Close Reading

We hear a lot about close reading as we talk about the Common Core Standards, but what does close reading really look like in the classroom?  How do we as educators instruct students to read closely?

My first recommendation is to start with your own reading skills.  Pause and think about what you do when you are in a situation of reading a complex informational text.  Ponder the steps you take to ensure that you walk away with the most important information and concepts from that text.

Recently I read through a scholarly article and I did the following:

  • Grabbed a pen or pencil and a highlighter.  
  • Underlined key words and phrases.  
  • Starred important concepts and wrote VIP if I thought it is a very important point I might want to go back to.  
  • Numbered steps in a process or a list.  
  • Highlighted key topic sentences or headings.  
  • Put question marks if I didn’t understand something.  
  • Summarized key ideas of paragraphs and sections on the sides.  
  • Drew a light bulb picture if it gave me a new idea
  • Looked up words I was unfamiliar with (by the way, the word was “redolent”).

I think back and wonder when I started doing this successfully?  Who taught me this?
Honestly, I learned these skills on my own when I was in college and exposed to dense and complex texts that it took many re-reads to understand.  That first year in college, I had to go through many trials and tribulations to figure out how to be “college ready.”

So how should we better prepare our students to understand and synthesize the complex texts they will be faced with in college and in the workplace?  The key is to provide them with a wide array of skills and techniques to apply as needed when reading difficult texts.  Please check out the following presentation on close reading, which provides a number of examples of how to implement the strategies in class.

Close reading from Maureen Cohen

Discussion Question: What techniques do you use to read closely that you could share with your students today!

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