What Is Close Reading? And Why Is It Beneficial For My Students?

close reading

Teaching close reading isn’t a difficult concept. It’s teaching your student to read closely and get as much meaning as possible from the text. 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. This article is going to show you how to do a close reading lesson in your classroom starting on day one.

A close reading definition by the website We Are Teachers is “An interaction that involves observation and interpretation between the reader and a text.” Let’s start with some reading passages you might want to use.

What Close Reading Passages Should I Use?

close reading

Reading passages should not be too long, but rather, shorter passages rich with meaning. Look for text with rich vocabulary so 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 texts for reading.

Reading Comprehension Skills To Look For

Here are some skills to look for when choosing a 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 my reading passages. The text at the beginning of a book is ideal for this because they provide a “grab” for the children to want to read the book and learn more.

Of course, if you’re having a hard time finding just the right close reading passages, 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 reading passages and activities.

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What Close Reading Steps Should I Follow?

close reading

You are going to spend 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. The more close reading activities you can use to discuss the meaning of the text the better.

Typical Week Of Close Reading Activities

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. Read the passage aloud to your students and use close reading annotations to mark the text. Assign partners to your students and give them discussion topics about the text. The goal is to get “the gist” of the passage. 

Day 2

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

Day 3

Read the close reading text with students aloud. Partners work together to complete a comprehension close reading activity. A Graphic organizer such as a Venn diagram or a list of facts is used because 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 so students can turn what they’ve learned into a new text. Here are some ideas for interactive writing. 

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. The goal is to remind the students what they have learned from the close reading passage. Make sure you save this activity for the last day because you want the meaning to be gained from the text and not the wrap-up close reading activities.

What Close Reading Tools Do I Need?

close reading

You and your students need a copy of the close reading 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. The sharpie chart markers are the BEST. I’m pretty picky about markers, and these last forever, the kids can use them without pushing down on the tip, and they don’t fade!

Why Should I Teach Close Reading?

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. You will find that your students will gain a love for reading because they will 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 Examples Of Reading Lesson Plans

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

Watch, learn, subscribe to the entire series

Video Description

Have you struggled teaching close reading with your beginning readers? These strategies are not one-size-fits-all, and if you teach lower elementary students, it’s hard to adjust the steps for a close read lesson so your younger kiddos understand the  concepts.

In this video, you’ll learn how to use close read symbols effectively. There are three tips to help your students understand what annotation symbols are and how they should be used. These tips will prevent random squiggles and doodles all over your reading passages. (Which is what happened in my classroom before I figured all of this out.)


This FREE guide will teach you the close reading strategies that will make a close read lesson successful.

As an elementary teacher, it’s hard to adapt close reading successfully for younger readers. I didn’t have a manual when I began, but I wish I had an easier start. So I wanted to give teachers like you a head start when you’re teaching close reading to beginning readers.

With this free guide, you’ll know what to do to keep your kiddos engaged all week.

You will learn what supplies and materials you need for a successful close reading lesson. You’ll learn what to do on each day during your week of close reading. This was another struggle for me.
I read through the text passage with my students, NOW WHAT? 

You’ll have vocabulary ideas to boost your students’ mastery of words and phrases, imagine how great it would be to have time for vocabulary instruction! I’ll show you how it works!

Comprehension is hard for younger readers. They learn to decode words and now they have to understand what everything together means too?

With how much we have to teach in a week, the idea of “Fun Fridays” went out the window years ago. At least it did for me. I didn’t have time to do the fun crafts and activities that first-graders love and frankly deserve to do! I always thought this was so sad, and I wanted to bring it back somehow. So I devoted the last day of close reading to a fun extension activity about the topic of our close reading passage. I’ll show you how to find time for a fun activity, where your students are still learning in the FREE guide for close reading!

I also added the best classroom management tips I used during our close reading week, so you can actually teach your students, rather than correcting unwanted behavior or trying to keep your kiddos attention.

And best of all? I’ve added two close reading passages WITH lesson plans to get you started.

close reading large cover 1

When you download the FREE Guide For Teaching Close Reading To Younger Readers, you’ll learn:

  • How to teach your students to annotate.
  • Which supplies you need and which ones you don’t!
  • What you need to know about the best reading passages for close reading.
  • What to teach on each day of a close reading week.
  • How to improve your student’s vocabulary with close reading.
  • Techniques to improve your student’s reading comprehension skills.
  • Extension activities that take the topic of your close reading passage further.
  • Classroom management during close reading, including partner activities and effective transitions.

You’ll also get two close reading text passages with TWO WEEKS of lesson plans! 

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9 Responses

  1. It’s very difficult to do annotations because my students aren’t allowed to mark up the books even in pencil. If I need to type out a simple book myself in lieu of using the real text, I can’t take the time to import pictures and I am working with children who need that support.


    1. Totally difficult when you’re limited. Can you photocopy parts of the book? (check for copyright first?) If that’s not a possibility, maybe take a clear page like the old school overhead transparency and cover the books and they can mark with a dry erase marker? I hope that helps.

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