how to teach close reading

What NOT to do when you are learning how to teach close reading

If you’re teaching close reading to your elementary students and it’s not going well, you might be making some of the mistakes I made when I was first starting to teach a close reading lesson. In this blog and with this FREE teacher guide, I’m going to show you how to teach close reading effectively for younger readers.

You can download the guide here and get started with all the close reading strategies today, but make sure you finish reading this article first so you know which mistakes to avoid! 

Here are five things that are not effective when you’re teaching close reading to beginning readers

1. Don’t Skip Close Reading Annotation

I know, I know, marking a text, taking notes on a reading passage, and using close reading symbols isn’t what you thought of when you imagined teaching reading. 

Annotation marks are important because it allows your students to show what they are thinking and why it’s important to the meaning of the passage. It also helps with remembering details. Do you ever write something down on a sticky note not need to look at it again? Our brains are wired to have better recall when we write something down.

It might be tempting to skip annotating. But don’t! I wrote an article that covers exactly why you should use annotation marks, and there are some great tips to teach your students to use close reading symbols effectively.  Why should you use annotation marks with first graders?

2. Reading Passages

It’s important to have the right kind of reading passages.

You’re a bit like Goldilocks trying the three bear’s porridge here. Too easy and you won’t keep your student’s attention span. Too difficult and you’ll see a lot of frustration and giving up.

And how do you know if they are the right passages? I cover it in more detail in another article, How To Choose the Best Reading Passage, here.  You’re looking for passages that are above their independent reading level.

Close reading is not independent reading, and you want it to be challenging so your readers will learn to understand difficult passages and vocabulary. Speaking of vocabulary, you’ll want new words and phrases that your students have not seen before.

Learning to understand unfamiliar words and phrases is a big help when it comes to close reading. You’ll see this carry over into other reading lessons. Choosing a passage that is best for your students gets easier the more you teach close reading. But in the meantime, here are some more things to consider.

passages for close reading

3. Vocabulary

Back in the day, we would have more time to teach what words meant, how to use them in new sentences and contexts, but presently, these kinds of lessons get pushed aside for something else.  Probably testing, right?

Vocabulary instruction is important for beginning readers. When a student becomes comfortable reading, their vocabulary grows along with their reading stamina. Students who are not read to at home or struggle with reading have a lower vocabulary.  But you don’t have a lot of time to teach vocabulary.

When you teach close reading, vocabulary is PART of the reading instruction. And if you follow the close reading strategies in the guide here, you’ll see how vocabulary instruction should be student-led with you as the coach, asking leading questions! In other words, don’t tell your students the word and definition, and then think that they will now use the word in new and masterful ways!

4. Fun Extension Activities

The more years I taught, the less fun things I did in my classroom. 

I was always so bummed when we couldn’t do a weekly craft or fun activity. Even if it matched the topic of what we were learning, we usually ran out of time. Such a shame!

These are little kids who want to come to school and have fun. They also probably need a lot of motor control practice with scissors, too! On my last day of a close reading week, I add in an extension activity. It wraps up and reinforces what they’ve learned and gives them a chance to have fun!

5. Teach and reinforce your expectations

Classroom management is important during close reading. You’ll be working with partners, so communication and cooperation is important for your students. You’ll be providing opportunities for your students to get up and move around in your classroom, so transitions are important to practice.

activities to build classroom community

You’ll need to figure out what routines and behaviors you want to see from your students and teach these expectations to them. You’ll also want to practice this throughout the year if you see unwanted or off-task behaviors

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.

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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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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