What is Close Reading?

Close reading is exactly as it sounds. It’s reading closely. Students will spend several days on one text, looking at the words the author uses and discussing the text’s meaning. This method of digging deeper into the text will prepare your students for independent analysis of a passage.

A close reading definition by the website We Are Teachers is “An interaction that involves observation and interpretation between the reader and a text.”


What close reading passages should I use?

Reading passages should not be long text, but rather, short passages rich with meaning. Look for text with rich vocabulary that your students can use context to find the meaning. Reading strategies such as compare and contrast or predicting can be skills you are looking for when choosing a reading passage. 

Here are some skills to look for when choosing a close reading text:

  • Informational text: New vocabulary, sequencing, summarizing
  • Nonfiction: New vocabulary, summarizing, cause and effect, compare and contrast
  • Fiction: New vocabulary, predicting, story elements, inferencing
  • Poetry: New vocabulary, visualization, retelling

Often, I pull out short paragraphs from popular children’s books to use as a close read. The beginning of books are ideal for this as they provide a “grab” for the children to want to read the book. 

When you are putting the reading passage on paper for your students, watch for copyright. Some authors will allow direct photocopying for your classroom as long as you do not have intent to resell the text. If you are using their words in short passages, it may be easier to quickly type it into a word document and print. It does not need to be fancy, the text is the important part. 

Of course, if you’re having a hard time finding just the right close reading passage, write your own! I wanted a collection that I could easily pull out and use each week, so I wrote this collection of monthly and seasonal close reading passages.


What are close reading steps?

Close reading is spending time over several days with the same text. Complex texts may require more than one reading per day, while smaller texts require less. Subsequent days can be filled with comprehension and writing activities.

Here is a typical week of close reading in my classroom. 

Day 1: COLD READ. Avoid any background information or prior knowledge, as we want students to gather information from the text and not in your introduction. Reads the text aloud to your students and annotate the text. Assign partners to your students and give them discussion topics about the text. The goal is to get “the gist” of the text. 

Day 2: WARM READ. Give students their own copy of the text. Reads the passage aloud, with capable readers joining in. Partners have a discussion about meaning. Both you and your students annotate on their text. Discuss vocabulary words with context clues. The goal is to understand the meaning of the words.

Day 3: Reads the text with students aloud. Partners work together to complete a comprehension activity. A Graphic organizer such as a Venn diagram or a list of facts is used. The goal is to understand the meaning of the text.

Day 4: Interactive Writing. Together, write a piece about the text. This can be a summary, a list, or a phonics activity, depending on the student’s needs. The goal is to extend the meaning of the passage into writing new text.

Day 5: Wrap up and review. Review the vocabulary and information the students learned from the text. This can be done in partners or students can write in their journals. Optional: if you choose, you can show a video clip of the topic of the close read topic. I use Youtube and Safeshare for the video, and I project it on the board. The goal is to remind the students what they have learned with this reading passage. Make sure you save this for the last day so the meaning is gained from the text and not the video.


What annotations should I use?

When annotating a passage with your students, use symbols to mark the text. Different symbols are used for different skills. You can get a free annotation poster to use in your classroom, just click here to open the free download.

What tools do I need?


Here are the materials I use for close reading. If you click on the item, you will be led to where you will have the opportunity to purchase the item. If you purchase the item, I do not receive compensation at this time.

You and your students need a copy of the text. At first, I have my students use a pencil or a crayon to annotate their text. 

Eventually I break out the GEL PENS! I have a set that I only use for annotation, so the students know that they are important. Make sure to spend as much time as needed with pen expectations. Otherwise you’ll have very colorful children and furniture! 

Clipboards! When my students break out into partners, they use clipboards to help them write. This makes them feel “official” and helps them write neatly on their paper. Especially if they are sitting on the floor. 

I always do interactive writing with a close read. You’ll need chart paper and chart markers.  


For instructions on interactive writing lessons in your classroom, click here.

Why is close reading important?

Close reading varies from whole group instruction and guided reading. Having all three of these methods of literacy instruction gives your students rich practice with text and different strategies for decoding and comprehension. The more you practice, the deeper you can lead your students into the text. Your students will also gain a love for reading, as they’ll be introduced to several different texts of informational text, nonfiction, fiction and poetry. The strategies they learn to interpret what they read will help them read future texts.

More tips:


If you are looking for more close reading instruction, the following close reading videos are very helpful:

Close reading with emerging readers

Sharon Alvarado from the San Bernardino City Unified School District uses close reading with her students to provide a deeper understanding of informational text.

How to do a close reading

Alex from “TeachLikeThis” explains how to teach a close reading lesson. You will learn how to use language, narrative, syntax and context to read a difficult text.

The difference between guided reading and close reading

Anna DiGillio discusses six differences between close reading and guided reading and when you would use each reading technique.

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