Close Reading with Polar Animals, a Perfect Activity for Winter

Close Reading with Polar Animals, a Perfect Activity for Winter title image

Close reading is a procedure that I found really helped my students think more deeply about their reading. It’s one of the best strategies I have used to help them with comprehension, but also with study skills. In fact, I really wish I had learned to use it when I was in school. In this post, I break down how I teach it to my students.

Close Reading with Polar Animals, a Perfect Activity for Winter -book recommendation

Chris Lehman, author of falling in love with close reading

Recently, at the Virginia State Reading Association conference, I got the opportunity to hear Chris speak. The session was jam packed with teachers wanting to know more.  He modeled a Close Reading lesson using a song lyrics, so the presentation was quite engaging and lively.  His book is a great resource for getting started, especially for the Middle School and High School levels since he gives examples of texts that would be appealing to the “mature” reader.  

Getting started with close reading

The typical Close Reading lesson is divided up into three reading sessions, each digging deeper into the meaning and use of the information in the text.  Chris calls this using different lenses to select specific information you need as a reader.  The initial read scratches the surface and gives the gist of the reading. It familiarizes the student with the actual words on the page and introduces the organization of the text. I am going to share the steps using one of my close reading sets as an example.


The penguin set I put together includes a prereading activity to build schema and a copy of the article.  I set the article up with plans for my students annotate as they read.  The students are given a specific purpose (or reading lens) to use. They are asked to identify the main topics and big ideas.

Performing in Education advises calling the note-taking process, “Important Points to Remember” versus “Annotations” because students may get more hung up on the terminology instead of focusing on the task.  I do have to agree that that may be an issue for some, so keep that in mind as you work on annotating.  Certainly, that post is one to save and reread over and over again.  

Have students look for connections and signs of author’s craft

In the second reading, students begin connecting ideas and focus on using the information they’ve read.  They’re making inferences, comparisons, and thinking about author’s message, theme, and ways to use the new information.  They’re looking for the text evidence to support their thinking.  

You might provide them with guiding questions to focus their discussions and thinking. I also ask my students to color code their evidence in the article. We also use text marking symbols to show connections, opinions, etc.


Close Reading Final Step


The third reading of the text is used to gather information that will be used in deep discussion or expanded writing.  Students need to see the connection between reading and writing, how writing is organized (structure and purpose), and how we can use what we learn to support our thinking and opinions.  

For this Close Read, I asked that students to find adaptations that help protect it from predators and describe what they’d do to protect the penguin, so the reader has to work at the upper level of Blooms to use the information and create something based upon their learning.


final notes on close reading

Keep your lesson focused on purpose

Chris makes several other important points in the reading. Students need to be strategic and read with a specific purpose in mind.  They also need to share.  They need to do most of the talking (which I am working hard to learn and practice). It is a difficult thing to release that role to the students, but it does give the teacher the opportunity to assess understanding.

Close Reading with Polar Animals, a Perfect Activity for Winter

use a variety of text types

Remember to use a variety to texts.  I know with my students, 80-90% of their reading is fiction, so using other genres in instruction increases the likelihood that students will select other genres.  Plus, we work with genres differently.  We need to show our students how structures change.  

Close Reading with Polar Animals, a Perfect Activity for Winter

close reading sets in my shop:

If your interested in looking at the other Close Reading sets I’ve completed, you can check out the listings below or on TPT.  Each set includes before, during, after activities with the article.

other close reading articles you might like:

Let me know if you have any questions.  I hope you’ll take the plunge and dive into Close Reading.


Carla is a licensed reading specialist with 27 years of experience in the regular classroom (grades 1, 4, and 5), in Title 1 reading, as a tech specialists, and a literacy coach. She has a passion for literacy instruction and meeting the needs of the individual learner.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Fantastic set. I'm wading through the Close Reading procedure as well. I can definitely see the benefits. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You are welcome. I still have kinks to work out with my kids when they work independently, but I do see the long term benefits, especially since my oldest is in college now. I sure wish he'd learned these strategies. Thanks for dropping by Gary.

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