What is close reading and how do I teach it?

In an article from Reading Today (full article available for members), San Diego State University professors Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey define close reading as “a form of guided instruction in which the teacher questions, prompts, and cues the learner. It’s part of the gradual release of responsibility, not a comprehensive instructional effort.” Fisher and Frey suggest how to strategically prepare and follow up to support successful close reading:

Select an appropriate text

Choose a complex, challenging text that lends itself to “grappling.” Multiple readings and deep discussion should be necessary to ensure understanding.

Develop student habits

Discuss the purpose of multiple readings, explaining that repeated readings allow students to dig deeper into the meaning. Teach students to annotate the text by writing questions and reactions in the margin, underlining key ideas, and circling confusing words or phrases. As students mark up the text, they can note evidence to cite in discussion and writing tasks. 

Engage students with text-dependent tasks

Provide opportunities for close reading activities:

1. Text-dependent questions

Questions should lead students back to the text to examine key details, vocabulary, text structure, and author’s purpose.

2. Peer discussion

Students should engage in collaborative conversations with classmates as they read and reread text. Provide support such as sentence starters to help students express their ideas, back up claims, and build on the discussion.

3. Post-reading tasks

Writing prompts and Socratic seminars should tie back to the text, as opposed to personal experience.

If you have other advice to share with colleagues, we'd love to hear it in the comments!

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