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Close Reading and Volume of Reading

Question 1: "Close reading" is a buzz word right now. But what does it really mean to do a close read of a complex text? Are there different approaches that teachers are taking?


  • What is close reading and how does it fit with text complexity?
    • Close reading is reading a text (or portion of text) several times in order to analyze and gain deep understanding of it.
    • Texts chosen for close reading are rich, complex texts that are worth reading multiple times. Worthy texts often have layers of meaning that are not easily uncovered in a single reading. During close reading, students revisit the text for multiple purposes. Often, the initial read addresses the main ideas and details in the text. Subsequent reads involve rereading to gain a deeper or more precise understanding.
  • Are there different approaches to close reading?
    • There is no one "right" instructional routine for close reading, but instead numerous approaches teachers can use to structure close reading processes. Close reading routines generally share some common elements:
      • Short, Sufficiently Complex Text: The first commonality is that close reading relies on the use of short and sufficiently complex texts (or portions of a text). To engage in multiple readings, the text needs to be rich enough to support repeated examinations and manageable enough in length to return to it again and again. A helpful question to ask when deciding if the use of close reading is an appropriate routine is, "Will students benefit from critically engaging with the text through repeated readings?" If the answer is "Yes," then the text is probably appropriate.
      • Limited Frontloading/Previewing: Students are encouraged to discover the content of the text themselves through the reading rather than through the pre-viewing of a text. Most of the work is left to the reader, however some context, vocabulary, or purpose for the reading can be supplied ahead of time. 
      • Independent Reading: Generally, close reading encourages students to engage in the initial reading of the text on their own.  At the primary grades, especially in Kindergarten and grade 1, use of complex texts may preclude students from reading the text independently (or at least during the initial reading). Reading aloud and shared reading are common vehicles for reading and rereading text in the primary grades. A common concern raised by educators is, "What if students struggle to read the text?" Close reading encourages students to wrestle with the text, knowing that there will be subsequent reads and opportunities for the teacher to provide support for the reading. A goal of close reading is to build students' stamina with appropriately difficult texts. 
      • Careful Observations/Marking Up the Text: Close reading routines should prompt students to engage in careful observation of how authors have crafted the text to communicate. As students read, they should be encouraged to use annotations to mark the text in ways that encourage deeper thinking.
      • Reading with Purpose: Each examination of the text encourages students to read with a particular purpose. Initially students may simply read to "get the gist", but in subsequent reads, teachers can guide students to engage in deeper study of rhetorical devices, aspects of author's craft, evidence of argument or theme, etc. Teachers often use text dependent questions to guide re-readings and text discussion.
      • Discussion and Written Responses: Analysis of the text is further developed through collaborative conversation and opportunities to write about the text. Teachers facilitate these conversations through the use of text dependent questioning strategies and discussion prompts. Writing tasks are often incorporated to help students synthesize their understanding after engaging in the close reading episodes.


  • ASCD Article on Close Reading: The Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) published this article in December 2012/January 2013. The author, Nancy Boyles, describes the significance of close reading instructional practices for the elementary grades.
  • Aspen Institute Article on Close Reading: The Aspen Institute published this article in 2012. The authors explore the process of close reading and its connection to the ELA standards. Facets of close reading as an instructional routine are explored as are considerations for using close reading with students across the K-12 span.
  • Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey Resources:
    • Close Reading in Elementary Schools: This is an article from The Reading Teacher (2012) that describes close reading in elementary schools. 
    • Close Reading PowerPoints: Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey share PowerPoints they have developed on many aspects of close reading, such as text dependent questions and annotation.
    • Close Reading Videos: Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey have produced a number of videos that feature close reading lessons available through this link. 
  • Close Reading PowerPoint by Tim Shanahan: Timothy Shanahan describes close reading routines and why they are important.
  • A Close Look at Close Reading: Scaffolding Students with Complex Texts: Beth Burke describes close reading and provides multiple examples of effective practices and tools.
  • Achieve the Core Close Reading Lessons: Achieve the Core is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping all students and teachers see their hard work lead to greater student achievement. Close reading model lessons with literary and informational texts for K-12 classrooms can be accessed through their website.
  • ReadWriteThink Resources:
  • America Achieves Video: A sample lesson demonstrating close reading with the purpose of identifying symbolism in The Lottery.
  • Council of the Great City Schools Video: This video shows a classroom example of teaching complex text using Butterfly.