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Close Reading is an instructional technique that suggests an approach to reading comprehension focused on literal,inferential, and evaluative questions based solely on the information contained within the four corners of the page.

Close reading plays a fundamental role in shaping the three areas of the CCSS: key details, author's craft, and integrating ideas.

In the classroom we operationalize these standards and close reading through short passages, read over multiple times guided by text-based discussions and text based analysis.


Close Reading is a specific literary school of thought derived from New Criticism and pushed heavily by the think tank the Aspen Institute. This group had networks within the Governor's organizations and the Common Core State Standards were born.

Combine the political advocacy with a financial crisis and the Obama administration creates a competitive grant program “Race to the Top” that promised billions to a few states. Everyone had to adopt the Common Core an eligibility requirement.

Close reading would fix that achievement gap. See the reason children of color can't read was because the books got too easy and the teachers too soft and talked nothing about feelings. It became one of three instructional shifts “required” of the Common Core State Standards

Characteristics of Close Reading

  • Short, complex passages. If you gonna wrestle with a text it best be able to throw you for a few twists and turns. Match the text to the pupose and make sure it will challenge understanding or engage students to encourage multiple readings
  • Re-read the text. Set a purpose for reading. Read the text. Set a new purpose, read the text, Set a new purpose read the text. Dig deeper and look at evidence from different perspectives along the way.
  • Annotate. You must model what good readers do and show the margin as tool for looking for key details, analyzing author's craft,and making connections to other evidence and texts
  • Analyze. Encourage a culture of intellectual risk where students are willing to argue over how the choice of a specific word may change the entire mood and tone of a poem.


Close reading requires marking up and tracing the shape of a text. As you return to the passage you may then annotate the text using a different set of markers for a different purpose.

As a teacher you must think aloud and model the annotation process. You can mark up for: Main idea key details questions circle key words and concepts draw lines between ideas highlight claims and number evidence circle figurative language

The key is to demonstrate the practices Good readers use when we pull apart a text.

Text Based Questions

Fisher and Frey, citing Adler and van Duren (1972) and Kurland (1995) suggest the following phases of close reading:

  • What does the text say?
  • How does the text work?
  • What does the text mean?
  • What does the text inspire you to do?

Text Based Discussions

Reciprocal Teaching (Palincsar & Brown,1984), I Questioning the Author (Beck, McKeown, Hamilton, &Kucan,1997), Collaborative Reasoning (Chinn & Anderson,1998), Text Talk (Beck &McKeown,2001), an Accountable Talk (Wolf, Crosson, & Resnick,2004) have all consistently demonstrated the importance of text based discussion in improving comprehension scores and frequency of comprehension strategy uses.

Close reading does not work alone and new meanings emerge in groups (Morrow, 1990).

During the discussion the purpose for that reading must play a central role in the discussion.

Classroom Examples

Image Tableau

  • Assign a poem to a group of students
  • Have them read the poem once to themselves
  • write a free response
  • read the poem a gain with a focus on determining the mood
  • circle words that impact the tone and mood
  • search for images that represent those words
  • as a group create a tableau that represents the story and each words impact on the meaning and tone.
close_reading.txt · Last modified: 2021/02/18 01:50 by jgmac1106