Of all of the strategies I’ve used with the kids I’ve taught, close reading has been the most effective at helping my students with reading comprehension. Why is that? Well, I believe it teaches children to not just read the words and get surface level understandings, but rather, it requires engagement and high level thinking. Today, I’d like to revisit the close reading process with hopes that these tips might provide support as many approach end of year assessments.
What is Close Reading?
If you are looking for a great teacher resource book about Close Reading, Chris Lehman’s book, Falling in Love with Close Reading offers a thorough explanation of how and why it works. I heard Chris speak two years ago. During his presentation, he used song lyrics for the text for modeling with us, and that is an important point. Any text can be used for this strategy, and in fact, using a variety of texts is necessary for our kids. Here are a few tips I learned from his book…
Read through different lenses in order to select specific information.
According to Chris, Close Reading is “making careful observations” of something and then “developing interpretations from those observations”. In other words, we stop to look carefully at choices an author (or painter or musician or director or architect) has made, and then develop ideas from what we have noticed (stop and jot). This means students read with different lenses to match the purpose we give them and observe text evidence to fit that designated purpose.
Look for connections with the text and analyze the author’s craft.
We want our readers to be strategic in their reading and thinking. We want them to observe the author’s use of language to convey meaning and apply that learning in their own work. I tell my students all the time that reading and writing go hand-in-hand. When I share a read aloud with my kids to introduce a new writing assignment or to model a reading skill, I’m not simply reading the book. We are ANALYZING the author’s craft to apply it to our own writing ideas or using that text to practice the skill. The best way to become a strong reader or writer is to interact with strong writing that is filled with vivid vocabulary, includes varied sentence length and type, that’s well organized, and that shares a strong message or idea. As we break down the text, we are thinking, and test taking is all about thinking strategies.
Read sections of text to see how small ideas connect to the bigger picture.
As students work with the close reading strategy, their level of understanding improves. With the first reading, I see my students navigate through the decoding process with some of the vocabulary, get the gist of the reading, and observe basic information with a pencil in hand to mark it. They scratch the surface. With the second and third visits to the text, we hone in on specific skills, record annotations in the margins of the evidence that proves our thinking and that match the assigned purpose, and share our learning and opinions with one another. It is through group discussions that we quickly see the depths of understanding our students have achieved. Will your kids reread on your state assessment? They may not reread a piece three times, but if we can slow them down by getting them to annotate, I think your odds increase.
Choose a variety of texts including songs, poems, articles, ads, and even books.
Keep instruction clear with a purpose, engaging and active, so that the strategy is transferred to other texts.
First Reading-Getting the Gist
- Set the purpose for the reading.
- Assign sections of the text to read and share your expectations for marking it.
- Give time to read and a stopping point for discussion. Having kids turn and talk about the section may flush out confusions they may have.
Second Reading-Thinking More Deeply
- Set a new purpose for the reading.
- Again, read and interact with the text in sections.
- Respond to the text (questions or an organizer with a skill focus)
Third Reading-Extending Ideas
- Set a new purpose for the last reading.
- With a third reading, students must be using high level thinking which requires them to analyze the ideas included in the text for the purpose.
- The information learned from the reading is used in an extended response.
Resources to Help You Get Started
For practice, there are certainly lots of wonderful free resources to get you started. If you [CLICK HERE], you will be taken to a list of free close reading sets. You can find close reading resource sets for all grade levels now too. I hope you’ll give them a try and see the benefits as we have at my school.
For a look at what’s available in my store, you can check out these two bundles for science. There are a few others too