How to use Close Reading in the Classroom

I taught for a few years then took a long break, … a really long break. I had all my children and then came back. By the time I had come back, so much had changed in teaching and in the classroom. There were new terms being used, educational standards, common core, man I missed a lot. I remember contacting a friend whom I was in the credential program with and asked her, so what did I miss?

One of those concepts that was new to me was Close Reading. Maybe a concept of it was around before, but I hadn’t heard of it. My principal asked if I was doing close reading with my students. I am not sure what my response was, but I remember making a mental note that I better go back to my classroom and Google it. In reading about it, it made sense, but what was I supposed to use for it? I didn’t have any resources.

What is Close Reading

I began writing my own passages because I wasn’t finding what I needed in my curriculum. In doing the research I found that the concepts of Close Reading vary, but the main idea is to look at a passage “closer”, to actually gain insight from it. Often our students will read and not not comprehend or pay full attention to what they read. 

With Close Reading students are reading a passage multiple times and gaining insight each time. It helps students to gain confidence in reading, build vocabulary, build writing skills, and gain knowledge about the subject. Also, you are able to differentiate so that students can learn the same subject but read at a level that best fits their skills. CLICK HERE for an example.

My close reading program is a bit different than others I have seen. I developed it with my philosophy of connecting all learning subjects. I take close reading and tie it into science, social studies, informational reading and writing. It is a package deal and covers so much more. Not only are students reading about a topic but they are writing about it as well. When a student reads, takes notes, studies the writing, writes about it and then reads their own writing, they become an expert on this topic of study. 

Here is how it works:

I start this program as a whole group activity. 

All students are given an article on the same topic. When I do whole group I give all students the same level for their article. Here is a quick version of what we do. For a more detailed version, CLICK HERE.

Day 1

  1. Students fill out the first column of our Inference Sheet. Writing down what they already know about the topic before reading about it. 
  2. Have students highlight the words that they already know (for lower level students) or highlight words they don’t know how to read (for higher level students), then read thru the article the best they can. These close reads are designed to be a little bit above their reading level. You will be surprised at how many will be able to read through most of it by the end of the week.
  3. Teacher reads the article out loud. 
  4. As a whole class we read the article together out loud together.
  5. Students circle 2 vocabulary words that they do not know what they mean. If they know what all the words mean then they will circle 2 words that they think other students in the class might not know. 

Day 2

  1. Students read the passage again
  2. Teacher reads the passage again. 
  3. Go over the vocabulary words from the previous day and discuss how you can use context clues to figure out the meaning. 
  4. Fill out the second column of the inference sheet. 

Days 3-5  CLICK HERE to get more info and to get our Quick Reference Sheet

How does this relate to writing?

As students are reading their Close Reading Article they are filling out an Inference Sheet. This sheet takes what they already know, what they learned and they combine together to write a new sentence. Depending on their level, will depend on how many they will do. This is differentiation. My lowest students do 2 and my higher ones do 3-4. 

They take these new sentences and add them to a story map, this will help them come up with an introduction sentence and a conclusion sentence. 

For more information on helping students writing conclusion sentences CLICK HERE

They then take these sentences and put them into a rough draft. It is that easy. The students are always shocked how they were able to write their informational piece. 

Did they learn anything?

After going through this process I have students read the article one more time and give students a comprehension quiz or activity to see how much they have learned. I love hearing them read that last time because their fluency increases as well as their confidence. For the lowest reader a lot of it is memorization, but at this point that is okay for their level. It really builds their reading confidence. 

It is fun to keep these articles til the end of a unit where students can re-read them again. 

Now, Do it Again!

This is not just a one time activity for us. I use Close Reading Articles in each of my social studies and science units. In a unit, they will read 3-4 informational articles about a subject area (Countries, Solar System, Plants, Winter Sports, Animals, Habitats)

This can work well for compare and contrast as well. I turn each one of these into an informational writing piece which means they are getting a lot of practice with the concept, building their confidence as a reader and writer, plus learning a ton that they will likely remember longer. 

Why you should use this concept?

I think that this way of reading helps students to comprehend the subjects better, it builds their skills, builds their confidence, and after doing it a few times, they get the concept down. I love that I can differentiate it so that my lower students and higher students are all learning the same concepts and each is being challenged at their level. 

Also, it fits easily with each of your science and social studies units 

Here are the Close Reading Units that I have currently, more are coming.

Many of them are built inside my units, but these ones are sold separately. 

Desert (FREE Close Read Unit)

Solar System




If you are interested in our Free Close Reading Reference Sheet, CLICK HERE.


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