Taking the Rocket Science out of Close Reading

close reading header

What is close reading?

If you look around Pinterest at anchor charts about close reading, it gets really overwhelming really fast!  It seems like it’s about every reading strategy you’ve ever seen all put together at the same time.  How the heck do you craft a lesson around that?  It’s time to take the rocket science out of close reading!

After reading anchor charts and articles, these were my main take-aways:

close reading

Close reading is:
*an instructional approach
*students adding knowledge gained from text to their schema
*building habits of successful readers
*building stamina and persistence with complex text
*integrating several reading strategies

Close Reading Is Not:
*a complete reading program
*a time for lots of front-loading
*for easy, short texts
*time to work on fluency or decoding

Close Reading Looks Like:
*repeated readings of the same text
*teacher setting a purpose for each reading
*annotating text
*answering of text-dependant questions
*using text evidence to defend ideas

Close Reading Includes:
*a short text or part of a longer text
*some front-loading when background cannot be built from text
*students reading or teacher reading as appropriate

Close Reading Lesson Planner

It’s important to realize that while lots of skills and strategies can be used within close reading, you only want to choose a few (I go with 3) skills per close reading lesson.  Here’s a lesson planner to help you choose skills, set a purpose for each reading, and follow up with text-dependent questions:
 This free close reading planning page makes it easy to teach close reading strategies using any text
close reading lesson planner

Click the picture to download the planning sheet

Here’s how it works:
Pick a text to use.  It should be short and challenging for your students.  I picked these two pages from Hurricanes by Gail Gibbons.  I chose it because it is about a complex science concept that my students are studying.
The name of the game with close reading is repeated readings.  To keep the lesson focused, I plan to do three readings and work on one skill for each reading.
Before each reading, point your students toward the skill you want to work on by setting a purpose for the reading. The “Set Purpose” boxes on the planning sheet give you some sentence starters and you can add notes to match the text and the skill you chose.  Annotating text is a skill practiced in close reading.  When setting a purpose for reading, you might choose to encourage your students to mark places in the text that provide clues or support that answer you’re looking for.
After each reading, ask your students text-dependent questions that match the skill you are focusing on.  On the planning sheet, there are appropriate questions horizontally across from each skill.  You can add notes about the question you want to ask or about the answer you’re looking for.  Ask students to provide evidence in the text for their answers.  
In this picture you can also see that for each reading, I have selected who will do the reading (students read, choral reading, or teacher reads).  I chose “teacher reads” for the first two readings because I thought there were several words my 2nd graders couldn’t decode on their own and I wanted them to focus on comprehending.  By the third read I chose “choral reading” because after hearing the text a couple of times, I think they will be ready to help with the reading.
There are many different strategies for choosing who will do the reading.  Think about how well your students decode, what kind of vocabulary is used, and what you want your students to focus on. (more on vocabulary instruction here)
I hope this has helped you feel more comfortable with close reading!


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Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in the classroom and a master's degree in early childhood education. She designs engaging, organized classroom resources for 1st-3rd grade teachers.

22 thoughts on “Taking the Rocket Science out of Close Reading

  1. Karen

    Thank you! I love the printable planner! I’m a reading specialist K-4 so I plan to use it in a variety of manners with different grades/levels.

    1. blak7250@hotmail.com Post author

      I know, it’s so hard to get out of school mode. Always looking at the world through teacher’s eyes.

  2. Deb

    So hard to relax and get out of school mode! Once a teacher, always a teacher! Thanks for this. I will use it in the fall

  3. Danette

    Thanks for sharing! Your close read planning sheet will come in handy as we tackle Wonders next year.

  4. Nancy

    This is amazing. I can’t even tell you what a relief I got when reading your blog and studying this freebie. You are a very smart and organized person not to mention generous. Thank you so much. I am going to be using this with my 3rd graders right from the beginning of school.

  5. Cary

    Wonderful template! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m sending a link to your page to the rest of my third grade team!

  6. karla

    I love this! Thank you! I really enjoyed your description of how to use your template and how I can adapt it to my lesson. I was overwhelmed with the various methods/posters on close reading and you did an amazing job at condensing the gist and purpose of close reading.

  7. Tanja Fussell

    Thank you so much for sharing this! It is a wonderful resource for me to use to help teachers plan for close reading as well as to help me plan!

  8. Mia McShane

    I logged on to Pinterest to find some help for myself so I can then help my students learn how to do an effective close reading. And, this was the first thing I saw when Pinterest popped up! Thank you so much – I can’t wait to implement this for our fresh new quarter after fall break.

  9. Nichole

    This is an amazing resource for Close Reading! Thank you so much…I can see the big picture most of the time, but it really helps me to see someone who knows how to nail down the details. 🙂

  10. Corinne

    Thank you so much for this resource. I am going back in to the classroom next year teaching 4th grade and this will be great. Can you tell me if the planning sheet is meant for one day or over the course of the week? Thank you.

    1. Hannah Braun Post author

      You’re welcome, Corinne!
      When I’ve used it with 2nd grade I did all three readings in one lesson (maybe 20-25 minutes in all). I liked to use it to dig into small sections of National Geographic for Kids sometimes instead of using the basal. With 4th graders you might be working on passages that are longer so it might make sense to spread the readings out across a few days. If you were planning on having the readings be just a short part of your reading instruction for the day, you also might just do one reading a day as a mini lesson and then do other reading instruction as well.

  11. Maryann Bradshaw

    Thank you for creating this Close Reading Form. I was in the process of making a similar form when I found yours! Thanks again!


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