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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?

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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.

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.

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.

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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. 

What Reading Tools Do I need?

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 Is This 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. 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 Close Reading Lesson Plans

If you are looking for more reading examples, the following 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 Reading Lesson

Alex from “TeachLikeThis” explains how to teach a 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.


I hope this helped you get on your way to making your close reading lesson plans! Make sure that you get in there and try, the more practice you have with close reading, the more confident you will feel!

7 thoughts on “What Is Close Reading?”

  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.

    Suggestions?

    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.

  2. Pingback: How To Choose the Passages For Close Reading - Teaching Firsties

  3. Pingback: Three Things To Consider When Using Close Read Symbols For First Graders - Teaching Firsties

  4. Pingback: Free Guide For Teaching Close Reading To Your Younger Students - Teaching Firsties

  5. Pingback: You Can't Find Close Read Passages? Here's How To Write Your Own! - Teaching Firsties

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Rachael Hull

Rachael Hull

Teaching literacy and facilitating literacy stations has been a passion of Rachael's and she wants to help you gain confidence in your classroom!

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