passages for close reading

How To Choose the Best Passages For Close Reading

So you’re ready to teach close reading, and you’re even ready to use close reading symbols, but where are you going to find the right passages for close reading? They’re not always readily available. And how do you know if you have the best text passages? I’m going to show you what I did to judge if my close reading passages were right for my first graders.

The first thing I did was ignore our textbook’s “close reading” booklet. They came with our reading adoption one year, but they just weren’t going to work. Some were too short, some were too long. Plus, they came together in a large bound book, making it difficult for my students to find the right page. Those were a no-go for me.

So how do you know if a reading passage is going to be effective for close reading? Let me show you what you should be looking for. 

Choose Longer Passages For Close Reading

The first thing is the length of a passage. Think Goldilocks. You want a “just right” passage. Not too short, not too long. Something along the lines of a decodable reader would be impossible to teach close reading effectively because your students will rush through and be done. But a chapter book-sized text would lead to frustration and fatigue. 

Think about the range of 3 paragraphs with 2 sentences each, up to 4 paragraphs with 3 sentences. Ideally, you’ll need enough room for new concepts where you can spend several days on the same text. Wonder how that works? I’ll show you how in this blog series! Look below for all the links to the articles on close reading. 

Close Reading Text Should Be Above Their Independent Reading Levels

If you’re looking for the difficulty of the text passage, you’ll need something slightly above your student’s instructional level. And before you panic, remember that you’re leading them through these close reading lessons. You’re not expecting independent reading. That’s for your whole group or guided reading lessons.

The text is meant to be longer and a bit more difficult so your students will learn to work with harder passages with confidence. They also need to see new words and phrases that they’ve not heard before. If they are only reading words they already know, they’re not going to be challenged to build up their reading skills. 

Choose Text With Unfamiliar Words And Phrases

That leads me to the third part of choosing passages for close reading – find text with robust vocabulary and phrases. Part of teaching close reading is identifying keywords that lead to more understanding and meaning within the text. Vocabulary is vital to close reading, and it’s nice to think about the fact that you’ll be teaching it along the way. How many times do you wish you could add more vocabulary instruction into your schedule?

Speaking of close reading text, here are two FREE passages to get you started.

close read symbols

You might be interested in these strategies for close reading:

  • What Is Close Reading?
  • How To Teach Your Students To Annotate
  • Writing Your Own Close Reading Passages – Coming Soon
  • Focusing On The Vocabulary In Close Read Passages – Coming Soon
  • Comprehension Activities And Close Reading – Coming Soon
  • Why Teach Close Reading With Interactive Writing – Coming Soon
  • I’ve Taught A Close Read Lesson. Now What? – Coming Soon
  • What Tools Do I Need To Teach Close Reading? – Coming Soon
  • How Can I Teach Close Reading And Have Partner Activities? – Coming Soon
  • Important Classroom Management Tips For Close Reading Activities – Coming Soon

Want to skip ahead? These close reading activities, passages, and no-prep lesson plans are available!

close read symbols

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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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