during the cold read, we have a class discussion about the selection - what annotations did you make and why? There are no wrong answers during this part since everyone will have different thoughts and connections with the text. The discussion lasts anywhere from 10-20 minutes, depending on how thought-provoking the text was. Sometimes we just share with a partner instead. I like to mix it up just to keep things interesting and fresh. The point is to just get them talking and listening to each other about the topic.
On the second day, I ask some sort of question that requires them to independently practice going back to the text to answer. Maybe I want them to compare/contrast, look for particular details, answer the who/what/where questions, or put some events in sequential order. We are digging slightly beyond the initial reading and are starting to get some understanding of the text. If they have a print copy, then I'm asking them to highlight where they found the answers. I have found that I get more participation if they get to use highlighters, Post-Its, or whatever. For my class, this takes about 15 minutes.
Student completing second read close reading activity
Annotated and highlighted close reading passage
On the third day, we take another look at the text. This time, I'm asking a question about the structure, vocabulary, figurative language, author's voice, or something else that doesn't necessarily focus on the text and details. Maybe we outline the selection looking for main ideas and supporting details. If we are using the print copies, this is the day we underline our text evidence. So up to this point, our papers have annotations, highlights, and underlines. By now, it's pretty obvious who needs some extra attention because their paper is either empty or completely covered with highlighter and underlines. This also takes about 15 minutes.
Annotated text with highlighted and underlined text
The last activity I ask them to do with the selection is a short writing prompt. I pose a question that has something to do with the text and hopefully makes them use what they learned to answer it. I like asking questions about how ideas apply to their own lives, their opinions about something in the text, or maybe even a time when they experienced something similar. This is where I introduce how to quote directly from a text in their writing. I allow about 15-20 minutes for this part.
The Perfect S'more Writing Response
Notice that I'm not spending hours on this every day. This is why my students don't mind coming back to the same text day after day. This is also why it's so important to have an interesting selection (which is why I don't do it with every chapter in the textbook). In my opinion, it's also why close reading is so flexible in that you can do it whole class, in small groups, as independent work, or even as homework.
Below are some free close reading topics that you can do with your students if you want to try these strategies without having to come up with your own text selections and questions.
Nonfiction Close Reading Constitution Day Free ProductNonfiction Close Reading Pearl Free Product
Nonfiction Close Reading Online Safety Free ProductNonfiction Close Reading MLK Jr. Free Product
These are my paid close reading products if you want to try it for a month or longer.
Paid close reading seasonal bundle products

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  1. I love teaching close reading and am excited to have some new passages!

  2. Thank you, Amy! This is a great post on Close Reading.


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