Tips for Teaching Students How to Read Closely

I have been fielding questions about the “close read” from a group of new teachers. They all had different ideas about implementing the close read, and no one really knew exactly how to go about teaching students this skill set.

Many were certain that teaching close reading was all about teaching annotations. While annotations can certainly help a student form connections and understanding of a complex text, they are simply a means to an end.

Close Reading of a Complex Text

Let’s start by taking a look inside a typical prereading lesson.
The students are getting ready to read a passage that the teacher has carefully
chosen. She knows it will be challenging, but she is confident that if she introduces it by giving
students some necessary information, they should do just fine.

 Today we are going to read  title
of work

   wrote it right after   fill in the circumstances.

In this passage, the author explains/argues/informs/tells the story

You should be interested in this because  how this relates to students.

You will encounter the following vocabulary words  state and define the 

While you are reading, look for the concepts or ideas.

While we may not use all of
these techniques all of the time, we probably use some of them some of the time. We were, in
fact, taught that preparing the students in this way would enhance their
comprehension of a passage. And while these prereading strategies aren’t always terrible,
they are not an effective way to prepare students for challenging texts.
Therefore, we should not use these techniques when teaching the Common Core
“close read.”

Now, we call giving the students a lot of prereading
information, “frontloading,” and we know it does not help advance
students’ reading skills. Here are some techniques that we should avoid (sometimes):


When Teaching Close Reading, Don’t Always…

Use these close reading tips to teach students exactly how to tackle a complex text.
by summarizing a text as a means of introduction.
students definitions of challenging vocabulary words that
they might
come across.
• Introduce
a purpose for reading, because reading then becomes a “mad
hunt” for
answers. Students will end up passing over other information.
students why they should be motivated and interested.
the reading by making observations.
I realize that
I hate the word “don’t.” So here’s a “do” or two (or

When Teaching Close Reading, Do…

students to read, reread, focus, and go slowly.
students the tools necessary to tackle a challenging text.
students to mark up the text, either on the actual text or on
post-it notes.
the text determine the purpose
and the discussion.
students’ questions, connections, and observations unfold naturally.
        Some teachers will say that teachers should
conduct the
second read, and
they should read to
students. I do not. I
believe in a gradual release of responsibility, similar to the method that Fisher and Frey (http://www.fisherandfrey.com/) recommend.
    Step 1:  Teacher directs/models.
Step 2:  Students collaborate.

Step 3:  Independent practice.      Keep in mind that these are just some of the suggestions I’ve learned about teaching the dreaded infamous “close read.” For specific tips on teaching close reading in content areas, take a look here.


     If you have any “best practice” tips, please do share!
    Stay delicious, teacher friends!