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Close Reading: Giving Students a Purpose for Repeated Reading

To teachers, close reading can sometimes seem intimidating.  I used to feel like I did not have enough time in my reading block to have students complete meaningful reading AND respond to it.  To students, close reading can seem repetitive…and let's be honest, that's because it is!  It seems repetitive because close reading is reading the same text multiple times.  Students may feel that they are bored or uninterested when they read the same text over and over; it may seem like a chore to them, which in turn feels like pulling teeth to you!  But, when students are given a purpose for each reading with high interest passages, close reading can become a thoughtful and careful analysis of the text.

Here's a few ways that I keep my close reading organized, interesting, and purposeful in my classroom.

1. Getting Organized

Student Supplies

Students love having tools to use, but they need to know how to use them the right way or you may end up with an entire page highlighted yellow…I'm sure you've had a few pages like this before! #highlightallthewords  I like to have some things readily accessible for students to use and also give them a little bit of variety.  Some things I like to have available are: pencils to take notes and annotate, sticky notes to take notes during and after reading, highlighters to highlight vocabulary and text evidence, close reading bookmarks with annotating marks, finger eye puppets to track reading, pointers to single out unfamiliar words, some fun glasses and magnifying glasses to zoom in on vocabulary, main idea, or other key words. I keep my tools organized in an easy to move caddy so that students can grab it easily when they are working in groups.  I find it easy to use a class set of supplies rather than individual supplies because it is easy to move from group to group and I can easily organize and restock as needed.

To keep myself organized, I like to keep all of my close reading passages in a binder, because I'm not going to lie, I have all the heart eyes for binder organization.  I separate them by month and I can easily pull out the passages and response pages for the month to copy and have available.

To help keep my students organized, each student has a close reading folder and each group keeps their folder in a small magazine holder.  (You can grab these group labels for free below!)  I do not have the students keep their folders in their desks because we all know, there's always going to be a folder that gets lost or one that rips in a desk.  Also, by keeping the folders out, it is easy for me to check in on how actively students are close reading, monitor how they are annotating the text, determine if we need to revisit a concept such as main idea or text structure, and also helps with vocabulary to focus on.  I can easily do this quick, informal assessment of the student's progress and adjust our focus…and most times the students don't even know I'm doing it! #teacherwin


Here's a peek at the quick notes form I use to assess the student's close reading.  (You can grab this quick note page for free below!) I laminate this sheet and use sticky notes to take quick notes about vocabulary, skills, questions, and annotations.  You could also laminate and use a dry erase marker to take quick notes.  Laminating allows you to use the same quick notes page from day to day and save those copies!


There are a few things students keep right in their folder from week to week; their bookmark and their flipbook.  Both of these are resources they use each day as they close read.  Their flipbook lays out the purpose of each reading.  When the purpose for reading is clear and students have it right at their fingertips, it makes the repetitive reading not-so-repetitive anymore!  With each reading, students have a new set of eyes on the text; first reading is the main idea, second reading is vocab and text structure, and the third reading is comprehension through inferencing, theme and author's craft.  Their bookmarks have text annotating marks on them so students are able to annotate with meaning.  It may be fun to mark up the text, but it needs to be meaningful marking!  There is also a spot on the bookmark for sticky notes where the students can write down their thoughts and questions after they read.  I like to have them write down their thoughts after reading because they have a quick thought for our discussion about the text.  Each week they add in their passage for the week and each day they add in their response page.  (You can grab a free set of labels for student folders below!)


To really help students understand and give a purpose for WHY they are close reading, I model, model, model before we get started.  A great way to do this is to display an enlarged text for the students to see.  You can do this on your interactive whiteboard, with a document camera, if your school has a poster maker (lucky!!) you can make a poster size text, or send a short text to a local print shop to have a poster made.  It is nice to have an anchor chart for the students to look back at as you are diving in to close reading!  When you model on an enlarged text they can watch as you annotate, stop to take notes, and pause to think. And if you're like me, with a flair for the dramatic while modeling, they probably won't forget watching your close reading demonstration!


