4 Tips to Start Teaching Close Reading

Starting to teach using close reading in an elementary classroom can seem daunting.
When I first heard of close reading, it seemed like just another thing to add to your day.  However, when you break down the parts of teaching using close reading, you realize how it can be effectively incorporated into both shared and guided reading. Here are some tips for getting started:

Introducing Close Reading: First Steps

Start close reading in small groups so you can model and guide more directly.  You can pick the same topic for each group but choose differentiated passages.  More advanced readers could read the text independently or with a partner before working with you to work on close reading skills.
Break close reading down into small chunks. Choose one skill to focus on at a time and explicitly communicate the purpose for reading. “Today when we reread our passage, we will focus on the words the author uses.  I want you to find one word that is new to you and be able to define it in your own words.”

Choosing Texts for Close Reading

Pick engaging texts. Sounds easy, right? (ha!)
First, you need to find out your students’ interests.
I have used this free interest survey by Bitten By the Teaching Bug.
Student Interest Survey: Getting to Know Your Students
Next, look for close reading topics that you think your students will enjoy.  TeachersPayTeachers is always a great source.  Another site I have found useful is Newslea.com  You can find real articles in several levels of texts.  A third option would be Scholastic Readers if you are fortunate to have a subscription.
  Incorporate other subjects that there may not always be time for. (aka Science and Social Studies) It is a great way to tie in information about what you might be working on in these subjects. I use passages about each holiday to help students develop a deeper understanding of the meaning behind our three day weekends.

Use Highlighters to Keep Students Engaged

Kid love highlighters.  Have you ever given a kid a highlighter? They will highlight everything.
Close reading is the perfect opportunity to incorporate highlighters while teaching the intent and purpose behind their use.  The ultimate goal is to turn our students into readers that will sit down with a text, stopping to think, question, and recognize significant and surprising information. The motivation of using a highlighter helps those young readers want to do this.  Most will learn to monitor their reading use highlighting to help filter the most important information. Some will continue to highlight everything.

Take Close Reading Slow: One Small Step at a Time

Close reading is not to be rushed.  It is not about getting everything done in one sitting.  It is a thorough examination of the text through several reads.  You want students to be authentically interacting with the text.  This might mean that you ask them to find the most interesting part and highlight it. Then you all talk about this.  And that’s all you get done that day.  But it is okay because the rich discussion which emerged from the simple task is more meaningful than defining 8 vocabulary words.
What is your best close reading tip?
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