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Close Reading Activities for Every Classroom!

New movements in education—from Common Core to revamped state standards—have been putting pressure on educators across the nation to increase the literacy they teach in the classroom.  It’s clear that teaching reading and writing no longer belong to just the English department anymore! Education preparatory programs have made huge strides in this respect, but it makes sense that a lot of teachers might feel like they are working outside of their wheelhouse, especially if they teach mathematics, science, art, social studies, or other content-driven disciplines. Education World is here to share a few resources for educators looking to get students engaged with the close reading process.

While close reading a text selection, students focus in on this small portion of text and reflect or discuss its structure, purpose, and meaning. Close reading is a great place to start with teaching literacy, because it is interdisciplinary by nature:  we can all find articles in our content area that will activate our students’ innate curiosity while enhancing key reading skills. It’s also inevitably differentiated. Close reading specifically allows students to tackle words and sentences at a very non-intimidating level. Even though some of your students might have more challenging texts or a number of supports when they are reading at home, all of your students can access the grade-level text in some manner with guided close reading assignments in the classroom. Here you will find four close reading activities that can be used in any discipline, and with any piece of writing. Each activity is Common Core- and state standard-approved and each activity is certain to keep students within the four corners of the text. Each resource can be adapted to any grade level.

Resource:  Need It or Trash It 

Objective:  To help students answer focus questions and analyze text using words from the reading selection. 

Use:  Using a focus question as a guide, students are instructed to select words from a reading that will help them answer the question.  Each word is shared and students have an opportunity to decide if they should “keep” the word, “trash” it, or put it in the "cloud" to be discussed.  Making an argument why a word should be kept or junked helps students think about the focus question.

Resource: Listening Three Times

Objective:  To develop students’ close reading skills through multiple oral readings of a text.

Use:  Tell students that they will hear a short text (or excerpt) read to them three times as a way of “reading” that text.  Explain that they will have a specific purpose each time they listen.

Resource:  Paper Talk

Objective:  To develop close reading skills by examining a portion of text in order to figure out its ideas.

Use:  Paper Talk develops critical thinking through the questioning of the text and classmates and encourages student-student (written) discourse. Examining a short, key passage from a larger, complex text provides students with a conceptual framework for understanding the larger text and helps them establish a purpose for reading.

Resource: Deep Reading T Chart

Objective:  To help students learn to think about what they are reading.

Use:  Have students divide their papers in half by drawing a vertical line down the middle of the page. In the first column, ask students to respond to one or more prompts appropriate to the reading selection.  In the second column, ask students to elaborate on their responses or answer the provided question corresponding to the selected prompt in the first column.  Allow students to share their responses in small groups after completing their charts.


These worksheets were inspired by research obtained from the following sources: The Teaching Channel, Area Cooperative Educational Services, Bard College Institute for Writing & Thinking and Overcoming Textbook Fatigue: 21st Century Tools to Revitalize Teaching and Learning (2012) by Lent R. Cossett. 

Written and compiled by Keith Lambert, Education World Contributor

Lambert is an English/Language Arts educator and teacher trainer in Connecticut.

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