The first read is a true cold read.  I do not give my students any background knowledge about the text, nor do we discuss the text before reading.  I set the purpose for reading:  we are going to determine the main idea.  Determining the main idea in the first reading will set them up for success in their repeated readings as well.  To model the first reading of the text, I read the text slowly aloud.  I do not make any marks, I do not stop as I'm reading, but read it all the way through.  After reading, I write down some of my thoughts about the main idea on a sticky note.  I invite students to help me put my thoughts in to words.  “Let's think out loud!”  I prompt their thinking with questions such as, “What is this text mostly about?”  We think of the big picture.  Students then work on the first reading of their own passage during one of their guided reading rotations.  We come back together at the end of our reading block to discuss the first read and main idea of the passage they have read.


The second read is when we really start to get focused and pull the tools out.  I set the purpose for reading: vocabulary and text structure. Understanding the text structure in a text is an important skill that will help students as they answer questions about text.  I then go through how to use each of the tools and how each tool helps with my purpose for reading.  And of course, they want to use the tools!  They're fun to use and that's what they are there for!  If they are excited to use these tools, then guess what?  They're excited to read…even for the second time!  Before reading, I number the paragraphs of the text in the left margin.  This helps students read the text in “chunks.”  It seems less overwhelming to students when it is a longer text and it also encourages students to stop and think as they read.

I then model reading using tools and annotating the text.  I track my reading with a finger puppet.  I stop, and stop often, to circle words that I don't know or phrases that I think are important.  I model using context clues to think about the unknown meaning.  I also model going back to reread the sentence when I have stopped to understand meaning.  Many times students just continue reading which can affect their comprehension.  If I'm still unsure of the word, I leave a sticky note or a pointer to remind me to go back.  I also stop and think aloud about the text structure.  “I notice the author…”  After reading, I go back to the words I circled and think aloud about the meaning and encourage students to do the same.  I write down thoughts on a sticky note and we discuss together.  While I am modeling, I encourage student participation throughout the process.  Students then work on the second reading of their passage during guided reading rotations.  We come back together at the end of our reading block to discuss the second read, vocab and text structure.


The third read is when we really get deep!  I set the purpose for reading: making inferences, the author's craft, and theme.  This really encourages deeper thinking and after reading the text a couple of times, students should be able to dig deep and use their prior knowledge about the subject.  Again, I use my tools and annotate as I read.  I stop often for deeper thinking this time; making connections, asking questions, noticing important parts of the text.  I model how I can use my schema as we read.  We write down thoughts on sticky notes after reading and make inferences about the text.


I then model looking for evidence in the text that supports my thinking when I'm responding to my reading.  It is sometimes a difficult concept for students to choose the right evidence.  But with each reading that we've done, we've built our knowledge of the text with the main idea, vocabulary, text structure, inferencing, and theme.  This knowledge will help students determine what the question is really asking, which makes finding the evidence a less daunting task.

Students then complete the third reading of their text and when our guided reading rotations are completed, we come back together as a group to discuss what they have read.

After the hard work and modeling that we have done with our shared text, students have a clear purpose for each reading of the text.  While the purpose may be the same time after time, the text will be different and when you choose high interest text, students will look forward to what they will read next!  If you have a subscription to a classroom magazine such as Scholastic News, National Geographic, or Time for Kids; you can use those passages for close reading as well!

I am a firm believer in modeling before diving in.  And when you take the time to go through the process with your students, with the little bit of dramatic flair to make it fun, they will have a clear purpose for close reading and with high interest passages, you can't go wrong!  Your students will be actively reading and analyzing text while remaining engaged.

Please note, this post does contain affiliate links, which means if you click to purchase a product mentioned, I will receive a small commission.
Happy Teaching!

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