Everything Teachers Need to Know about Close Reading

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Since its adoption by the Common Core State Standards, close reading came to the forefront in educational studies generating some heated debates among educators and pedagogues (see Gewertz, 2012 cited in Frey & Fisher 2012). To avoid the problematic of definition for while some refer to it as a skill others view it as an approach, we would rather adopt Frey and Fisher’s definition that view it as an ‘instructional  routine in which students critically examine a text, especially through repeated readings’(p. 179). Close reading in this sense is a methodology, a decoding strategy employed by readers to unravel deep meanings in complex texts.

Close reading is analytically demanding in that it calls for the use of a number of analytic techniques to x-ray the hidden meanings of a text. These techniques start with looking into the linguistic fabric of text (e.g vocabulary, word choice, grammatical structure..etc) and move to analyze contextual cues and author background. To better understand what close reading is all about and learn more about how to apply it in your class, we compiled for you this list of excellent resources and books. We have also included some great posters and infographics that you can  use with your  students.

Infographics on close reading:

Books on Close Reading

1- Text-Dependent Questions, Grades K-5: Pathways to Close and Critical Reading (Corwin Literacy), by Douglas B. Fisher (Author), Nancy Frey (Author), Heather L. Anderson  (Author), Marisol C. Thayre (Author)

‘The genius of TDQ is the way Fisher and Frey break down the process into four cognitive pathways that help teachers “organize the journey through a text” and frame an extended discussion around it. Step by step, this approach ensures that in every close reading lesson, students are guided to consider explicit and implied meanings, and deeply analyze and appreciate various aspects of a text, especially those that may be challenging or confusing.’

2- A Close Look at Close Reading: Teaching Students to Analyze Complex Texts, Grades K-5, by Diane Lapp (Author), Barbara Moss (Author), Maria Grant (Author), Kelly Johnson (Author)

‘This book explores Text complexity and how to determine if a particular text is a right for your learning purposes and your students.The process and purpose of close reading in the elementary grades, with an emphasis on its role in developing the 21st century thinking, speaking, and writing skills essential for academic communication and required by the Common Core. How to plan, teach, and manage close reading sessions across the academic disciplines, including the kinds of questions to ask and the kinds of support to provide.’

3- Lessons and Units for Closer Reading: Ready-to-Go Resources and Planning Tools, by Nancy N. Boyles (Author)

‘Here, Nancy redefines what it means to publish on demand with a resource that answers your most urgent questions around how to implement close reading within the literacy block. What’s more, she delivers all the goods: eight three-week units on close reading to immediately drop in to the curriculum and achieve that so-essential connectedness and coherence.’

4- The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers, by Jennifer Serravallo  (Author)

‘"Strategies make the often invisible work of reading actionable and visible," Jen writes. In The Reading Strategies Book, she collects 300 strategies to share with readers in support of thirteen goals-everything from fluency to literary analysis. Each strategy is cross-linked to skills, genres, and Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to give you just-right teaching, just in time.’

5- Close Reading in Elementary School: Bringing Readers and Texts Together (Eye on Education), by Diana Sisson  (Author), Betsy Sisson (Author)

‘This book is your must-have guide to getting started! It provides step-by-step strategies and scaffolds for teaching close reading and improving students’ comprehension of complex texts. You will learn how to teach close reading based on text type, how to transition students through increasingly challenging texts, and how to use close reading as a springboard for close writes and close talks.’

6- Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts--and Life 
by Christopher Lehman  (Author), Kathleen Roberts (Author), Tobey Antao (Editor), Donalyn Miller (Foreword)

‘In Falling in Love with Close Reading, Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts show us that it can be rigorous, meaningful, and joyous. You'll empower students to not only analyze texts but to admire the craft of a beloved book, study favorite songs and videogames, and challenge peers in evidence-based discussions.’

7- Close Reading of Informational Texts: Assessment-Driven Instruction in Grades 3-8, by Sunday Cummins PhD  (Author), Camille Blachowicz PhD (Foreword)

‘This essential book provides a roadmap for instruction and assessment of close reading skills in grades 3-8. To engage deeply with informational texts--a key requirement of the Common Core standards--students need to determine what details are important, how they fit together to convey a central idea, and how to synthesize information from multiple sources. They also need to understand the unique demands of different text features and structures. Presenting effective instructional strategies that teachers can tailor to their own classrooms, the book includes lesson plans, vignettes, and examples of student work, plus a Study Guide with professional learning activities and discussion questions.’

Douglas, F, & Frey, N. (2012). Close Reading in Elementary Schools. Reading Teacher,66(3): 179-188.
Gewertz, C. (2012). Common core’s focus on “close reading” stirs worries. Education Week.