Close Reading: Am I Getting Close?


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I have become obsessed with learning more about Close Reading. I have been reading everything I can get my hands on to understand this strategy and be able to assist teachers with this shift in thinking.

I have devoted much of the last 20 years to the study of literacy.  I am not sure I should admit this, but up until the onset of the Common Core I had never heard of the specific strategy of Close Reading. Timothy Shanahan states in a PPT presentation it has been around for a quite long time. A closer look at the strategy reveals I have used parts of the process with students, but not in its entirety.

Knowing that this strategy is something the teachers I work with should know about, I set out to develop a few resources to assist in their efforts. The materials I have developed are based on the works of Timothy Shanahan, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Diane Lapp and Beth Burke.

It should be noted that NOT every reading should be a CLOSE READING. As educators we need to make sure we are setting a purpose for our teaching and student learning. When the purpose is, as Douglas Fisher states, “to really focus on what the author had to say, what the author’s purpose was, what the words mean, and what the structure of the text tells us – the Close Reading strategy can be used.”

Close Readings can be done in a variety of settings with both literature and informational text. At the elementary level consider incorporating into your shared reading and interactive read alouds. A Close Reading lesson will not doubt spread across several days. The strategy would become too lengthy for elementary students to accomplish in one sitting. The text that is used should be short, complex and worthy of a close read. When choosing text keep these 4 areas in mind, yet remember to keep your Close Reading focused. Each of these do not (or should not) be focused on in one Close Reading sequence.

  • Language:
    • Word choice
    • Vocabulary
    • Reading complexity
  • Narrative/Author’s Stance
    • Who is telling the article or story?
    • How are they telling the story or information?
    • What format is the story or article in?
  • Context
    • Historical context of document, information, or story
    • Author’s background
  • Syntax
    • The order the words appear
    • Repeated phrases
    •  Style of writing (formal, informal, format, etc…)

The resources I found helpful in my journey thus far include:

  • Timothy Shanahan blogs at Shanahan on Literacy. I used information found in his July 2012 post Planning for Close Reading.
  • A Close Look at Close Reading: Scaffolding Students with Complex Text (Beth Burke) served as a guide for the lesson template I developed. The text-dependent question stems on page 11, 12, and 13 will be used to introduce this concept to teachers. They will come in handy when pre-planning Close Reading lessons on the template below!
  • The book Text Complexity by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and Diane Lapp deepened my understanding of Close Reading, especially pages 106-132.
  • Much of the information I have found has been geared to the secondary classroom setting. Close Reading In Elementary Schools by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey guided my understanding of this strategy in the elementary classroom. The article can be found in the November 2012 Reading Teacher Journal.
  • Kevin Hodgson’s Prezi title Close Reading of Text also served as an organized review of the strategy including the works of Shanahan and Fisher.

A special thanks to my good friend, Fran McVeigh (@franmcveigh), author of the blog Resource-Full. She continues to push my thinking in this journey. Visit her blog! Her most recent post:Common Core: Are You Allowed To Make Connections in a Close Reading provides insight into a frequent question about Close Reading.

The following forms reflect my current thinking on The Moves (or Steps), Pre-Planning and The Close Reading Lesson Format. They are a synthesis of my research in this area. They have gone through several revisions up to this point and I assume they will continue to transform!  I welcome comments, feedback and questions!

The Moves – This document provides the basic steps or moves of the Close Reading strategy. It was developed to be an overview/easy reference sheet for teachers.

[slideshare id=16728169&w=479&h=511&sc=no]

Close Reading (Pre-Planning Guide and Lesson Format) – This document was developed as a tool to pre-plan a Close Reading lesson and provide guidance as they implement the lesson with students.

[slideshare id=16734919&w=479&h=511&sc=no]

I would love to hear your thoughts on these two tools! 

Categories: CCSS, close reading, Common Core, DougFisher, Instructional Coaching, Instructional Strategies, Iowa Core, Nancy Frey, Reading

22 Comments to Close Reading: Am I Getting Close?

  1. Maureen Devlin
    February 24, 2013 12:06 pm

    Great post. I’m adding this to my recent close reading/reading response post so I can refer back to your points as I teach. Thank you, Kathy

  2. Vicky VanFradenburgh
    February 24, 2013 12:10 pm

    This was excellent. Many good things to use! Thank you!

  3. franmcveigh
    February 24, 2013 2:07 pm

    You made some very critical points in your blog:
    1) Not every reading of everything is a “close reading,”
    2) Close reading is for all ages of students for exactly those purposes you quoted from Doug Fisher, and
    3) Close reading must be carefully planned in order to truly get at the heart of “what makes the text complex” in the first place.

    I am looking forward to trying out your template!

    Thanks for all the great resources!

  4. Rhinda Sutton
    February 24, 2013 4:13 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thinking on close reading. I, too, have been investigating this concept since reading about it in the Common Core. I am using the thinking behind close reading to help preservice teachers understand intentional lesson planning with lessons from a manual. Your lesson planning template would work well as a guide for teachers planning their own lessons. Please check out my blog on close reading vs. reading from a critical stance. Thanks for continuing the thinking and developing great resources.

  5. Drinda Williams
    February 25, 2013 8:38 am

    I am currently reading Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst, Notice & Note Strategies for Close Reading. The beginning chapters have already helped me to clarify and expand my thinking. I recommend this book as we continue this journey together.

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  10. Jeri Gustafson
    September 16, 2013 11:37 am

    Thanks for the close reading resources, Kathy! Let me know what you thought about Notice and Note Strategies for Close Reading. Is it worth a close read?? : )

  11. Maureen Devlin
    September 17, 2013 3:03 pm

    Thanks for this great post. I too am researching and teaching this approach. I look forward to incorporating your research as well.

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