Close Reading

close-readingClose reading, Close reading, Close reading. Our students need to be reading closely. It seems that everywhere we go there is conversation about the close reading that students need to be doing. The big question is what is close reading? How do we teach students to read text closely and why is it so important? As I have listened to conversations amongst teachers, I too have wondered well just what is close reading.

Close reading is not a teaching technique, rather it is a complex and powerful way of reading. It is a way of reading for deeper meaning in a variety of different ways for different purposes across disciplines. Teachers may think they need to learn a specific technique for close reading, but in all reality close reading is actually the outcome. Teachers don’t teach close reading, rather they engage students in a process of close reading of text in order to get to a deeper understanding.

There is not one version of close reading. The text that is used should determine the process used for close reading. Not every text demands three or four reads. A close read is an interaction with the text in such a way that students do the “second reading on their first encounter with text.” (Peter Robinowitz as stated by Timothy Shanahan) There are some basic guidelines that experts agree upon:

  1. Close readings involve interpretations of what a text conveyed both in terms of the message coded into the text by the author and the choices that the author made in how to convey that message-details, key ideas, craft and structure all treated equally.
  2. Close reading requires direct attention to the text itself.
  3. Close reading will require at least a partial rereading of some portion or all of the text to be analyzed. This will vary from partial rereads to, at times, several rereads depending on the text.

A key component of close reading is the questions we as teachers ask our students. It is these questions that will call for deeper analysis and careful attention to the text that foster a close read to be able to answer the question. Many teachers believe then that the “right there” questions, or questions that can only be answered with explicit information from the text are the questions to ask. This is a misunderstanding. The questions teachers ask need to require close examination of the text. These questions are not just literal recall items straight out of the text nor are they just simple logical inferences. Rather these questions require large-scale interpretations of text that require the reader to integrate prior knowledge and close focus on evidence in the text. According to theorists some things to think about when forming these questions are:

  1. Does the question require the use of information drawn from the text itself, both in terms of what it says and how it says it?
  2. Does the question encourage students to think about important information?  It is at times appropriate to ask questions that the information is explicit in the text, if the answer is important to building a deeper interpretation of the text.

So, as you can see the conversations surrounding close reading are necessary and important to developing an understanding of the instructional shifts that are at play. Teachers can go to for further information and guidance on close reads and development of text dependent questions.  This is a great place to start team collaboration and conversations that lead to stronger instructional practice and student achievement. “It is not one close reading is better than another, but it is important for schools to teach students to read like literary critics, historians, mathematicians, and scientists and to do so when the time is right- rather than teaching them to be close readers and to impose a single version or technique of close reading on everything that is read, no matter how inappropriate. Enjoy!

Information from this blog taken from insight gained from the following sources:

  • Timothy Shanahan
  • Achieve the Core
  • EngageNY
  • Adler and VanDoren

Litzenberger_Phyllis_WEBPhyllis Litzenberger
Network Team Coordinator

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