Close Reading: An Introduction

Posted June 10, 2013 under Common Core

One of the simplest and most effective explanations of Common Core Standards implementation is to refer to the standards as the “what”; the various instructional moves teachers make to impart them to students is the “how”.

I would add, with the hopes that many would agree, another “what” to the Common Core Standards – a love of reading.  Yet “how” do educators guide students in analyzing diverse texts in a way that not only instills in them the essential skills they will need for college and career success, while also instilling in them an appreciation and love of reading?


One instructional approach that can help students appreciate the value of literary elements such as figurative language, word choice, and the author’s craft while engaging them in a deep analysis of a text is known as Close Reading.

What is Close Reading?

In their recent book ‘Notice & Note’, Kylene Beers and Robert Probst provide an effectively succinct definition: “Close Reading occurs when the reader is deeply engaged with the text.”

They go on to provide specific criteria that characterize a close reading:

  1. It works with a short passage.
  2. The focus is intense.
  3. It will extend from the passage itself to other parts of the text.
  4. It should involve a great deal of exploratory discussion.
  5. It involves rereading.

Yet while these characteristics may seem rigid, the underlying purpose of close reading is to make reading as personal as possible, by placing preeminence on the experience of the individual reader, and to encourage each reader to pay “close attention to the interpretations and responses of other readers.”

Why should educators implement Close Reading?

The Aspen Institute offered a compelling rationale in favor of the frequent use of Close Reading:

“The teacher’s goal in the use of Close Reading is to gradually release responsibility to students—moving from an environment where the teacher models for students the strategies to one where students employ the strategies on their own when they read independently.”

Close Reading is like an open framework to which teachers can apply specific skills directly from the Common Core Standards.  For instance, students might “close read” one paragraph for the explicit purpose of analyzing how the author’s choice of words establish a theme or tone.

How can educators best implement Close Reading?

The instructional practice of Close Reading is rich with possibilities in providing students with powerful analytical lenses through which they can examine and appreciate important literary elements from diverse literary texts.

Through the use of tools such as Subtext, teachers can not only focus on a particular piece of text, but can highlight, annotate, or analyze that text in real-time for the whole class to see.  Following such direct instruction, students can follow the directions under a Close Reading assignment to practice and perfect their own ability to conduct these valuable analyses.

Close Reading Blog Series

In our efforts to continually support coaches and teachers in implementing the Common Core Standards in their classroom, we will continue this discussion around Close Reading in an ongoing blog series.

What have been your successes, challenges, or overall experiences in applying Close Reading strategies in your classroom?  Please share them in the comments, or feel free to contact us directly so that we can continue to make the very best resources available to all teachers.

Thanks for your support and collaboration!

Jeffrey Martin
(Who’s Jeff?)



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